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Madras and the Poetics of Sartorial Resistance in Caribbean Literature

by Siobhan Meï

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This series examines the Age of Revolutions through its material markers, reminding us that materials themselves reflected and shaped political cultures around the revolutionary Atlantic and World. In Gina Samson’s 2018 mixed media piece Sous le regard des Ancêtres (Under the Gaze of our Ancestors) fashion serves as a bridge between connected struggles in Haitian history. [1] Newspaper clippings documenting the Petrocaribe scandal that resulted in massive protests in Haiti in November of 2018, slice across the face of a figure resembling Jean Jacques-Dessalines, one of the military leaders of the 1804 Haitian Revolution. In this piece, Dessalines’ transverse bicorn hat — a staple of nineteenth-century French military regalia — blends into the deep red textures of a woman’s headscarf. The visual intimacy of these two fashion items — military hat and headscarf — suggests that the people’s struggle for economic, social, and political justice in Haiti continued long after the Revolution.

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