September 20, 2007 - #80
Inaugurations and SB JAM Music Festival
This year, like every year, the month of August was filled with local activities: summer fetes in various neighborhoods; the new pirogue, Savacou, hits the water; the SB JAM Music Festival; and the inauguration of the new bronze statue at the traffic circle near the airport.
Savacou, St. Barth’s new pirogue
In the early 20th century, men navigated aboard small wooden boats, called pirogues, to go fishing, transport merchandise, and compete in local regattas, known as “boulines,” on special occasions. The construction of a pirogue begins with the trunk of a large gommier tree from the island of Dominica. The tree trunk was delivered to St Barth aboard one of the schooners that carried people and merchandise from island to island in those days. Once it was in St Barth, the trunk was hollowed out, carved, and sanded into the shape of a hull. Unfortunately most of the St Barth pirogues have disappeared. Instead there are just a few “dories” which are another model of small wooden boats used in the 20th century.
To keep this local tradition alive, the UNESCO club of St. Barthélemy Caraïbes decided to fund the construction of a new pirogue, a project endorsed for its respect of traditional techniques. Last February 15, conversations began with the Carib Territory reservation in Dominica, the home of the last remaining Carib Indians. These conversations quickly led to an order being placed for the trunk of a gommier that could be shaped into a pirogue 18’ long, and for another trunk to make the mast. A bamboo boom and a pair of oars were also ordered. Three months later, the pieces arrived at the commercial dock in Public where a group of volunteers anxiously awaited their arrival, excited by the opportunity to build such a pirogue. The head of the project was Edouard, the son of a marine carpenter from Corossol, who had already built two traditional wooden boats, Eclair and Eclair 2. His crew included Jules, Jimmy, Philippe, Ange, Fredo, Guy, Raymond, Joe, and Daniel, the coordinator of the project on behalf of UNESCO. During the construction process there were a lot of visitors, from those who love boats to teachers, students, and fisherman, who wanted to see how the work was advancing. In mid-July, the pirogue was finally finished. The fabric for the sails is a thick cotton purchased from a store on the island, and Joe was the one responsible for the making of the mainsail and jib. When it came time to find a name and christen the boat, several different ideas were suggested. Swedish historian, Per Tingbrand, and Henry Petit Jean Roger, president of the international Caribbean archeology association were asked for their opinions. Finally, they selected the name Sacavou, the Caribbean god of the seas, and spirit of the forces of nature who is represented by a crab plover painted next to the name on the hull of the pirogue. After the boat was tried out on the water and the first navigational trials were successful, the pirogue was officially launched on Wednesday, August 15 as part of the Pitea Day celebration, which honors the twin cities of Saint Barth and Pitea in Sweden.
SB JAM Music Festival
For this year’s Fete of Gustavia, the non-profit association SB JAM came up with a smart idea: organize a festival of Caribbean music from August 16-19. The result was four outstanding evenings during which a series of bands performed on the stage set up on the main dock in front of the Capitainerie. The young West Indian musicians —including Dominique Panol, Richard Birmain, Pan-Nik, Bamboolaz, Marcé and Toumpak, and Carimi — played everything from classic zouk to Haitian compas and had the crowds dancing all night. The event met with great success and SB JAM is already working on a second edition of 2008.
Inauguration Of The Bronze Statue
At The Traffic Circle Near The Airport
A freelance graphic designer in Paris for the past four years, 27 year-old Guillaume Blanchard is the creator of “Savaku” the Arawak spirit representing the forces of nature, including hurricanes. Inaugurated on August 24, Savaku evokes the soul of St Barth, a metaphor for the island as envisioned by the artist. An Arawak Indian is standing on a rock, which seen from above is in the shape of the island. In his right hand he has a spear to defend his land, and he is blowing in a conch shell, which represents the cry of nature, a nature perhaps too often abused. He is accompanied by an iguana, which evokes the earth, wisdom, and patience. A pelican represents the official symbol of the island as well as air and the sea, which provides sustenance, as the people of St Barth have been fishermen since the earliest days of the island. For Guillaume, “the stance of this simply dressed warrior shows that he is proud of his island, as meager and difficult as it was then. This little, arid rock was the richness of this Arawak, ready to defend it with his body and soul. Oriented toward the west in the direction of the setting sun, he watches the end of another day. His twilight prayer echoes like the voices of his ancestors, inviting us to contemplation and meditation. The end of daylight is nothing but the beginning of night, in an eternal cycle of renewal. In this light, the experiences of the past best serve those who look toward the future without forgetting from whence they came.”
For the moment, the statue is placed in the wrong position as the Arawak should be facing west in order to meet the desire of the artist. In Guillaume’s original designs from 2004, the circular base on which the statue sits is marked with the four principal directional indicators, “In order to properly situate St Barth and show that we are open to the external world.” Also missing is the inscription: “The Arawak blows a conch shell which once again echoes in the hearts of men as the soul of St Barth,” which should be engraved around the base. The technical services of St Barth should take care of these final details in the next few weeks. The statue will also be raised higher as it seems out of proportion with the diameter of the traffic circle, yet not any more than a total of 6.5 feet as to not get in the way of approaching airplanes. The final step will be the completion of the traffic circle itself with the planting of grass and stone ornamentation.