Linivèsité Brock organizé on grankozé
asi kont an Amérik ki diré twa jou: 30 é 31 out épi 1é septanm.
Lé yo mandé moun toupatou voyé pwopozision pou bokantaj-a-pawol,
an réponn prézan; an voyé on artik ki té ni pou tit "Creole,
Culture and Orality in the West Indies".
Komité-la touvé'y entérésan, é dé mwa pli ta an té débaké Kanada.
Man Irene Blayer, ki té ka organizé grankozé-la, wousouvwè mwen
épi lonè é respé. Lè ou ka préparé on tez, ou ka chèché jwenn pis
moun ou pé ki ka travay asi menm sijé ki'w apipré. Fo ou tini kontak
èvè dot moun ki pé wouvè zié a'w asi on pwoblem ou pòtékò vwè: é
pou sa, fo ou ka déplasé kò a'w tibwen.
Mé lè an éséyé mandé CRLA (Centre de Recherches Latino-Américain
UMR132/CNRS) -Krey wouchach la mwen adan'y la an Fwans- on ti monné
pou rédé mwen, yo di mwen dévwè yo. On ensinifian jis f'an pou la
répons an pa té dwet vin an Frans. ¡ Sa ki konpwann, konpwann! ¡An
pa mandé chien pen, davwa an pa kréyol pou ayen! An pran ti lajan
an mwen ki tan mwen, é an ay fè ti zafè an mwen, menm si an té pou
manjé pen rasi. Vini rivé Kanada a prézan, Linivèsité Brock ban
mwen on bous san menm an té mandé yo ayen a yo: yo vwè an té on
jennn wouchachez ki té bizwen on pal, é si yo ban mwen 150 dola
Kanada, an pa'a gè kwè sé pas yo té ni lajan an twop, mé pas yo
vwè wouchach an mwen té ni on sans.
Sé moun-la wousouvwè sé grankozè-la bien toubolman. Organizasion-la
té o pwal menm. Yo bien espliké nou tou sa nou té pou sav é tou
sa nou té vé sav anlè manniè grankozè-la té ka pasé. Yo ban nou
bel sak, bel pwennbik, bel biten. Nou té a lez an nou. Mé mwen menm,
sel biten an té ka atann, sété jou a palé an mwen. Lè jou-lasa rivé,
an pa té ni on pozision: an té présé tou an mwen rivé. An pa té
bizwen prézanté mwen davwa té ni on moun la pou sa. Lè an komansé
palé, prèmié biten an fè sé prézanté GEREC-F, travay i ka fè asi
lang é kilti kréyol, é alèkilé asi CAPES kréyol la. Apré sa an ba
sé moun-la on bokantaj-a-pawol an anglé (zò pé touvé'y asi nich-twel
la). Lè an fin palé moun bat lanmen. Palé an anglé lasi mwen, mé
kè an mwen té kontan pas an té vé tout moun konprann sa an an té
ka di. Si ou enki rivé adan on péyi anglopal èvè ti fransé a'w,
ou ka plis fosè moun-la ki ayen. Alos an pran'y an anglé é yo mandé
mwen onlo kèsion.
Tout biten bien pasé. An bouré èvè onlo moun entérésan, kontel
on moun-Brésil non a'y sé Vandercí de Andrade Aguilera. Madanm-lasa
sé on doktè-lang (dot moun pisimié di "langannis"), mé
i ka travay asi majolay osi. I di mwen aktielmen i ka travay asi
sa moun-Brésil ka kriyé "Boitatá". An mandé'y ka sa té
yé é lè i espliké mwen, an rété estébékwé, davwa sa i té ka palé
mwen la sété on soukougnan. Dayè pou yonn, nou pou fè on konparézon
ant Brésil é Gwadloup asi fénomèn-lasa. I envité mwen adan linivèsité
Parana pou fè on tikozé asi kilti kréyol. On dot wouchachez anko,
ki adan linivèsité Columbia, mandé mwen pou nou fè an artik ansanm.
Rété lianné é an ké ba zot nouvel si tou sa ka fet.
¡ An pé pa fin san ba moun-la ki organizé grankozé-la on bel lanmen!
Man Irene Blayer sé on doktè-lang ki fè tez a'y asi portigé moun
ka palé Lézasor: i travay asi sians-son (phonétique), sians-fonem
(phonologie) é sians-langann (dialectologie) pou vwè an ki jan sistem
a vwayel la té ka maché. I a'y adan chak sé ti lilet-la èvè on kenbè-pawol.
Konnié-la i ka travay asi kont, léjann épi chanté a Lézasor. Se
pou sa i organizé grankozé-la asi tenm-lasa. I enmé tou sa ki an
rèlasion épi majolay é pawol-palé, é i ka chèché kounet kréyol.
An non a GEREC-F an ba'y on bel fos, é an di'y fo i vin Linivèsité
Antiy-Giyàn. An lidé an mwen, pli i ki ké ni moun ki ka chèché dékouvè
lang é kilti kréyol é pli nou ké ni kontak, pli wouchach-la ké woulé.
Fo nou montré moun andèwò ka ki kréyol é ki richès an nou. An dakò
pou moun travay èvè nou, mé pa an plas an nou.
Groupe d'Etudes et de Recherches en Espace Créolophone-Guadeloupe.
Storytelling in the Americas
Dire les contes aux Amériques - Conférence Internationale- Université
de Brock, Ontario, Canada.
L'université de Brock a organisé du 30
août au 1er septembre 2001, une conférence internationale autour
du thème: Dire les contes aux Amériques.
Lorsque le comité organisateur de la conférence a lancé son appel
à communication sur internet, l'an dernier, j'ai tout de suite répondu
en envoyant un résumé qui avait pour titre: Creole, Culture and
Orality in the West Indies. Le comité de l'université accepta ma
communication et quelques mois plus tard, je débarquais au Canada.
Madame Irene Blayer, l'organisatrice de la conférence, m'y reçut
les bras ouverts.
La préparation d'une thèse nécessite un contact avec les autres
chercheurs qui travaillent sur le même thème. Ce contact permet
le partage d'idées et bien souvent nous ouvre les yeux sur d'autres
C'est la raison pour laquelle la participation aux colloques est
très bénéfique aux doctorants. Pourtant, lorsque j'ai demandé au
centre de recherche auquel je suis rattachée, le Centre de Recherche
Latino-Américain UMR132/CNRS-Université de Poitiers, leur appui
financier, on me fit pour réponse: "Tu n'aurais pas du venir
en France!". A bon entendeur…Je n'ai pas demandé mon reste.
Je suis créole, la débrouillardise ça me connaît! J'ai tiré de ma
poche l'argent pour la conférence. Manger du pain rassis ne me fait
pas peur. Puis, le comité organisateur m'accorda une aide de 150
dollars canadiens, sans même que je ne le sollicite.
A mon arrivée au Canada, l'assistante Kay Palpallatoc me fit un
accueil incomparable. Il faut dire que la conférence était bien
organisée. Plan, programme, résumés, tout fut envoyé à l'avance.
Le comité était prêt à recevoir les invités dès leur arrivée sur
le sol canadien.
J'attendais impatiemment le jour de ma communication. Ravie de
la qualité des communications entendues. Venu le jour de ma communication,
j'étais surexcitée car je présentais ma première communication en
anglais. J'ai voulu utiliser la langue du pays qui m'accueillait.
Après que le Président de la séance m'ait présentée, j'ai pris la
parole en précisant que je faisais partie du GEREC, un groupe très
impliqué dans la défense et dans la promotion de la langue et de
la culture créoles. J'ai souligné qu'à l'heure qu'il est, le GEREC
est en train de mener une "bataille" pour la reconnaissance
d'un droit légitime, le droit à la langue maternelle, le créole.
J'ai fait la transition avec ma communication et tout s'est très
bien déroulé. Après les applaudissements, je fus assaillie par des
questions très pertinentes de la part du public. Mon cœur était
content malgré la fatigue qui s'empara de moi d'un seul coup.
Grâce à cette conférence, j'ai fait des rencontres très intéressantes.
Comme ce professeur du Brésil, Vanderci de Andrade Aguilera, linguiste
de l'université de Londrina au Parana. Elle est connu notamment
pour la réalisation de la carte linguistique de l'Etat du Parana.
Au Canada, elle présenta une communication sur le boitatá qui correspond
au soucougnan antillais. Nous allons travailler sur une étude comparée
des deux phénomènes. Elle m'a gentiment invitée dans son université
au Brésil. J'ai eu également la chance de rencontrer une autre chercheuse,
Stéphanie Hinton, de l'université de Columbia. Nous sommes toutes
les deux passionnées par les contes et surtout par les conteurs.
Nous allons, nous aussi, rédiger un article en collaboration.
Je ne pouvais conclure sans vous parler un peu plus de l'organisatrice,
Irène Blayer. Professeur associé au Département de Langues, de Littératures
et de Cultures Modernes, à l'Université de Brock. Après avoir consacré
sa thèse de doctorat en linguistique, au portugais des Açores, elle
porte, désormais, son attention au contenu des paroles qu'elle a
enregistrées, les contes, les légendes, les croyances. C'est la
raison pour laquelle elle a organisé cette conférence autour de
Elle s'intéresse à la phonétique, à la phonologie, à la dialectologie,
au système vocalique en particulier. La langue créole suscite en
elle un certain intérêt. Elle affectionne, par dessus tout, les
études contrastives comprendre le système d'une langue permet de
comprendre une autre langue.
Au nom du GEREC, je l'ai vivement remerciée et je lui ai assuré
qu'elle sera toujours la bienvenue au sein de notre groupe. La culture
créole est riche. Plus nous serons ouverts, plus nous aurons des
contacts avec le monde extérieur, plus la recherche créole évoluera.
EXISTENCE - RESISTANCE OF BLACK WOMEN IN
THE FRENCH WEST INDIES FROM THE XVIIth to the XIXth CENTURY
Officially, the French
colonial history in the West Indies would begin in the XVIIth century
when the French monarchistic state took possession of Guadeloupe
and Martinique, and would end in 1946 when those territories became
'overseas departmesnts'. Actually, most of the first hand documents
relating West-Indian history at that time were written from a European
point of view -by men of church, magistrates, governors, and less
commonly by planters- which makes any attempt at getting the slaves'
vision difficult. Beyond that difficulty, we tried to make out the
specificity of black women through the study of the writings of
the said chroniclers.
The slave trade contributed to place human beings
having no rights on their own bodies under the authority of white
masters. And though men and women had the same living conditions,
the latters had no control over their bodies at all, as if their
bodies did not belong to themselves: any master could -and would-
legally take advantage of a black woman. Not only did masters consider
women as production instruments, but they also reduced women to
the state of reproduction instruments. However, while reading the
chroniclers' accounts, we discover that women questioned the colonial
system from the very beginning, that there were strategies of resistance
on the part of women who faced the colonial order to notify their
existence to the oppressor. And the forms of insurrection, as we
shall see, were very diversified.
1. The first meeting: from verbal to physical
According to the chroniclers, the first meeting
with Blacks caused a deep horror among the Whites. However, though
the only feeling black women inspired to the white settlers was
a profound disgust, the last-mentioned made systematic and abundant
sexual use of those women. In his Nouveau Voyage aux Isles des Amériques,
the Reverend Labat explained:
"This is misleading to think that we find any beauty
in the diformity of the faces of our negresses, with their big
lips and their flat noses (…) for those of us who are not accustomed
to it must content themselves with looking them from behind, or
the negresses would appear to the masters as flies in milk."(translated
The implicit sexual characteristic contained in
this passage from a man of church shows that black women were used
as sexual objects in the first instance. Lucien Peytraud thus admitted:
"Instead of applying themselves to giving birth to morality
in Negro slaves -which only existed at the rudimentary level in
their countries of origin- the Europeans took advantage of their
nearly absolute power to satisfy their brutal instinct (…) Women
were above all subjected to the masters' brutal passion."
(translated by us)
Despite the precepts of Christianity, sexual violence
was a common practice during the colonial period, for black people
were definitely not considered as persons; the 44th article of the
Black Code institutionalized such an idea by declaring that slaves
were 'pieces of furniture' belonging to the community. As a consequence,
a master could choose any young woman among his slaves:
"Since they were 11 or 12 years old (…), the young Negresses
were reserved for the masters, and placed under the responsibility
of a "duègne" who looked after them for the masters
on the plantations; fearing to be punished and to undergo the
tyrants' anger, the young women abandoned themselves to the will
of the last-mentioned."(translated by us)
The missionaries received complaints accusing masters
of rape as early as the XVIIth century, but sexual attacks only
kept on increasing as the years and centuries passed. So that in
the XIXth century, the "gendarmerie" major related cases
of rape in official reports. But, as Rouvellat de Cussac (1845)
pointed out, no master was ever convicted of rape, even though the
facts were clearly established. Even in the XIXth century, a sergeant
who was accused of raping a 15-year-old slave was acquitted, so
as drunken soldiers who looted and beat Negresses. A rape was actually
conceived as a punition for a woman's faults, and also for the faults
of her slave cohabitant.
Under cover of religion, the masters justified themselves by transferring
the blame on the negresses who were said to incite men to debauchery:
relying on the Bible, they presented themselves as the unfortunate
victims of female slaves who drove them straight away to the kingdom
of evil. Doctor Leblond , who officiated in Martinique in 1766,
reported that a master declared one day:
"The Creole males abandon themselves to an awful libertinage
with these naughty black and mulatto women who try to seduce them
by all means."(translated by us)
But, by trying to excuse their sinful attitude
this way, and by trying to hide their impure souls behind the argument
of the alleged lascivity of black women, white men only confirmed
their sexual attraction for those women. And this sexual attraction
of masters for their slaves provoked a good deal of jealousy among
the masters' wives. The latters resorted to the most monstrous tortures
as a means of revenge. One day, a white mistress who saw her husband
coming out of the room of a female slave punished that slave with
a whip, and had the slave's body scraped with chilli pepper, after
what she introduced the chilli pepper in the slave's vagina . Other
settlers' wives did not hesitate to torture the female slaves to
death, for they were considered as rivals:
"As she was jealous of the slave of a neighbor who had
been placed under the responsibility of her husband, a woman had
this slave whipped and inflicted upon the negress all the cruelties
that the fury of her jealousy inspired her; then, when she grew
weary rather than being satisfied, she had the slave untied hoping
to satisfy her fury the following day again (…) but the slave
fainted and died two hours later."(translated by us)
After having used and abused their female slaves,
the masters had them fertilized by a "stallion slave".
2. Strategies of resistance of colonized women
Many quotations from different chroniclers show
that women resisted ferociously against the white masters' right
to rape. The sanctions for such a behavior were of course very hard.
The Jesuit Pelleprat, for instance, gave an account of the stubbornness
of two slaves who refused to have sexual relations with their masters:
one of the women slapped her master, and the other one threatened
hers with an iron brand:
"These two women, born out of infidelity, were very courageous,
for they knew perfectly that their happiness and their lives were
in the hands of these men of evil. But not only did they resist
the masters, they also treated them the way I have just said;
this should make Christian women ashamed, for they are very coward
in such situations"' (translated by us)
In order to escape from the worst tortures and
the incessant sexual abuses, some women preferred killing themselves.
"A female slave was so ill-treated that she ran away
with a Negro and asked him to cut her head off with a billhook
(…) because she could not bear the cruelties of her master anymore
."(translated by us)
In his La vérité et les faits ou l'esclavage
mis à nu dans ses rapports avec les maîtres et les agents de l'autorité,
France gave the following example:
"In 1844, another one who was afraid of being punished
for having sold on credit a portion of fish that amounted to six
francs, drowned herself." (translated by us)
Suicide was one of the solutions slaves found to
abstract themselves from a world in which their lives were meaningless.
The new Negroes, and especially the women, committed suicide more
frequently than the Creoles. Dugoujon tried to describe the desperate
act of a female slave coming from the heart of Africa in the following
"The mother drowned her two little creatures in a place
were there was almost nothing but mud; she kept them prisoner
under her knees till they were asphyxiated and would have drowned
herself if someone had not prevented her from doing it."(translated
Many black women would rather die instead of giving
birth to a child whose fate would be as terrible as theirs. So,
by destroying their own bodies as well as those of their children,
women aimed at breaking, at putting an end to the infernal cycle
of slavery. Their refusal to be mothers may be considered as a form
of protest or revenge against the masters. Any woman whose child
died was indirectly attacking her master by depriving him of a precious
work instrument. The masters were convinced that all the women aborted
intentionally. But the hard living and working conditions may certainly
have favored natural abortions, which the masters complained about
in the XVIIIth century. The masters considered the female slaves
to be entirely guilty and did not envisage at all that they could
have a piece of responsibility in those desperate acts: as a consequence,
women were long punished without distinction.
'When a child dies, the accoucheuse must be whipped and the
mother must be whipped and tied up with an iron collar that she
will keep till she is plain again. If a Negress who is said to
be plain and is recognized as plain has a miscarriage which is
not declared, she must be whipped till she is plain again (…)
so as a negress who has a miscarriage for an unknown reason.'
(translated by us)
Some slaves will assert their personality by replying
firmly to the numerous injustices of the slave system. By the way,
'a systematic study of the testimonies of some African American
slaves showed that there were more women than men who dared starting
verbal or physical confrontation with the whites . Tanc noticed
the same in the French West Indies:
"In 1828, a 15-year-old mulatto girl was
beaten by her mistress because she was too insolent and always allowed
herself to make comments."(translated by us)
Schoelcher corroborated the female slaves' desire
to express their dissatisfaction, relating a young woman's case:
"In 1751, Colombe, who was accused of being lazy, fought
against the bursar, and cut his lips with a blow of sugar cane."
(translated by us)
In the cane fields, the voluntary inertia or the
bad execution of the tasks was often the main source of conflictual
relationships between slaves and masters. That kind of resistance
took the form of different hostile behaviors instead of the mechanical
realization of the tasks the masters hoped for. Despite the permanent
threat that hanged over the slaves, simulation of illness and self-mutilation
remained two common strategies to thwart forced enlisting in the
The body was the object of the worst tortures to try to stop any
desire for physical or psychic liberty of the slaves. There was
all the same a strong determination of female slaves to refuse excessive
workloads and bad treatment. The field workers did not hesitate
to carry on regardless of the threats of being tied up momentarily
by the whip of the warder or the whim of the mistress.
A woman who escaped alone was even more severely punished: she risked
to be whipped, to be tied up with an iron collar, and to be raped
by her master, a warder or a slave. The threat of a violation of
the profound intimity that hanged over female slaves was a very
dissuasive argument, but it did not prevent women from escaping.
According to Dutertre, 'the Negresses escaped in the woods with
little children who were seven or eight days old'. The children
were not always spared, and shared the excessive punishments imposed
on their mothers by the implacable masters. In 1832, the magistrate
Tanc reported that:
"If a master fears that a Negress escapes after a punishment,
or if a Negress is caught while trying to escape, she is tied
up by the neck or the foot with a big chain and one of her children
is tied up to the same chain. I saw a 6-year-old little girl dragging
along that heavy chain, which is a painful burden; as if the mother's
crime (what a crime!!!) authorized the master to punish that young
child in such a barbarous way! Her body, so feeble and so delicate
at this age, was bruised!" (translated by us)
Women even participated to battles. The historian
Auguste Lacour recounted:
"The women participated to one of the hardest battles:
that of the 12th of may 1802. They got the guns ready, comforted
the wounded persons, and transported the dead persons under a
shower of bullets. They sang and vociferated in a circle, sometimes
interrupted by the "war" cry "three cheers for
death"!"(translated by us)
During the violent confrontations in 1802, a mulatto
woman named Solitude embodied the rage of the insurgent's wives
to defend freedom. Some unanimous testimonies indicate that women
were very courageous and actively took part in the violent fights,
braving the bullets to indicate the positions and to transit orders.
Oruno D. Lara underlined:
"The women were wonderful. They made the men fanatics,
increased tenfold their courage, showed themselves as brave as
the men, and died like men. One of these heroic women, the mulatto
named Solitude, was going to have a baby; she participated to
all confrontations at Dolé; she was put under arrest and sent
to jail, and was tortured soon after she gave birth to her baby
on the 29th of November 1802. They waited the child to be born
so that he could become a slave in his turn!" (translated
In official publications, the "gendarmerie"
major France and the magistrate Tanc evoked situations that were
very hard for women after that period. Reverend Dugoujon, reported
that the masters were more cruel than ever in 1844, as the abolition
of slavery was approaching. A master told his slaves:
"If you want your freedom, I will set you free…But you
will be free in a grave! I will make you die of tiredness before
the government emancipates you!" (translated by us)
Schoelcher said that 'Just before slavery was abolished,
women were still given a thrashing, even if they were pregnant.
A woman who was going to have her ninth child was beaten on the
small of the back and on the legs till she bleeded. Other women
who were late were beaten to such an extent that they had a miscarriage.'
And, even if they had children to breast-feed, women had excessive
loads of work:
"Colombe had pointed out shyly to mister O'Neil that
her workload had been doubled, and that her excessive tiredness
altered the quality of her milk, which made her infant sick. She
was beaten with fury: she was punch and received blows of stick
on her body and on her head. Though she was bleeding, she received
29 more blows of whip and was tied up with a heavy chain."
(translated by us)
The testimony of the XIIth, XVIIIth, and XIXth
centuries chroniclers made us aware of the verbal and physical violence
inflicted upon slaves. From the slave trade to the abolition of
slavery, black women's bodies were subjected to both covetousness
and degradation. Women knew their bodies incurred humiliating, painful,
and even mortal sanctions if they opposed the system. Their bodies
could be 'lacerated with creepers' (see Dutertre ), and their wounds
'rubbed with chili pepper, salt and lemon juice two or three times
per day' (ibid.). But when the obsession for liberty inundated the
universe of the plantation, it irrigated silent revolts that changed
into insurrections bathed in blood.
The different strategies of resistance itemized in the present essay
do not constitute an exhaustive list. Abortion, desertion, suicide,
and self-mutilation were conceived as legitimate strategies of subversion
and resistance to get freedom. Whether the fall of the birth rate
was a conscious or an unconscious reply to the programming of servitude,
a manifest or a masked refusal of the appropriation of the slaves'
bodies, it was part of a strategy of disobedience and resistance
that allowed the slaves to notify their existence to the masters.
After the abolition of slavery, the West Indians thought they had
regained their dignity when in 1952 Guadeloupe and Martinique became
French departments. But the life of a West Indian woman still is
only a succession of challenges. Of the oppression of the slavery
period, there subsists the sexual covetousness favored by an omnipresent
colonialism. While looking at the past chroniclers' caricatures
and the contemporary clichés for tourists with a critical eye, what
we see behind is a Woman with a strong personality standing firm.
The active presence of the West Indian woman in any place made her
the symbol of the fight for freedom that the slaves conducted.
Arlette Gauthier, Les sœurs de Solitude,
(Paris, le p'tit thésard, 1981).
Dugoujon, Lettres sur l'esclavage dans les colonies françaises,
Longin, Voyage à la Guadeloupe, (Paris, le Mans, 1848).
Girod de Chantras, Mœurs des trois couleurs aux Antilles,
Du Tertre, Histoire Générale des Antilles habitées par
le français, (Paris, Jolly, 1667).
Gilberto Freyre, Maîtres et esclaves, (Paris, Gallimard,
Gracchus, Les lieux de la mère dans les sociétés afro-américaines,
(Paris, Editions Caribéennes, 1980).
Père Labat, Nouveau voyage aux îles d'Amérique, (Paris,
Jean de Nully, 1742).
Auguste Lacour, Histoire de la Guadeloupe, (Basse-terre,
Leblond, Voyage aux Antilles et à l'Amérique, (Paris,
Pelleprat, Relations des missions, (Paris, 1655).
Lucien Peytraud, L'esclavage aux Antilles françaises avant
1789, (Guadeloupe, Désormeaux, 1973).
Gisèle Pineau & Marie Abraham, Femmes des Antilles,
traces et voix, (Paris, Editions Caribéennes, 1990).
Victor Schœlcher, Histoire de l'esclavage pendant les
deux dernières années, (Guadeloupe, Désormeaux, 1973).