The melody of water,
Barefoot along the footpaths,
Fugitive, I am reborn

A residency creation by Geneviève Alaguiry

The aim of the creative residency in Villèle, which opened on Monday 16th October 2023, was to create a sculptural work highlighting the figure of the fugitive slave. It will be presented in the context of the annual ‘20th December’ event held on the site of the Villèle Museum.

The artist Geneviève Alaguiry was commissioned to create the work. In the past, her papier mâché sculptures have attracted attention, notably though the very special effects she has succeeded in developing over the years.

In actual fact, this creative residency has two objectives: first of all creating an original work around the figure of the fugitive slave and secondly inviting the young people of the 31st intake of the Académie des Dalons¹ to contribute to the process of artistic creation, encouraging them to discover the visual arts as a profession, as well as art and creation in general.

Young people from the Académie des Dalons working on the skeleton of the sculpture

The papier mâché sculpture depicts maronèr è maronèz: male and female fugitive slaves emblematic of freedom in Reunion. Five heads of men, women and children are represented emerging out of the cliffs of mountains in the island’s interior. They represent major ethnic groups from Madagascar, Africa and India or Creoles born on the island, all having contributed to creating the population of Reunion as we know it today.

Geneviève Alaguiry’s aim was to focus not on the suffering but on the hopes and dreams of these fugitives, hopes and dreams which became a reality for a certain number of them. This is how she has represented them: at peace and with their eyes closed. The faces are smiling and gazing up towards the ideal of a life of freedom, towards a future they can build for themselves. They are literally stepping out of the two mountain chains separated by the riverbed, the common thread of their journey, symbolic of life.

The melody of water, Barefoot along the footpaths, Fugitive, I am reborn. Sculpture by Geneviève Alaguiry. 2023

They are not simply stepping out of the mountains, but are also contributing to their creation. Cimandef, Marianne, Anchaing, Héva and Mafate: they were the first to discover our mountains, the interior of the island, the remotest spots and the highest peaks, appropriating its steepest slopes. The artist expresses the way in which they tamed the harsh terrain so familiar to them. The footpaths are represented using gold foil, gold being the colour of light and perfection. Light, in its association with life, speaks to us of persons in the past, from social death and their inexistence through being enslaved human beings to Life… a life of freedom through becoming fugitives. From the asphyxiation of an imposed condition, the fugitive achieves perfection through a freedom arduously acquired: “(…) A fugitive, I am reborn.”

Geneviève Alaguiry is a visual artist born on Reunion island in 1986. After graduating with a DNSEP (Diploma in Art) from the Higher School of Art in Reunion in 2010 and obtaining a Masters degree from the University of Paris 8 in 2011, she set about researching on the human condition, questioning issues of the 21st-century social context, when individuals and the world in general have become an economic commodity.

A multidisciplinary artist, Geneviève Alaguiry expresses herself through drawing, the written word, performance, installation, video/animation, sculpture and photography.
She has contributed to several collective exhibitions and attended residences in Paris, Mauritius Island and Reunion.

¹ L’Académie des Dalons is an experimental project set up by the Departmental Council of Reunion, aimed at the social and professional integration of motivated voluntary participants aged between 18 and 25.

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