Jean-Paul Césaire: Aimé Césaire’s son implemented the poet’s cultural vision for Martinique

Jean-Paul Césaire: Aimé Césaire's son implemented the poet's cultural vision for Martinique

Died on Thursday September 1, 2022, Jean-Paul Césaire left at the age of 83 “at the end of the early morning”, like his father with whom he had a strong bond. Aimé Césaire’s son marked the cultural life of the island.



Difficult to evoke the memory of Jean-Paul Césaire without naturally speaking of Aimé Césaire and his tutelary shadow, in which he grew up and built himself. The son adored his father and the father adored his son, as did his five other children, whom he nurtured with the same affection until his death.

Aimé Césaire was a “daddy cake”. Even when his children were adults and independent, he made his rounds in the car on Sundays to bring food to those of them who did not live with him. He picked up a Chinese dish for one, bought bread for the other, took a chicken for the third.

For him, his children were still his little ones. He didn’t realize they had grown up. He protected them“, confides his entourage. This character trait was also found in Jean-Paul Césaire. “All that mattered to him was the welfare of his children. He was also very caring towards his father.“.

Jean-Paul Cesaire

Jean-Paul Césaire, one of the sons of Aimé Césaire.



©Martinique the 1st

In the house of Redoute in Fort-de-France where Aimé Césaire lived, Jean-Paul occupied for a long time the second accommodation located nearby on the garden side. He made sure his father lacked nothing. He had set up a bench for her in the garden to contemplate nature and planted a plethora of bougainvilleas, the poet’s favorite flowers.

Like his brothers and sisters, Jean-Paul Césaire was in awe of Aimé Césaire. Going back to his childhood memories, he tenderly explained how his father wrote at home. “From his office sometimes rise declamations, that is to say, he writes and declaims his poems !”.

In March 2001, when Aimé Césaire retired from politics, Jean-Paul Césaire no longer lived in the Redoute house, but he came every morning around eight o’clock to greet and chat with his father, before the latter went to his office. as honorary mayor at the old Town Hall of Fort-de-France.

The admiration of the son for the father also pushes the first to marry the fights of the second very early. In 1990, under the impetus of Aimé Césaire, mayor of Fort-de-France, and Jean-Paul Césaire, director of SERMAC (Municipal Cultural Action Service), the city’s cultural festival proclaimed “Eïa, Mandela !” to celebrate the release of the hero of the struggle against apartheid.

In an interview granted at the time to the daily Le Monde, Jean-Paul Césaire takes up a long passage from the Book of a return to the native land of Aimé Césaire.

The release of the great black leader, then the accession to independence of Namibia: on these two occasions, the white power recoiled before the determination of the peoples of South Africa, but also before international reprobation, which it either from the West or from Eastern countries. This double fight had been magnified by us from the Sixth Festival (1977), dedicated to the liberation struggle of the peoples of South Africa. We did it again in 1986 with the XVth Festival, which proclaimed a firm “No to apartheid!” At a time when it is fashionable to denigrate the whole of Africa en bloc, it seemed salubrious to us to proclaim: “Eïa for those who have never invented anything, for those who have never explored anything, for those who have never tamed anything! Eia for pain at the worst of reincarnated tears! Eia for love! Eia for joy!”

Jean-Paul Cesaire

Jean-Paul Cesaire

Jean-Paul Césaire, a particular charisma.



©Martinique the 1st

Jean-Paul Césaire’s admiration for Aimé Césaire is also evident in his private life. He calls his last son Christophe in homage to his father’s masterpiece. “We wanted a name that made sense and we spontaneously thought of the hero of The Tragedy of King Christophe“, explains his former wife Dominique Cyrille.

Doctor of musicology, currently stationed in Guyana as an advisor to the Youth and Sports Culture Department (DCJS), Dominique Cyrille was married to Jean-Paul Césaire from 1980 to 1991. She was the privileged witness of the special relationships that Aimé Césaire maintained with this son engaged like him.

It was Doctor Aliker who chose Jean-Paul to lead SERMAC. He found that the son had the qualities to confidently implement the father’s vision, which was also his own. Aimé Césaire winced because he was worried about what people might say. But since he never contradicted Aliker, he ended up giving in. Jean-Paul and his father had an excellent relationship. They were two enthusiasts. Between them, the dialogue was permanent and benevolent. They sometimes fell out when he wanted to do something and his father didn’t agree and vice versa. But that never lasted long, because neither of them liked when the other was angry.

Propelled to the head of SERMAC in 1976, Jean-Paul Césaire structured his father’s cultural policy by developing the workshops at the Parc Floral and by decentralizing the shows in the districts of Fort-de-France. A year after taking office, the town hall is pleased with his action.

The in-depth work carried out in the workshops quickly led to concrete results, and from the 77 Festival purely SERMAC shows were offered to the Foyalais public: “And the dogs were silent” as a world premiere, staged by the Atelier Théâtre; “Souffles”, offered by the Atelier Danse Contemporaine; The first 100% Martinican films, shot by the Atelier Audiovisuel.

Municipality of Fort-de-France

Jean-Paul Cesaire

Jean-Paul Césaire directed the main cultural structures in Martinique.



©Martinique the 1st

In 1998, Jean-Paul Césaire left SERMAC to head up the Atrium. Equipped with state-of-the-art technological equipment, this new cultural center in Fort-de-France hosts shows, exhibitions and conferences, like the memorable symposium “Aimé Césaire: A thought for the 21st century”.

In 2006, Jean-Paul Césaire retired but he continued every morning around eight o’clock to go to greet and chat with his father in the small house of Redoute. A tete-a-tete that will end two years later. Thursday, April 17, 2008, the poet died “at the end of the early morning”, imitated today by his son who joined him.

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