July 23, 2014

1159 FRANCE (Martinique) - Woman dressed into traditional Creole clothes in Martinique

Located in Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea, Martinique, as also Guadeloupe, is an overseas region of France, so its culture blends French and Caribbean influences. The city of Saint-Pierre was often referred to as the "Paris of the Lesser Antilles". Most of Martinique's population is descended from enslaved Africans brought to work on sugar plantations during the colonial era, generally mixed with some French, Amerindian (Carib people), Indian (Tamil), Lebanese or Chinese ancestry. Many Martinicans speak, in addition to French (official), Martiniquan Creole, a subdivision of Antillean Creole that is virtually identical to the varieties spoken in Saint Lucia and Dominica.

Because of the tropical climate, lightweight clothing are worn throughout the year; washable, wrinkle-free fabrics are preferable. Nowadays Creole dress still remains popular among Caribbean women and plays an important role as a national dress in the French Caribbean islands. Creole dress consists of a long skirt of madras cloth worn over a white cotton chemise. It is trimmed at the neck with lace which adorns the sleeves and neck. In the head there are elaborately folded wraps, which are more than just a fashionable accessory, are a statement about the availability. The headdresses aren't merely selected by the style and color, but rather by the meaning that the woman wishes to convey.

There are five types of traditional headdresses in Martinique, each made with a varied selection of brightly colored madras fabric. The first style is the ceremonial headdress, which is tightly braided into a coil with one tiny end of the fabric sticking up into a small point in the front, and no statement is either made or intended, other than it is worn for traditional fashion. If the woman wear a headdress with one pouf sticking up on the top, means that the woman's heart is free. Two poufs means that she is engaged, but that a person can certainly take their chance and ask. Three poufs say clearly that the woman is married. Four poufs makes the statement that "if you have the time I have the desire". The women also wear locally-made jewelry, such as the collier chou (multi-strand beaded necklace), the chaîne forçat (cable necklace), broaches and earrings.

About the stamps
The first stamp is part of the series The Cattle of Our Regions, issued on February 24, 2014 to commemorate the Salon de l’Agriculture 2014. The series contains 12 stamps featuring the French cow breeds represented in very small numbers and little known to the general public. A particular attention is paid to these breeds since they are very identifying for the French regions to which they are well suited and very characteristic in their morphology: color, shape of horns, etc.

The second stamp is part of the definitive series issued on  July 16, 2014, depicting of course Marianne, a young woman wearing a Phrygian hat, became the symbol of the French republic shortly after the 1789 revolution. Her profile features on France's official logo, euro coins, and stamps, and busts of Marianne adorn town halls and other official buildings across the nation. According to a tradition dating back to 1944, each new French president chooses a fresh illustration of Marianne to decorate stamps. Previous models for Marianne have included famous French actresses and singers such as Brigitte Bardot, Mireille Mathieu, and Catherine Deneuve. This time, the President Francois Hollande has chosen a portrait partially inspired by Inna Shevchenko, a leading member of the feminist activist group FEMEN, designed by David Kawena and Olivier Ciappa. Femen, which often stages topless street protests, was started in Ukraine but is now based in Paris after Shevchenko was granted political asylum following outrage at her felling of a giant cross in Ukraine in support of the Russian band Pussy Riot. This choise has sparked a spat on the political right.

Creole Hats of Martinique - Luxury Experience

Sender: Christine
sent from Fort-de-France (Martinique), on 24.06.2014
photo: P. Gilloux

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