Gwladys Gambie

Hard sun,
Cactus everywhere,
Rocks on the road,
No river,
Hot little island,
Land of thorns,
One happy island who never cries,
Rain is a miracle.

Before Caribbean Linked contacted me to go to Aruba, I didn’t know this island. All people of my entourage didn’t know Aruba exists. Where is Aruba ?

This residency contributed to my wish to discover the different faces of the West Indies. I saw an island that speaks English, Spanish, Dutch….and Papamiento. I consider this language like creole of Martinique. So strong, and sometimes, so difficult or impossible to translate in another language because of its singularity. So powerful, and yet undervalued.

During our tour of the island, I discovered an extraordinary landscape. Red is the only strong colour I saw during our trip in Aruba. That’s why for Caribbean Linked, I made a choice to use only red in my drawing, like a concentration of emotions, of pleasure, of energy.

Before my solo residency in Guadeloupe this year, I always thought that colour was useless in my work. I didn’t know how to use it without the danger of my work falling into illustration or decoration. I was thinking the same about the collage technique. I’m not used to putting colour in my drawings; black is always enough for me because it’s strong and direct, graphic. You can’t make a mistake.

At Arikok National Park, I took some big cacti thorns for my sculpture. A wide diversity of cactus stand up like powerful men in this environment. Cactus with flowers, twisted cactus, bent cactus. I missed my green Martinican landscape, but I was also very inspired by the dry Aruban landscape. I was fascinated by the graphism of the corals, defined and etched like handwriting into the stones.

The most surprising thing was to see so many trees with thorns. Are you protecting yourself, Happy island? I use thorns in my work to represent sensuality, pleasure, chills, explosions of emotions. Adam Patterson (Barbados), another artist taking part in the residency, uses thorns in his performances as a way of protection. It was interesting to see how two artists use the same element – the sea urchin – in different ways. However, the two of us have the same sensitivity about it.

Red gives a dynamism in my drawing, more energy and passion. I know that colour can give more sweetness also. Generally, people like colour in drawing; I tried, but colour is to be used with caution!

I like to experiment, to do something new, find other perspectives in my work, to challenge myself. Residencies are the perfect place for that. I’m always questioning my drawing practice. That’s why I decided to combine sculpture and drawing to integrate notions of colour, volume and landscape.


I expected during the Caribbean Linked residency that I would discover and exchange with Caribbean artists. Maybe collaborate. Discover problematics of each other’s cultures.

I met Kriston Chen (Trinidad and Tobago) at Saint Martin en route to Aruba. He talked to me about his culture, and especially about Moko Jumbies. When he showed me his videos about these carnival characters of Trinidad and Tobago who come from West Africa, I was impressed. Despite my imperfect English, we exchanged a lot about the carnival characters of ours islands, and we were happy to find similarities. Caribbean connection happened!

But Moko Jumbies captivated me. I saw quickly that I can find a new perspective to Manman Chadwon, the Afro Caribbean goddess of my personal mythology. When Kriston told me his project around building a community and to teach people to walk on stilts, I joined this idea immediately. I wanted to learn, and walk on stilts like a mystical goddess.

Then, Kriston became my Moko Jumbie sensei.

It was an amazing experience for me. It’s not only about balance, it’s about power, confidence, relationship with the elements, the breeze and the sea. I didn’t expect to do anything else but my drawing on this residency. However, I saw the opportunity to take risks and experiment with something new. On the stilts, I felt higher, stronger, powerful. I felt like a goddess with the breeze, confident. I fell twice, but I’m proud to have done this amazing walk!

I really needed this dimension in my work, and that’s motivated me to do more and more with my avatar Manman Chadwon.

Caribbean Linked was a great artistic moment in my life. It’s allowed me to connect with Caribbean artists. I really appreciated the joy and enthusiasm of the Aruban people and artists about our presence in Ateliers ’89. They came into our studio, spoke with us, and took interest in our work. It was a great emulation. We need that in Martinique.

My English is not perfect and I’m a reserved woman. Quiet for some people. I was afraid to not understand anyone, because this residency was the first time I really practiced my English. But art is a beautiful and universal language, and it surpasses all others.

I think that it’s necessary for artists to meet, interconnect, work in a same place, exchange about their practices, collaborate, and generate a fabulous creative energy. I have never lived this before.

I already miss this wonderful energy…Sé té an bel lyannaj karibéyen.

A an lot soley everyone.