Amid the conch and octopus crepes, the traffic circles, the drum machine-driven zouk songs trickling from passing cars, and the public pay toilets shaped like chic time machines, I found that the island of Martinique displays some of its more intriguing reflections of its personality though its street art.
Murals, paste-ups, and stencils abundantly pop up around this small, cane-blanketed piece of France in the Caribbean, in both the capital of Fort-de-France and many of the island’s small fishing towns. While the bulk of Martinique’s restaurants close for a five-hour siesta starting at 2 pm (in addition to the month-long vacations that many businesses take in the summer, as well as the weekly vacation day known as Sunday), the island’s street art is always ready to be viewed and considered.
Below are some of my favorites. The images are best viewed large. Click on any image to enlarge it.
The above paste-up characters liven up an unused façade facing La Savane, the central park of downtown Fort-de-France. Various layers of the city’s history have partially peeled away from the façade, the paste-ups representing the building’s latest interaction with the bustle of La Savane.
A mural by the Mada Paint collective spans the door to a private parking space in Fort-de-France. The horror on the subject’s divided face may to refer to Martinique’s monomaniacal dependence on cars chopping up the life of the city.
This gathering, painted by Slane, appears on the side of a t-shirt store in Sainte Anne, the island’s southernmost town.
A wall of an elementary school in Trois Ilets has been outfitted with a mural by Oshea & Xän of the Mada Paint collective.
Half-tubes of cane climb up the wall of an apartment building in Anse Mitan.
This recessed area of a stuccoed building in Fort-de-France may have been a doorway at one time, but now it’s an outlet for plumbing pipes and a canvas for an abstract piece.
Works by Jimmy Sabas, aka Mash, a Guadeloupian now living in Martinique, can be found scattered around Fort-de-France. In May of this year, along a stretch the city’s pedestrianized Rue de la République, Mash painted and stenciled a powerful mural reflecting on the slavery of the island’s past. He accompanied the shackles with the message “Les blessures qu’on oubli, ne peuvent pas être guéri” – injuries that we forget can not be cured.
Cement blocks that keep cars out of the pedestrianized Rue de la République watch over the foot traffic.
A mural made from tiles fills a windowless wall, beautifying an otherwise drab, bumper-to-bumper commute through the blocky, concrete suburbs of the capital.
An abandoned building next to a hairdresser’s salon in Fort-de-France has received a facelift. Two of them.
In downtown Fort-de-France, if you look up past the reaches of the cathedral’s spire, you may lock eyes with this.