Sat | Jan 19, 2019

The Memorial ACTe: A catalyst for human rights and fundamental freedoms

Published:Sunday | June 14, 2015 | 12:00 AM
François Hollande (right) President of the Republic of France and Victorin Lurel (left) president of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe at the unveiling of the plaque at the Official Opening of the Memorial ACTe on May 10.
An aerial view of the Memorial ACTe, the Caribbean Centre of Expression and Memory of Slavery and the Slave Trade in Guadeloupe in the French West Indies.

This iconic building graces the site of the former Darboussier sugar refinery along the shores of Pointe-a-Pitre in the French Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe.

The Memoriale ACTe was officially opened on May 10, 2015 by the president of the French Republic, FranÁois Hollande, in the presence of several Caribbean leaders and the presidents of Senegal and Mali. The event was covered live by more than 90 journalists from the Caribbean, France, and Europe.

As the Caribbean Centre for the Expressions and Memory of Slavery, this impressive architectural masterpiece was 10 years in the making. From a distance, it appears as a building of 'silver roots covering a black box' - both powerful symbolic imagery for its theme and contents. The silver roots are emblematic of those of a banyan tree which covers and hides old buildings containing historical treasures, thus concealing its trove of truths - in this case, found in the black box. Like an aeroplane's black box which holds the key to understanding the series of events in which the tragedy unfolds - in this case, slavery - we come face to face with a black granite faÁade inlaid with golden quartz chips. Each chip representing in a symbolic tribute to the millions of souls lost in the slave trade and to slavery.

On entering the Memoriale ACTe, visitors pass through a courtyard whose centrepiece is a Porteau-Mitan, a central pillar in the form a gigantic metal tree representing the ancestral lineage of the Guadeloupian people.

thematic archipelagos

From there, you enter the permanent exhibition hall of 20,000 square feet assembled into six thematic archipelagos: The Americas; Towards Slavery and the Slave Trade; The Time of Slavery; The Time of the Abolitionists; The Time After; and (Slavery) Today. Fitted with multilingual audio guides, information terminals, interactive tablets, and video projectors - it is here the 'black box' is played out for us and the 'truths' revealed on the horrors of the slave trade and slavery, and modern-day forms of slavery, as well as the exhilaration of

freedom and reconciliation.

The Memoriale ACTe is the brainchild of Victorin Lurel - president of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, who was inspired to press forward with the project by the words of the Martinique-born poet Edouard Glissant - "Oblivion is an offence and memory when it is shared, abolished this offence. Each of us needs the other's memory because memory can only be common to all of us. And if we want to share the beauty of the world, and if we want to show sympathy to those who suffer, we must learn to remember together." This is the core purpose of the Memorial ACTe - to build a collective memory which will foster a fellowship between the people of the Caribbean and the world, based on mutual understanding and respect for the individual.

In the words of Victorin Lurel, "The future is nothing if we do not reinvent ourselves without denying ourselves".

The Memorial ACTe will open its doors to the public in July 2015.

- Contributed by JamaquePARADIS Magazine