Guest culture – Isis Labeau-Caberia signs a story of adventures and sorority during slavery

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To reclaim a lost memory, to give a voice to those whose history has been concealed, to resonate with contemporary issues too, such is the ambition of a first novel intended for adolescents: The Prophecy of the Serpent Sisters. The author, Isis Labeau-Caberia tells the story of her native island, Martinique, through the fate of four young heroines who lived at different times.

Naïlah, a black teenager educated in a college in the beautiful districts of Paris, is preparing to spend a boring summer in Martinique, with her grandmother who loves telenovelas, Merci Seigneur radio and cultivating medicinal plants in her garden. But behind the clichés of a paradise island, the young girl will discover an old family secret and the reality of a land still bruised by the traumas of colonialism and slavery.

We then go back in time to the 17th century. At that time, live Nònoum, a young Amerindian woman, a Kalinago shaman confronted with the violence of the settlers, Funmilayo, a Yoruba priestess deported to the island as a slave, and Rozenn, a Breton peasant who arrived in the colony as a conscript after being accused of witchcraft.

Isis Labeau-Caberia signs an educational story with the desire to tell another story. ” I was educated in Martinique at the Republican schoolrecalls the young author of 30 years. And this is a story that was not taught to me. I wanted to fill this void, to talk about slavery and colonialism, with a story that mixes historical facts with the imaginary. I think it’s the best way to reach young audiences and readers in general “.

There are therefore several dimensions to this adventure novel. A feminist dimension, with this sisterhood alliance between four young girls belonging to different universes and times. ” It’s a story of sisters! says the novelist, coining a neologism between “sisters” and “witches”. ” The witch is an archetype of the powerful, rebellious, indomitable woman. What is beautiful is that in the history of the colonization of the Caribbean islands, the figure of the witch was present and even more subversive than what it could be in Europe “. Isis Labeau-Caberia has done research in particular on African women, deported into slavery and on Native American women. ” They used their knowledge as midwives, witches in the broad sense, and they thus resisted the violence of colonization. “.

But what do Nonoum, an Amerindian teenager who lives in the heart of the plantations in 1657, Funmilayo, a Yoruba priestess captured by the Amazons of Dahomey and sold to a slave ship, and Rozenn, a young Breton woman who will flee an accusation of witchcraft by embarking in a plantation as engaged?

It’s true that it’s not easy, especially since Rozenn will change status by landing in Martinique. She discovers race and a world where, for the first time, and only because she is white, she has privileges. “, recognizes Isis Labea-Caberia. ” Opposite her is Nonoum, an indigenous Kalinago Indian from the Lesser Antilles who sees her world collapsing with the arrival of violent settlers. And then Funmilayo, deported into slavery. What will unite them is their ability to articulate their struggles, without erasing what differentiates them ». And in this, the subject of the book The Serpent Sisters Prophecy reason with current struggles: It’s a story that has messages to convey to us contemporaries: how do we lead a feminist fight that includes all women? “.

The Prophecy of the Serpent Sisters by Isis Labeau-Caberia. © Editions Slalom

To bring the 17th century to life in Martinique, and to make a young Amerindian Kalinago speak in the first person, Isis Labeau-Caberia uses many Indian and Creole words. She did a lot of research. Research that did not put off this graduate of Sciences Po Paris, having studied the sociology of race and gender, as well as the anthropology and history of slavery (at Columbia University in New York and at EHESS), on the contrary.

I wanted to make those whose voice was confiscated speakshe insists. These people did not have access to writing and could not tell their story. The Kalinago people suffered a terrible genocide which is not talked about enough. This people was eradicated, but it is also a symbolic genocide, because it is a whole culture, a way of seeing the world which has almost disappeared. I say almost because, and this is what I wanted to show in this book, there are survivals in Caribbean cultures of this Kalinago heritage. “.

Isis Labeau-Caberia gives the example of the Creole garden. ” A Native American heritage still practiced today by the small people in the West Indies. It is a garden that mixes food crops, medicinal crops with a sacred relationship to the land. It comes to us from the Kalinagos and we realize that it is an inspiration for all those who promote permaculture today! »

Isis Labeau-Caberia also used her history studies to feed her story with anecdotes about the resistance of the daily life of female slaves (in particular medicinal traditions, music, cooking): ” In France, when we talk about slavery, we are faced with a double pitfall. First of all, we’re not talking about it. Or quickly done, to evoke the American cotton fields, but not the sugar cane fields of the West Indies. The second pitfall is that when we talk about slavery, we show slaves as passive victims. This is a story from the perspective of the settlers. It’s important to talk about resistance. The Africans themselves resisted the raids, revolted on the boats and on the plantations as well. But the young author points to a third pitfall: that of only talking about male, armed resistance. However, there were more subtle forms of resistance, on a daily basis, and they often emanated from women.

In The Serpent Sisters Prophecy, Isis Labeau-Caberia describes a clandestine ball organized on the plantation. ” These people will escape the gaze of the white master for an hour of dancing and fun. It’s a real anecdote that I discovered in a book by the African-American historian Stephanie Camp who studied the resistance of everyday life in the plantations of the southern United States. This is an anecdote that I transcribed almost word for word. I find this right to frivolity magnificent, it was a way for slaves to claim their humanity “.

Isis Labeau-Caberia thus restores a lost, hidden memory with this first novel, but also through the podcast. The wandering sour cherry which transmits the history of Africa and its diasporas in America and the Caribbean in a creative and literary way.

We want to say thanks to the writer of this short article for this incredible web content

Guest culture – Isis Labeau-Caberia signs a story of adventures and sorority during slavery

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