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Maryse Condé

On February 10 and 11, 2023, at the Pavillon de la Ville in Pointe-à-Pitre, the Kaz à Condé was inaugurated. Both an association and an activities center, its goal is to promote and transmit the vast contribution and mindset of the eminent author Maryse Condé. An initiative spearheaded by her daughter, Sylvie Condé who chats with us here.

Légende : 1. Sylvie Condé, fille de Maryse Condé. 
Crédit photos : © Famille Condé.

ONAIR- Sylvie Condé, what made you decide to initiate this project?
Sylvie Condé 
– I always wanted to create an a multi-cultural association of global dimension in Guadeloupe with various facets, as an extension of the texts by Maryse Condé. I am very admirative of my mother’s writing and believe that her work is so important and structuring that it needs an association to support it. As inspired by my mother’s writing, the Kaz à Condé (editor’s note: Condé House in Créole) will encourage debates and reflection on essential subjects for the construction of an identity and the enrichment of critical thinking.

OA – During the inauguration, it was clear to what point this project has generated support…
SC – Maryse Condé is a woman who has touched a large segment of the population in Guadeloupe by way of her writing. To sustain this project, I wanted to feel surrounded by her friends—poets, writers, politicos… We recently held discussions with several universities to create an academic committee. We would like to organize symposia under the direction of prestigious universities such as University of the Antilles, Columbia, Berkley, West Indies University, the University of French Guiana, or the Schomburg Center.

OA – The activities will go beyond literature. Yet we know Maryse Condé prima- rily as an author…

SC – She has numerous talents, including culinary, for example, and is very open-minded. The Kaz à Condé should be a convivial place for exchanges that support the authors and artists that share the same academic thinking as Maryse Condé. This can happen by way of literary encounters, lectures, art exhibits, performances, film projections, plays, and concerts. We would also like to contribute to the educational and cultural development of the next generation, with events for students through the “living library,” composed of books by Maryse Condé and other authors who share her vision.

OA – The Kaz a Condé is located at the Pavillon de la Ville de Pointe-à-Pitre. Why there ?
– I worked hard on this subject for two years because it is a major project, and I had to convince the powers-that-be to help me find a location. With the town hall of Pointe-à- Pitre, which is our partner, we agreed on this mini pavilion that serves as a focal point for our heritage and culture. We are located on the second floor for the moment.

Déjeuner de famille à Gordes durant l’été 2021 dans la Résidence de Maryse Condé et Richard Philcox. A gauche: Les filles de Maryse Condé, Aïcha, Avocate, Sylvie consultante en développement et Leila Condé, assureur. Maryse Condé préside la table. A droite Richard Philcox et Serina Condé, fille d’Aïcha Condé.
Crédit photos : © Famille Condé.
Noël 2020, Maryse Condé et ses filles, Leila Condé à gauche et Sylvie Condé à droite.
Crédit photos : © Famille Condé.

OA – Do you have other partners?
– We are also supported by the Region and Departement of Guadeloupe, which manages Le Fonds Maryse Condé (1500 books), Cap Excellence, CIFORDOM, the Prix FET KHAN, Maryse Condé, CORECA, The Foundation for the Memory of Slavery, Mémorial ACTE, UNESCO, and the Francophonie. In addition to such partnerships and donations, we are counting on the public to join our association. We still need help. We have some materials but need more in order to perfectly execute the activities we are planning. Such as the cosmopolitan bistro we would like to open, envisioned as a historic and literary voyage that reflects Maryse Condé’s passion for the culinary arts. That requires investment.

OA – What does your mother think about the Kaz à Condé? Is she an active participant? SC – Maryse is very open. She did not ask for anything. I told her what I wanted to do, which she acknowledged and accepted. She did, on the other hand, request that I be rigorous and remain academic. She is very demanding intellectually. So, at the inauguration we asked for testimonials from the representatives of universities. She is okay with the public dimension on the condition that it is guided by an intellectual rigor.

OA – We often read in interviews with Ma- ryse Condé that her relationship with her na- tive island has a certain bitterness, particu- larly from her early years.

SC – It is true that her relationship with Guadeloupe is not simple. The beginning was difficult and she often comes back to the same question; she, the enfant terrible of Guadeloupe, passionate, who always said what she thought. Yet her truths were not always well received… However, she has seen, primarily through my testimony, to what point the island has changed, has opened up. She even dedicated her alternative Nobel Prize to Guadeloupe.

OA – Maryse Condé lived for a long time in Africa, as you did. Why do you move to Guadeloupe ?
– My job is to help countries mobilize resources for their developmental strategies. At one time in my life, when I was living in Africa, I decided to leave in order to get to know the Caribbean, and I found my first job in Haiti. That was in 2005. Guadeloupe was my base. I moved there after my project was completed. Today, I am a consultant for the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States, and my base remains in Guadeloupe. I am happy to live where Maryse Condé grew up..

OA – How do you define the link between your mother’s work and your activities?
– I was raised by a mother influenced by Frantz Fanon, and her earliest guiding principle was to constantly question establish myths and assumptions and to take action. That is exactly what I do in terms of my work. From a very early age, I read authors who

showed me how to be active on behalf of the people. it is quite natural that today I work in fostering practical solutions for development strategies. I come from a line of women who have strived to change the world, such as my great-grandmother, Victoire, who was an exceptional cook—Maryse talks about here in her book Victoire des saveurs— and my grandmother who was the first female school teacher in Guadeloupe to my mother whose impact has been considerable. Maryse Condé, like many activist writers, was obsessed with seeking happiness for those close to her. She spent her life seeking the truth justice, and the emancipation of oppressed peoples.

OA – Among her influences, that of a universalist…
– With Maryse we started out in Guinea, then we moved to Ghana, to England, and once again to Guinea and the Ivory Coast before going to school in France. Then I worked in the Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Haiti, and finally here I am in Guadeloupe… Universalism was our creed. Maryse Condé believes the color of one’s skin and one’s origins are no longer the determining factors for union and struggle. She no longer believes in the existence of social classes or situations of domination. The Kaz à Condé will allow for meaningful discussions about colonization, questions of identity and diversity: to contribute to the rapprochement of peoples, notably Afro- Caribbeans, with a common history. It will also, I hope, stimulate equitable cooperation.

OA – Is the goal to reinforce the bridge between Guadeloupe and Africa?
SC – Absolutely. The association should help build that bridge. I would like to see these places develop a beneficial relationship in many different areas, particularly economic and cultural. We plan to organize trips to symbolically important locations such as Cuba, Bahia in Brazil, Guiana to meet the Bushinengue people, the towns of Ouidah and Abomey in Bénin, Goree Island in Senegal, Louisiana in the United States, and Zanzibar in Tanzania. Reflecting the journey taken by Maryse Condé, the Kaz à Condé hopes to be an association with a global outlook, and a link between the French West Indies, the Caribbean, Africa, and the United States.

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