Martinique's sophisticated population cultivates artistic talent, and islander's love to be entertained. This bodes well for vacationers who would like to spend some time exploring the arts and entertainment that Martinique has to offer.
The creation of visual arts has not always been top priority for Martinique's people, and in fact it was only as recently as the late 1880s that any artistic endeavors began to take place on the island. The first paintings created here – paintings by official Navy Painters created to depict island life and landscapes – can be found today at the Musee de la Marine in Paris and La Rochelle.
As time went on, creating artwork became more and more prevalent on the island, and today art exhibitions take place numerous times throughout the year. Local artists are both native islanders and foreigners who come to the Martinique for inspiration. Some of today's most popular art styles created on Martinique include contemporary expression, figurative, and figurabstractionist.
If you're interested in bringing home a piece of artwork as a souvenier of your time on Martinique, there are plenty of galleries for you to explore, with the highest concentration being in Fort-de-France. You may also consider bringing home something handmade by an islander, such as woven blankets, beaded jewelry, dolls, or hand-carved statuettes. For these types of handicrafts, check out the the outdoor craft market in La Savane Park, Fort-de-France.
Song and dance are especially embraced on Martinique, with a few of the island's original musical styles capturing international attention. In addition to their indigenous music, which was typified by strong drum beats and and slave song, Martinicans enjoy other genres, especially jazz. Concerts and musical festivals are de rigeur, providing ample opportunities for travelers to soak up the sounds of Martinique. One of the most popular music festivals each year takes place at the end of November or beginning of December in Fort-de-France: the Martinique Jazz Festival. Some of the islands best jazz and blues artists play a series of concerts in different venues during the festival.
Though the dancing you'll see on Martinique today is often similar to what you will see back home, from booty dancing in the clubs, to elegant ballet performances in art centers, there are also opportunities to witness some of the island's more traditional dances. These include Bèlè, which though introduced to the islanders with French music, became a call and response type of dance that plays off of the drum, and Belya, a dance of celebration. Les Ballets De La Martinique is one of the dance groups that perform these dances and others indigenous to the island on a regular basis.
As beautiful as Martinique is, not many movies have been filmed on the island. There have been a total of six movie productions to hit the island, all of which where French films. Still, islanders love to watch movies, despite the lack of production here.
Theater is another aspect important to the culture of Martinique, and attending a theatrical performance of a play written by a local is a great way to put your finger on the pulse of the current political climate. Because shows run for short periods and are constantly changing, check with the concierge desk of your hotel, or the local paper to see what is playing during your stay.
In the 1930s, author and playwright Aimé Césaire founded the Négritude, which kicked off a literary and political movement, encouraging locals to explore the affect French colonialism had on the Caribbean and African people. From this movement came numerous pieces of literature, showing up especially in poetry and plays. The Négritude movement was just the beginning, and since that time there have been many Martinique writers whose works have been renowned. If you'd like to pick up a book or two by some native writers, consider the aforementioned Césaire as well as Jean Bernabé, Patrick Chamoiseau, Raphaël Confiant, Edouard Glissant’s, and Joseph Zobel.
Martinique is more than beaches and Mt. Pele. Visitors who would like to dig deeper into what is important to the culture of Martinique have plenty of options to choose from. Whether you take in a play, explore an art gallery, or learn to dance the Bèlè, Martinique is just waiting to show you all of its many facets.
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