"Le Jardin d’Allah": Ecological Sensibilities in the Francophone Caribbean
Keywords:agroecology, francophone literature, gardening, soil ecology, the Caribbean
When gardening and Caribbean islands are mentioned, one cannot but think of Jamaica Kincaid and of the way in which she has articulated the complex relationship between colonialism and gardens, between people and notions such as place and situatedness. The very idea of nature in the Caribbean is strongly connoted, bearing the brunt of age-old associations with exoticism, mystery, unpredictability, or even madness. The symbolic meanings gardens take on in this region are therefore numerous and multifaceted, and if some have been lengthily discussed, others might still be worth exploring. Such is the case of backyards and vegetable gardens in Maryse Condé’s En Attendant la Montée des Eaux: in a violence-torn, poverty-afflicted, and politically unstable Haiti, the orphaned Movar makes people’s lives more bearable by recreating beauty around them, and by giving order to their unruly surroundings. His actions are more than a simple imposition of man over nature, they are also a metaphoric restoration of a lost balance, long forgotten because of other men’s blind exploitation of both human and natural resources in an environment rendered all the more fragile by its fluctuating weather patterns. This paper presents some considerations on Caribbean soil ecologies, with a particular focus on Guadeloupe and Haiti, and on the ways in which the gardener-garden relationship might contribute to restoring damaged ecosystems. Through the character of Movar and the Jardin d’Allah he tends to, concepts such as care time, reciprocal gardening and plant agency are explored. The precarious contexts in which acts of gardening take place allow for the words of Maryse Condé to be read as a paradigm for finding rootedness and balance in a politically, socially, and ecologically suffering world. Finally, Movar’s story is translated on a global scale, as an effective model of social sustainability and responsibility.
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