Over the March 1-4 weekend, francophones from around the world convened in Miami to celebrate the French Antilles and other regions of the Carribean at the inaugural Tout-Monde Festival.
The festival’s namesake comes from Martinique poet and philosopher Edouard Glissant’s concept of the tout-monde, which translates to “whole world.
Founded by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in partnership with the France Florida Foundation for the Arts, the festival spotlighted Caribbean artists from the French territories of French Guiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe and also featured artists from Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba and South Florida.
The event’s central figure was its cultural ambassador, Christiane Taubira, France’s former minister of justice. Taubira gave speeches on the opening and closing nights, weaving through English, French and Spanish. She bookended her speeches with poetry by Martinique poet Aimé Césaire.
Taubira, born in French Guiana, was present at nearly all the festival’s events and occasionally called upon to provide commentary. She was accessible to festivalgoers who engaged her in conversation and took photographs. Once, when her name was mispronounced onstage, the audience uniformly shouted out a correction.
“What we tried to do during these four days is putting highlights showing how all arts, literature, and poetry build bridges between countries, between people, between cultures in order to make life worth it and even to allow a better understanding of how the world is going on,” she said at the closing ceremony.
Festival curators Johanna Auguiac-Célénice and Claire Tancons said that having Taubira at the festival was a perfect match because of her contributions to the French Caribbean. Taubira was the principal sponsor and namesake for the 2001 Taubira Law, which recognized the slave trade as a crime against humanity.
Auguiac-Célénice and Tancons, from Martinique and Guadalupe respectively, decided on Hétéronomonde–a combination of hetero (other), autonomy and tout-monde–as the festival’s theme.
“We have a particular relationship with France: French Guiana, Guadeloupe and Martinique.” Auguiac-Célénice said. “That’s what makes us think of the status we have in the Caribbean today and that the other islands around us share or do not share.”
Tancons said the festival provided an important platform for burgeoning Caribbean artists. Being able to focus on Caribbean artists and work with Auguiac-Célénice, she said, were the reasons she accepted curating the event.
“It’s too soon to say how the dust will settle,” she said. “What is sure is that Johanna and I are very pleased and proud of the artists whom we brought, who I think demonstrated their talent and what they can do with greater support.”
The festival stretched across Miami, with over 20 events held at the Perez Art Museum Miami, Wolfsonian—FIU, Little Haiti Cultural Complex and Mana Wynwood. Events were held in formal locations such as the PAMM’s auditorium, where around 200 attended, and in casual settings including a classroom in the cultural complex, where around 20 were present. Three short films were presented by Third Horizon, a Miami-based Caribbean art collective.
The festival consisted of various live performances. Kenny Dunkan, who had two works added to the Wolfsonian, performed “Back to Basics,” in which he applied and then poured cocoa butter on his body and clothes. He received the Tout-Monde Award, which includes a residency at The Fountainhead.
Other live performances included a frenetic jazz improvisation between dancer Léna Blou and saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart; an impassioned, barefoot recital of Cesaire’s “Notebook of a Return to the Native Land” by Jacques Martial; and a dance performance and visual poem by Josiane Antourel and Yna Boulangé, whose bodies in one instance tangled under a dim blue light.
Eight of the festival’s artists’ works are displayed at Mana Wynwood. The curators provided a tour of the gallery, with some of the present artists speaking about their pieces. As with most of the events, the audience heavily participated in the tour by questioning the artists on the intricacies and motives of their works.
One of the artists, Adler Guerrier, has spent most of his life in Miami. He said his work draws from the city’s various landscapes. His use of color in his piece is informed by the colors he said are used by homeowners in Miami.
“What’s important about Miami is the complexity of it all,” the Haiti-born artist said.
Various panel discussions were held, including one at PAMM between New York University professor of French literature Michael Dash and Haitian novelist Edwidge Danticat about the tout-monde and its current relevance.
At the cultural complex, the curators spoke with Yarimar Bonilla, a Puerto Rican anthropologist and author of “Non-Sovereign Futures,” a book that examines Guadeloupe’s status of non-sovereignty. Bonilla, whose work was motivated by Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States, said that she examined sovereignty and independence and whether they are synonymous.
“Places like Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico can give us a hint to the kind of politics that could shape the region as a whole,” Bonilla said during the discussion. “where sovereignty can be imagined not just a flag, a coin and a seat at the U.N. but as having the right to say what language we want to speak, what music we want to listen to, what do we want to eat, what kind of jobs we want to have.”
Vanessa Selk, the festival’s founder and director, said she hopes the festival will provide Miami natives with more knowledge of the French Caribbean areas.
“France is Caribbean as much as it is a Mediterranean country and an Atlantic country,” said Selk, the cultural attaché at the Cultural Service’s Miami office.
Mana Wynwood will be showcasing the art at 2400 NW 5th Ave. until March 12. For more information, click HERE.