As I looked up the French word(s) for the verb "to engage", I found:
engage in wishful thinking prendre ses désirs pour des réalités
engage to do (commit to do) entreprendre
engage (involve) impliquer⇒, intéresser
engage with (be committed or involved with) collaborer avec
There were more verbs, but the above managed to encapsulate my experience and work in the country of Martinique. For twenty one days, I engaged in wishful thinking- imagining that my ideas and questions about Martinican culture, identity and language would also be of interests to its people. I was committed to the idea that I could, by the end of my time there, employ art as an agent of empowerment in support of a search for understanding the collective self within the African diaspora. I wanted to involve Martinicans in the process of questioning and discovery. I wanted to collaborate with them in this process. in addition, personal artistic and intellectual development was at the epicenter of my work there.
My desire to engage in these ways opened paths for bonds to form and for the experiences to yield so much more than I could have imagined. Everyday I pushed to find more and pulled myself closer to listen and feel deeper. I asked many questions of the young, the old and the middle aged. Our time together was all about questions. The ones they asked made time stand still as I searched for ways to respond in a language that was not their own. Questions like, What is it like in New Jersey? and Why are you so interested in this? were not easy to answer.
I met Maime, Nelly, Talia, and Yuvi at Le Campus Caraïbéen des Arts (university) on my second day in Martinique. As I departed from my host, Henri Tauliaut who is a professor at the school, I encountered Maime and Yuvi coming out of the elevator. They immediately engaged me conversation. The impromptu meet and greet became four hours of a studio visit and conversation outdoors overlooking the Kapitol city of Fort de France.
We spoke about creole, about Caribbean identity, art, madras, sexuality in Martinique, folk songs, life in the United States, and so much more. I extended an invitation to my performance at the Schoelcher library and another invitation to participate. They accepted both. They created a group text which we used to coordinate and to share questions, ideas, thoughts and images. Their knowledge, feedback, and questions were invaluable and informed much of the work I did during this trip.
more to come...