Maria Thereza Alves

Recipes for Survival
Seeing you



Orée, 2011

Video, 6:38 min.
Color, sound

"A study on the colonial evolvement of language in La Reunion, an island originally populated by white French settlers and their African slaves.

There were no indigenous peoples in Reunion prior to the French settlement of the island, so the language for the environment developed at the moment of the settlement and slavery. It was an European language that would be used to describe the nature of an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

The Creole language in Ile de Reunion negotiates between different cultures, perceptions of space and nature, and of the body in history.

In the forest in Ile de Reunion people tend to stay along the edges closest to the roads. The deeper one goes into the forest, the less people one encounters. Alves researched the history of Ile de Reunion and became interested in the people who fled slavery and hid in these forests. These people, the artist realized, would have been the ones to transform the French language into Creole to describe a world which they began to become intimately involved with. Precise knowledge of the forest would guarantee their possibilities of remaining free. It is they who began to re-name the things of a forest which was to become their home .
Alves met with people on the island to gather the names of plants, shrubs and trees. A local nature reserve guide, tea sellers in markets and a group of women at a social center told Alves the names of the plants or the leaves of trees they picked to use as spices, to cook as vegetables or to make into teas that healed. The director of the botanical gardens and a local sociologist were also consulted.

Working with two local actors the names of the plants were recorded. Orée, the video, ends with the name of a tree that is known as Bois de la Negresse which is considered to be the false version or imitation of the tree known as the Bois de Mademoiselle, recalling the early history of the island of white women and black women, of those who were born free and those who were not, of those who were at that time considered to be real humans and those that were not quite. The voices of the two Creole actors challenges this nomenclature of faux Bois de Mademoiselle which is still called Bois de la Negresse."

Sound File of Orée
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