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Passive Resistance and Négritude

Martinican Chicken in Coconut

Martinican Chicken in Coconut Milk

By Tim Hazell


My Négritude is not a stone, its deafness hurled against the clamor of the day… It takes root in the red flesh of the soil!” – Aimé Césaire (1913-2008).


Mahatma Gandhi countered British colonialism with passive resistance, seeking to destabilize an imperialist government. His deceptively simple message to India was one of “militant” nonviolence. The idea epitomized a subtle reinterpretation of conflict. In the following passage from his autobiography, he muses about freedom’s duality:

How all this happens—how far a man is free and how far a creature of circumstances—how far free will comes into play and where fate enters on the scene—all this is a mystery and will remain a mystery.

Négritude began as a literary and ideological movement led by French-speaking black writers and intellectuals from France’s colonies in Africa and the Caribbean in the 1930s. They challenged the theories of race hierarchy and ethnic inferiority promulgated by philosophers such as Hegel and Gobineau.

The movement was defined by its rejection of European colonization and its role in the African diaspora, pride in “blackness” and traditional African values and culture, all mixed with an undercurrent of Marxist ideals. Born out of a shared experience of discrimination and oppression, Négritude championed a new black consciousness.

The movement’s founders (or Les Trois Pares)—Aimé Césaire, Senghor, and Léon-Gontran Damas—met while studying in Paris in 1931. They began to publish the first journal devoted to Négritude, L’Étudiant Noir (The Black Student), in 1934.

The term Négritude was coined by Martinican writer and poet Césaire in his 1939 work, Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to the Native Land). In his words, it represented “the simple recognition of the fact that one is black, the acceptance of our destiny as blacks, of our history and culture.” From its onset, Négritude was an international movement, drawing inspiration from an African American resurgence brought about by the Harlem Renaissance. It found sanctuary in the canons of French literature.

Martinican cuisine is a mélange of African, French, Caribbean, and South Asian traditions. The recipes often reflect the complex history of the island. Here is a zesty dish of chicken in coconut milk!

Martinican Coconut Chicken


6 chicken thighs

3 tbsp oil

1 can unsweetened coconut milk

1 medium onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 ripe tomato, chopped

1 red or green Serrano chile, finely chopped

Juice of 1 lime

1 tsp salt

Black pepper to taste

1 tsp dried thyme

1 bunch coriander, chopped

1 spring onion, finely chopped

1 cup water or broth


In a large saucepan, sauté the chicken thighs in oil over medium heat. Remove and add onion and garlic, deglazing pan contents and frying until lightly browned.

Return the chicken thighs with tomato, chile, lime juice, salt, black pepper, thyme, coriander, spring onion, and coconut milk. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 60 minutes or until chicken is tender, adding more water or broth as needed.

Top with chopped coriander and serve with rice.


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