Trained as an ethnographer, Ina Césaire eventually decided to turn her back on the métropole and to live as a recluse, to voice her people but never herself, and only rarely her famous parents. Her creative work is largely grounded in memory preservation for the island of Martinique: recording and presenting oral tradition, imagining humble people’s roles in contemporary or distant periods, or creating her own vision of historical figures through dramatic dialogues. Césaire’s work for the stage is the most extensive by any woman from the French Caribbean.
In this essay, Makward gives an overview of the diversity of Césaire’s opus, beginning with the forthcoming first volume of her plays (published by Karthala, Paris). She then discusses in more detail the two works (intimate dramas) that have been created in English in the USA (Fire’s Daughters and Island Memories) as well as others representing different categories of texts (historical dramas). In a third section, this article briefly describes the remaining, unpublished plays: adaptations from Martinican oral traditions, and adaptations from international plays and narratives (Brecht, Maupassant, Hearns). In her concluding remarks, Makward discusses language: Césaire’s use of French and the question of Martinican Creole as dramatic tool.