Cap 110 Memorial in Martinique, a Tribute to the Victims of Slavery

The Cap 110 Memorial in Martinique

photography by: Rehcral/ Wikimedia Commons

For two centuries, the Caribbean island of Martinique, now an overseas territory of France, was home to numerous sugar plantations where African slaves were engaged in forced labor. To commemorate Martinique’s dark past, a local artist erected in 1998 an art installation on the southwestern tip of the island, where he pays tribute to the hundreds of enslaved Africans who prematurely lost their lives as their ship sunk in the nearby waters during the early 19th century.

Bewildering as it might sound, the tropical island of Martinique is an integral part of France, with the Euro being its official currency. For almost 200 years between the 17th and 19th centuries, the French rule of Martinique was directly involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, as thousands of Africans were forcefully relocated from their ancestral land into the island, where they worked in the cultivation of the sugar plantations.

 

On April 1830, a boat carrying 300 African slaves was making its way to the island when it ran into a squall and subsequently crashed on the rocks of Anse Caffard Beach. Out of the hundreds of enslaved Africans on board, only 86 people (60 women and 26 men) managed to survive the ordeal and were rescued from the surrounding choppy waters.

 

In 1998, 150 years after the abolition of slavery across Martinique, a local artist named Laurent Valere, was entrusted with setting up an art installation, as the islanders sought to commemorate one of the most tragic chapters in their history. Consisting of 15 nondescripts busts, the Cap 110 Memorial was aptly erected on the verdant slopes of Anse Caffard in the town of Le Diamant, where the infamous shipwreck took place.

 

Somewhat reminiscent of the iconic Easter Island’s sculptures, the fifteen busts were created using reinforced concrete and white sand, imported specifically from Trinidad and Tobago. Since white color is associated with mourning in Martinique, the statues’ ivory hue reflects the deep sorrow and grief inflicted upon the island. On the other hand, the triangle-shaped arrangement of the sculptures stands for the triangular slave trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas.

 

Interestingly, the same artist is also behind the Manman d’lo, an underwater sculpture on the northwestern part of the island which bears the shape of a mermaid’s face.

Each sculpture is 2.5 meter tall and 1.5 meter wide, weighting about 4.5 tones

photography by: Wyder clara/ Wikimedia Commons


The art installation is oriented towards the Gulf of Guinea, where the slave boat most likely came from

photography by: Patrice78500/ Wikimedia Commons


According to the artist, the busts' stressful gesture and down looking eyes tell the painful story of the victims

photography by: Korido/ Wikimedia Commons


The Cap 110 Memorial is located meters away from the island's coastal road

photography by: Villediamant/ Wikimedia Commons