Aimé Césaire Kapok: The Tree That Inspired a Civil Rights Legend
Martinique, as much as anywhere else in the Caribbean, inspires creative genius. The proof lies in large part in its history. A rich and complex tapestry of class, race, and economic struggles played out amidst a vibrant, dreamlike setting. A dreamlike setting of pristine natural beauty. One that has inspired such legends as Paul Gauguin and Jean Rhys to create seminal works transcending time, tongue, and territory. Equally as inspirational are some of Martinique’s physical characteristics. Chief among them: the Aimé Césaire Kapok tree.
To the unknowing passerby, it would appear to be just another amazingly majestic tree. This particular kapok, though, is extremely special. Martinique’s favorite son, Aimé Césaire, is the reason why.
Papa Césaire, Martinique’s Favorite Son
Born in Basse-Pointe, Martinique in 1913, Aimé Césaire grew in his years to become the pre-eminent figure in his home island’s history. He was a poet, a playwright, a politician and a statesman. Most of all, though, he was Martinique. Césaire was a man who represented in all that he said, wrote, and accomplished everything that this wonderful island and its people hoped to be.
As revered a figure in the global Civil Rights Movement for people of African descent as anyone, Césaire is credited, among other things, with being a founding father of La Negritude. An artistic and cultural movement initiated in the 1930s, La Negritude encouraged black youths to develop and maintain a positive racial identity. A positive sense of self.
He’s not be as well known in the USA as Dr. King or Malcolm X. Césaire’s impact, though, is as profound as both Civil Rights leaders virtually everywhere else on the planet.
The Aimé Césaire Kapok is among the primary inspirations for his greatness.
Aimé Césaire Kapok above Saint Pierre
The tree sits astride the road that leads down to the historic seaside town of Saint-Pierre. Césaire made a habit of trekking to this tree in his time. He often sat beneath it for hours to draw inspiration for his works. Césaire spoke about his communal relationship with Martinique’s natural wonders in an interview recorded shortly before his passing in 2008…
When I want to know myself, I read myself in the landscape. That is what is important. Yes. The tree speaks to me. I don’t know if I can talk to the trees, but I know that they speak to me and they interpret me….
The view from this special tree of Saint-Pierre below no doubt also inspired him…
It’s a peaceful, wonderfully serene spot that gives the visitor a tiny window into the mind of a giant man. Venture here, sit for awhile, and you just may be inspired to greatness as well…