Return to Ouvea, New Caledonia
"Ouvea is everything you'd expect in a South Pacific island. Twenty kilometers of unbroken white sands border the lagoon on the west side of the island and extend far out from shore to give the water a turquoise hue. The wide western lagoon, protected by a string of coral islands and a barrier reef, is the only one of its kind in the Loyalties. On the ocean side are rocky cliffs, pounded by surf, but fine beaches may be found even here. At one point on this narrow atoll only 450 meters separates the two coasts. Traditional circular houses with pointed thatched roofs are still common in the villages".
Those words appeared in the 1985 edition of my South Pacific Handbook after a visit in 1983. Just over 20 years later I returned to Ouvea to discover that little had changed in this large French colony east of Australia.
Most Ouveans still live in traditional thatched case (houses) and the beach is as dazzling as ever. On my first evening there, as I watched the red fireball set slowly across the lagoon, I felt a strong affinity with my previous visit.
Yet something terrible had happened in my absence. On May 5, 1988, 300 French elite troops stormed a cave near Gossanah in northern Ouvea to rescue 16 gendarmes captured two weeks earlier by Melanesian freedom fighters.
Nineteen Kanaks (the collective name used by the indigenous peoples of New Caledonia) died in the assault, including several who suffered extrajudicial execution at the hands of the French police after being wounded and taken prisoner. None of the hostages had been harmed.
Thus began one of the final chapters of what is now known as the evenements (events) of the 1980s. Three years earlier independence leader Eloi Machoro had been murdered in cold blood by police snipers as he stood outside a rural farmhouse near La Foa, on New Caledonia's main island, Grand Terre.
By 1987 France had 14,000 troops stationed in its mineral-rich Melanesian colony, one for every five Kanaks. The independence movement was to be crushed one way or another.
When I tried to visit the cave at Gossanah on my recent trip, I was told that the area was taboo to allow the spirits time to rest.
Instead I was permitted to visit the grave of Djoubelly Wea in Gossanah and allowed to take pictures of his home. My host on Ouvea told me the story. Evidently, the hostages had been taken by young Kanak activists from other parts of the island, and the captive gendarmes were brought to Gossanah only because the cave was considered remote.
Residents of the area weren't involved. Yet when the French police arrived in search of their comrades, they rounded up the people of Gossanah and assembled them on a football field in front of the village church.
There they were tortured for information, and Wea's father was among those who died of shock. Later 33 Ouveans were sent to prison in France, Djoubelly Wea among them.
These events chastened Kanaks and French alike, and the heads of the main political parties, the Kanak leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou and the representative of the French settlers Jacques Lafleur, were called to Paris by Prime Minister Michel Rocard to negotiate and eventually sign a peace treaty known as the Matignon Accords.
A referendum on independence was promised in 1998, and massive economic aid was to be channeled into the Kanak regions. An amnesty was granted to all those arrested during the troubles, and no investigation into the Ouvea massacre or the murders of several dozen other Kanaks by French settlers or troops would be required.
Fast forward to May 1989, as the top Kanak leaders Jean-Marie Tjibaou and Yeiwene Yeiwene arrive on Ouvea for a commemorative ceremony exactly one year after the massacre.
As the leaders are being received at the chefferie (chiefly house) of Wadrilla near the center of the island, Djoubelly Wea steps forward and shoots the pair dead at point blank range. Wea was reflecting a feeling still palpable in New Caledonia that Tjibaou had sold out to the French and derailed the struggle of independence.
Tjibaou's bodyguard killed Wea, the final shot of the evenements. Today the chefferie of Wadrilla is much the same as it was in 1989, a large thatched case surrounded by a palisade of driftwood logs.
Across the coastal highway, a large monument has been erected to the 19 Kanak martyrs of 1988. Designed with two curving white walls to resemble a cave, the monument bears the photo, name, and date of birth of each victim.
Their traditional war clubs have been placed on the back side of the monument and their remains are interred below.
No memorial to Jean-Marie Tjibaou exists on Ouvea but the French have constructed a massive cultural center to his memory in their stronghold Noumea.
In fairness, it must be said that Tjibaou only considered the Matignon Accords a temporary stop on the road to independence. His assassination froze the agreement into a sort of permanent solution which the French have used to justify continuing colonial rule ever since.
The promised 1998 referendum was never held. Instead an updated treaty called the Noumea Accord was signed. This postponed the referendum for another 15 or 20 years and promised many things the French government has yet to deliver.
For example, a key provision creating a special New Caledonian citizenship status intended to control immigration from France was declared unconstitutional by a French court in 1999.
Metros (metropolitan French) continue to flood into the territory (in violation of United nations resolutions on the norms of conduct for colonial powers in non-self-governing areas) and Europeans may soon from a clear majority of the population.
Toward the end of my stay I visited the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center on the Tina Peninsula, 12 kilometers northeast of New Caledonia's capital Noumea. Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, it was built by French contractors between 1994 and 1998 at a cost of over US$50 million. The center opened on May 4, 1998, 10th anniversary of the assassination of Jean-Marie Tjibaou.
No visitor can help but be impressed by the spectacular botanical garden interwoven with references to Kanak legends which encircles the center's three villages.
A contemporary art gallery, temporary and permanent exhibitions of Kanak and other Pacific art, a library, an audiovisual room, indoor and outdoor theaters, and a large ceremonial area are only some of the center's outstanding features.
Yet the Tjibaou Cultural Center presents Kanak culture as a regional folklore rather than a national tradition.
Events such as the Ouvea Massacre and the other murders of the 1980s are barely mentioned. A room in Village Three provides photos and texts on the life of Jean-Marie Tjibaou, but there's no explanation as to why he was assassinated or the background of his assassin.
The 19th century land seizures and the muscle flexing and maneuvering that have prevented independence are carefully avoided. The highlight for me was an amazing three-meter-high bronze statue of Tjibaou himself, clad in a Roman toga, on a hill overlooking the center.
Tjibaou was the last real Kanak leader, and in a land where the spirits of the dead have an important role in the lives of the living, his soul must be suffering.
David Stanley is the author of Moon Handbooks South Pacific http://www.southpacific.org/pacific.html which has a chapter on New Caledonia. His online guide to New Caledonia may be perused at http://www.southpacific.org/text/new_caledonia.html and his New Caledonia travel photos are on http://www.pacific-pictures.com/new_caledonia/
You have permission to publish this article electronically or in print, free of charge, so long as the byline and resource box are included. Please do not use this article without the byline and resource box. Many thanks!
Celebrating Obscurity: A Tribute To J. K. Rowling
A single-parent rose from obscurity in 8 years to become today the greatest woman celebrity, the richest woman (even richer than Her Majesty, the Queen of England) in the U.K, all through the power of imagination expressed through the power of her fingers!! She held the world spell-bound (270 million copies of her books sold so far).
Inuit Eskimo Art As Investments
Many people collect Inuit art as investments. Inuit art is growing internationally but it has been suggested that the number of actual Inuit artists are actually declining. The creation of the Nunavut government which represents Canada's third official territory, has resulted in many new employment opportunities for the Inuit, particularly the younger ones. Carving and the entire process of bringing back suitable stone from distant quarries to their own communities are hard work for Inuit art carvers.
Marcus Garvey: A Symbol for Black Nationalism
My first kid's father named my son Marcus after legendary Marcus Garvey. Which made me curious to know more about who Marcus Garvey actually was?
What is Feng Shui, and How Does It Work?
Feng shui (say "fung shway"), often called the art of placement, could just as accurately be called "the art of flow." This ancient Chinese practice, literally translated as "wind" and "water," aims to maximize the beneficial movement of chi--the universal life force present in all things--through an environment.
Humans are not special, hate to break it to you
I hate to break it to you, but humans are not all that special really. I laugh at the self importance humans place on this species as if some how they are better, more evolved or the divine work and special project of a God. There is actually not a single piece of evidence for that. We see the same general characteristics we see in humans in house pets, primates, birds and even fish. Yes, indeed we have a larger brain and the point is? Few humans bother to use its potential. Now that I have offended every human on the planet, let me recommend a book to you:
Mexican Living: Somethings Got to be Done!
Mexico needs to do something about the behavior of Gringos who come to their country who are hell-bent on acting out the Ugly American Syndrome stereotype no matter what.
Flows of Civilization; Views from a Think Tank
Over the past few years we have been discussing many topics. Most of what is discussed here has to do with observations of the world we live in. We discuss how we might make that world better, what we are currently accomplishing as a people and also our suggestions to make it safer, with greater freedom and more efficient. We have typically made these suggestions from experience, studying market sectors, psychology, human nature, world events, nature, car washing, mother-nature, science, and the natural order and flow of things.
Precious Stones - The Big Five: Part 2, The Ruby
What fairy tales of enchanted princesses and legendary lore of the Arabian Nights does not the mere mention of the ruby conjure up to our imagination! No stone has been more intimately connected with poetry and romance, and few gems can compare either in beauty or value with a perfect ruby. When Solomon exclaimed that "a virtuous woman was more valuable than rubies," and Job, that "the price of wisdom is above rubies," they both mentioned what to them was the most valuable thing in existence. And its value and rarity have not decreased since their time. Today a perfect ruby of five carats will fetch at least five times the value of a diamond of the same size and quality, while rubies without flaw or blemish, and of the true pigeon-blood variety, weighing as much as ten carats, are so rare and valuable that ten times the value of a perfect diamond would be considered a very low price to pay for so perfect a gem.
Europes New Jews
They inhabit self-imposed ghettoes, subject to derision and worse, the perennial targets of far-right thugs and populist politicians of all persuasions. They are mostly confined to menial jobs. They are accused of spreading crime, terrorism and disease, of being backward and violent, of refusing to fit in.
Hello I Must Be Going: The Vanishing Twin
They walk among us. By the mid nineties, science had only smoked out a few dozen of them worldwide but there are undoubtedly many more. You may well know some of them. You may even be one yourself. Perhaps you're sometimes haunted by the sense that there is someone lurking very near, invisible and silent but sharing that odd thought, impression, or fear from time to time. A more solid clue might be found in the skin on your back. Sometimes you can see this plainly though they say it's usually only discernable under UV light.
Art, Artists, and the Web: Part 1--Why Every Artist Should Have Their Own Website
First rate art is in danger of being left behind in this new age of the global Internet highway. The World Wide Web is like Walmart or Home Depot coming to town. Art galleries as they now exist, are going to become the Mom and Pop version of selling art.
What To Expect From A Feng Shui Consultation
If you are wishing to harmonize or balance your house or any other environment according to feng shui, the ideal way to do so is through a feng shui consultation. A feng shui consultation would provide you the right and proper guidance for you to successfully achieve your goal.
CHRETIEN DE TROYES:
At 60 plus Amitabh Bachchan Rules! - A Vastu Study
No words in this universe are enough to describe him, superstar, living legend, and the face of Indian cinema. Amitabh Bachchan today is an icon to reckon with, both nationally and internationally. He has become a household name today on the lips of young and old alike. The very mention of his name spells magic. One must surely appreciate the hardwork and dedication that was shown by him to capture the film world. Success always follows hard work. Has vastu played any role in his success ?. Yes, looking at the juhu residence of Amitabh Bachchan any vastu expert can will answer positive. Vaastu Shastra cannot be directly linked with prosperity. It only suggests ways in which one can live in tune with the laws of nature, so that you can be healthy and peaceful and work efficiently.
Astrology Refuted: They Should Have Seen It Coming
A comedian once showed a newspaper to his audience. The headline read, "1-800 Astrology Business Goes Under: They Should Have Seen It Coming." Everyone laughed, including me. We chuckled at the irony of a real contradiction here. If such a business could provide the service they claim, then its owners should have succeeded where other businesses failed. In fact, if they really knew the future, they likely wouldn't bother with this business at all. They would simply raid the stock market with a perfect investing record. We all somewhat instinctively know this, even those of us who have never had the occasion to sit and think it through carefully.
How To Get Rich and Die Quick!
It is funny how web site promotion can suddently plunge you into literary exploits...
A Look at the Heart of American Beauty
Sam Mendes' darkly comic portrayal of suburbia in his first movie, American Beauty (1999) takes a hard look at what happens when you've accomplished the American Dream only to realize that it isn't enough. Lester, the film's anti-hero wakes up one morning deep in a mid life crisis and decides that he wants something more then the life he has carved out for himself and proceeds to search for that something and in the process, disrupts the lives of those around him, particularly his wife Caroline. Through his use of color and surrealist elements Mendes shows how passionless and unhappy Caroline and Lester are in their seemingly perfect world and how true happiness lies not in doing what's expected or in material goods but in finding the beauty in being true to yourself.
Bad Mouthing Fellow Authors
The creative mind is a gift to humanity; but unfortunately it comes with some baggage. We often find people who are creative also have negative and self-defeating personal character flaws. I recently had the pleasure of someone proving this to me. The name of the individual was Ed. You see Mr. Ed condemned my expert status in some articles I wrote and put online. I recently wrote an article called "1000 Ways to Improve Your Business." http://ezinearticles.com/?id=37886
A Billion Cheers At 40: Lets Celebrate Mummy Jessy
Ooh the depth of literary riches, how terrific they are! In less than 40 hours time, our sister- J. K. Rowling would roll into her 40th birthday anniversary (on the 31st July). While making no pretences of any private relationship with her, or knowledge of, how she intends to mark her arrival at the proverbial 'land of milk and honey'. I am using this article to invite all writers to celebrate this ambassador of our profession -the PEN FAMILY, by posting a copy or just say something to appreciate this God's gift in our midst.
The Masked Fool
|© Athifea Distribution LLC - 2013|