FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 2015
The French West Indies’ Guadeloupe Islands hosted the official inauguration of Mémorial ACTe, the Caribbean Center for Expressions and Memory of the Slave Trade and Slavery* in Pointe-à-Pitre. on May 10. Dignitaries from around the world and François Hollande, President of France, attended the events, hosted on the same day as the French National Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its abolition. The major Caribbean cultural institution, housed in the iconic industrial site of the former Darboussier sugar factory, is the first of its kind. The Mémorial ACTe is slated to publicly open on Monday, July 7th. The 77,000 square-foot Mémorial ACTe complex will serve not only as a memorial site, but foremost as a resource center on the history of slavery and human rights as well as a forum of expression for the growing Caribbean contemporary art scene. In 2014, it was estimated that some 36 million people still live in slavery-like conditions, signifying Mémorial ACTe’s relevancy today. The first exhibitions and programming, to coincide with the first annual Caribbean Image Festival, will be held from May 27th to November 1st, 2015 and will feature around 10 exhibitions, more than 500 images and 80 short films, in addition to forums and workshops. Wednesday, May 27th, also marks the abolition of slavery and slave trade in Guadeloupe and special outdoor events will take place on the esplanade of the Mémorial ACTe and at the Morne de la Mémoire. Eventually, the institution aims to develop multidisciplinary programming in its 7534 sq.-ft temporary exhibition space, which includes a 256-seat auditorium that can accommodate performing arts productions. “Initiated by the President of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, Victorin Lurel, and the Region Guadeloupe acting on a proposal from the Comité International des Peuples Noirs (CIPN), the Mémorial ACTe project was launched with the intent to be a place of remembrance of the history of the slave trade, opened to the contemporary world,” a statement from Mémorial ACTe reads. “The History of slavery belongs to Guadeloupeans and residents of the Caribbean, but it also concerns the whole of Humanity. This memorial and research site brings together all populations around a common past, but most importantly, it encourages them to reflect on the notion of liberty, on fundamental freedoms and on living together.” The center is also linked to the UNESCO-launched the Slave Route Project, a global initiative now in its 20th year to promote the rapprochement of peoples through the shared legacy of this tragedy. Built at a purported cost of €68m (nearly $74m) over seven years, Mémorial ACTe is expected to draw an estimated 150,000 visitors in its first operational year. The Guadeloupian agency, Atelier Architecture B.M.C. (Berthelot/Mocka-Celestine), won a 2007 international competition for the Memorial ACTe design and construction, while celebrated museographer, François Confino, was tapped to curate the permanent exhibition spaces. The building complex follows a black box construction set on ensnared roots, a clear reference to the bonds of slavery and the interlinking racial heritage and history of slaves. Mémorial ACTe, located adjacent to the call of port for cruise ships as well as the Pointe-à-Pitre city center, is poised to be a flagship destination for the Guadeloupe Islands.