The Theater of Aimé Césaire: Une Saison au Congo

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Brigitte Hamon-Porter, Hope College

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Famous poet, author and Martiniquais politician, Aimé Césaire has historically influenced many people through his daringly accurate criticisms of colonialism. 1958 marks the year Césaire created his own Martiniquais political party after separating from the French Communist Party and it marks as well, the year Césaire published his first play, gradually deviating from his previous history as a poet. Over the course of his four plays, Césaire portrays the common themes of racial oppression, a hero overcoming the burden placed on his people, but ultimately failing, and the problems that arise with decolonization. Césaire’s play, Une Saison au Congo, is based on the life of Patrice Lumumba, first Prime Minister of the Congo and considered by many to have been a heroic revolutionary and perhaps the great last hope for the country. The piece recounts the last months of Lumumba’s life and his assassination, which was accomplished through the Western powers of Belgium, the Congo’s former colonizer, and the United States, in its anti-Communist fervor, leaving the Congo in the hands corrupt tyrant Joseph Mobutu. These pieces are not simply stories, but carry huge implications for the politics of Césaire and other countries in their quest to clean the wounds of colonialism and rebuild. As political leader of Martinique for 56 years, Césaire’s works of theatre provide insight into his political philosophies as well as being used to influence public opinion to promote understanding and healing from the past.

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