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Claire-Ania is Capturing the Beauty of Diverse Cultures in Martinique

Written by: Claire-Ania Virgile

I’m a self-taught photographer who lives in Martinique (French Caribbean island). Through my camera lens, I try to make visible the invisible sections of society i.e people of African and Indian origin, their religious beliefs like Hinduism and Rastafari.

My photos are deeply rooted in nature photography. They mostly consisted of portraits, street photography and landscapes. Photography has always been my passion, but when I was younger, I didn't have a camera, so I would borrow it from friends. In June 2017, I could finally afford one and I officially started posting my photos as @SAUBHAGYA.PHOTOS and on my personal account @indianaania.

I have a degree in English literature and am currently a second year masters Student in Cultural Studies at Université Des Antilles in Martinique. The central point of my research is Coolie Woman, Gaiutra Bahadur’s seminal work and Indo-Caribbean feminism. Making most of this opportunity, given by Brown Girl Diary, I would like to introduce a project that I am working on with two of my University friends, on the importance of Indo-women descendants through their textual and photographic descriptions.

I embrace my Indo-African, double cultural identity, as I speak French, Créole and English— and how my identity frames my perception of the world. However, I indentify myself as a Martinican as it includes having those diverse origins. In order to pay tribute to my ancestors, I had to learn about their struggles from slavery and its abolition to the arrival of Indentured labourers in the Caribbean.

I'm fascinated by the influence of Hinduism on the Rastafari movement. I think it's the perfect example of cultural union in one place, along with other examples, such as food, spirituality and medicinal plants.

Having these influences make you realize a lot of things. It makes you aware of all the destructive, long-lasting consequences of colonialism and all forms of domination. My island is still fighting against the oppression of the colonial system. More and more, young people are reclaiming their African and Indian origin through music, art, spirituality, fashion and way of life.

In this context, my photography sheds light on the vast potential that our diverse cultures hold. Through my art I’m reclaiming our humanity and our value. Representation is more than significant now in this digital world. I'm doing my best to promote a vision of Martinique beyond the "exotic" image that foreigners have.

In french we use this quote "Tant qu'il y a de la vie, il y a de l'espoir." As long as there's life, there's hope. Lately I say to myself, "Where there's life, there's photos to take!"

Claire-Ania Virgile (SAUBHAGYA PHOTOS), July 2020. Martinique.

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