Thursday, April 19, 2012

Homage to Césaire, Senghor, and Damas at Dorothy's Gallery

On Friday evening, April 13th, a remarkable event took place at The American Center for the Arts at Dorothy's Gallery in the 11th arrondissement. Two actors - Jean-Michel Martial and Virginie Emane - interpreted several works by famed Francophone writers Aimé Césaire, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Léon-Gontran Damas in a reading entitled Paroles Croisées (Crossed Words) as the penultimate event for the Surrealist Heritage art exposition at the gallery. Césaire, Senghor, and Damas were founders of the Négritude movement of the 1930s.

Flier for Surrealist reading
© Discover Paris!

The announcement for the event read as follows:
Sculpteurs de verbe, Aimé Césaire, Léon Gontran Damas et Léopold Sédar Senghor réinventent la langue, disent la vie, l’amour, la peur, l’espoir… avec des mots qui sentent le poivre et le piment de Cayenne… Surréalistes, jusqu’au bout des mots, mais réalistes aussi jusqu’à vous faire entendre ou pousser le grand cri nègre.
Translation: Sculptors of words, Aimé Césaire, Léon-Gontran Damas and Léopold Sédar Senghor reinvent language, talk of life, love, fear, hope...with words that smell of black and Cayenne pepper...Surrealists through and through, but also realists to the point of making you listen to or shout out "the great black cry."
Both actors read from loose leaf pages, with Emane seated on the arm of an overstuffed chair and Martial standing and pacing in turn across the floor. They wove elements of multiple writings together, including Césaire's Cahier d'un Retour au Pays Natal, Senghor's Hosties Noires, and Damas' Black-Label, before a full house.

Virginie Emane and Jean-Michel Martial
© Discover Paris!

The crowd
© Discover Paris!

Emane and Martial read from several texts, never pausing between them, so the words of the three great writers flowed as though they comprised a single work. The effect was riveting!

Rapt attention
© Discover Paris!

When I asked Dorothy why she conceived of and hosted this event, she responded that was great friends with Ina Césaire, the daughter of Aimé and Suzanne Roussi-Césaire. She knew the Césaires well and visited Martinique - their homeland - multiple times. She knew that they embraced surrealism and wanted to pay tribute to them through this magical evening in association with the exposition of surrealist works that she mounted at the gallery.

Dorothy Polley with flier
© Discover Paris!

The event was free, but Dorothy passed a hat among the attendees at the end of the presentation for those who wanted to donate a small sum to show their appreciation for the artists' performance.

Dorothy passing the hat
© Discover Paris!

The evening was a great success, with more than twice the number of persons who sent RSVPs showing up for the reading. It represented Emane and Martial's debut performance of Paroles Croisées. They plan to present this performance again, particularly in French schools as part of an effort to increase awareness of the history, literature, and culture of African Diaspora peoples.


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

If you liked this article, share it with your friends and colleagues by clicking on one or more of the social media buttons below!

No comments: