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Sally Couacaud – Obituary of a Curator

26.04.2020

 Sally Couacaud died on 14 April 2020. The death of a curator. She was curator of outdoor art for the Sydney Municipality (see photo of her in this role), and curator of the beautiful exhibition of African contemporary art, “Material Matters” at ICAIO in Rue Desforges, together with friend and soul-mate Salim Currimjee. She could look at something and know, within seconds, if it was art, good art. And then, on reflection later, work out how and maybe why. And she could reject something useless outright on the spot. And so in life, too, she was a curator. She created things – like her divine garden, or like a T-Shirt factory – all with the large, deep and wide view of a curator. Curating for her was a way of life. And just as with her instant judgment in art, she was wildly loving and could also instantly lash out. That was Sally. She was blessed by having in her not one iota of cheap sentimentality. Everyone who knew her and loved her will miss her, and grieve her passing. She had something indestructible about her. And this leaves her death, even though she has fought cancer for 11 long years, not quite believable. 


 Born in the UK, then moved to New Zealand as something like a one-year-old and grew up there, was active in the anti-apartheid movement there, went and studied in Cape Town, married Jano Couacaud, worked in England, lived in Mauritius for a 10-year period with their two children, Leo and Zoe, then in Australia in-between, then back to Mauritius, in Goodlands, then separated from Jano, and later back to Australia, and even, as fighting the cancer, she went on her beloved travels – almost to the end. All, in grand style, while watching world politics with a long view. And she died isolated from her children by lockdown and long distance. She sure chose her moment to go: when she could just decide to slip away.


 She was a rugged individualist, who I also remember for the part of her that is the exact opposite of that.


 As the Muvman Liberasyon Fam was forming, she was there. Even for the first Solidarite Fam gathering in the Company Gardens in 1977. I remember her black-and-white photos that capture those times. The vivaciousness of everything. Even photos that intentionally included a pile of women’s handbags in a corner that would usually be excluded from any other frame. As if in those times, she captured women having cast their handbags to the wind, as we cast our bras to the flames, and got on with life. She designed the first beautiful Solidarite Fam posters, with the women’s hand-sign, which allegedly Jean-Claude de l’Estrac didn’t “oz” to guess what it represented. And she gave the technical advice a year later for the scarves that are still around today (I’ve got one I still use) that have that same reverse block hand-sign, and the words: “Fam ape prodwir larises” and the Bhojpuri “Awrat bi Haht Bante la Dann Kamawe Me”.


 And decades later, as she separated herself slowly from her beloved collection of books, she put them in cardboard boxes for LPT’s second-hand bookshop. And thus new generations of readers had the pleasure of bumping into her unique and bold choices in literature, book by book for peanuts. 


 Her Art Books are at ICAIO’s library.


 And her music CDs are at Rajni’s music room – again left to the collective. 


 After the 2013 floods, although she was just recovering from one of the stages of her cancer, when the LALIT offices had had 3 foot of water in the building, and we were saving unique documents that had been soaked, turned into near papier maché, or totally muddied, she sat there for hours on end, working away. She would separate one sheet from another, and place it between two sheets of dry paper, then separate another. While others were carrying mud out of the building in wheel barrows. Then a few days later, she would come again, and change the paper between documents. While others were tipping and coaxing the mud out of hollow legs of furniture.


 And she was one of the founders, and indeed one of the sparks that led to the creation of the Film Club at Grande Riviere. She brought her piercing, shrewd film criticism, and quickly, from the beginning, grasped that what we needed was a collective choice of films that reflected (as a criterion) film as a medium, including its historical development as a medium. And she always had a comment on a film we have viewed together, that got to the heart of a film – either in its symbolism, or its terse narrative, or a hollow somewhere in its content. And she knew that watching a film and discussing it, even briefly afterwards with others, is completely different from just watching one and that’s it.


 Ram and I will miss our friend, Sally. She would come to our 24 December meals for singles around a turkey, with gravy and stuffing and bread sauce. And we would go to her for Easter Sunday lunch, lamb and Lyric and laughter, as we used to joke. 


 My condolences, and those of all in Lalit, go to all her extended families, her children, all her friends all over the world and her colleagues. 


 For your interest, here is the illustrated talk I gave on “Material Matters” that she curated in Port Louis in October 2015. There are two versions of the talk, one in the original Kreol given at the MGI, and one translated into English that I handed out on the day to non-Kreol speakers present. They do not perhaps do justice to her curating. But, at the end, I’m appending the found poem I wrote from the comments adult literacy students made on their first-ever visit to an art exhibition, this one, in Rue Desforges at the ICAIO – in which their eagle-eyes do indeed do justice to her work.


 https://www.lalitmauritius.org/modules/docpool/files/material-matters-new-art-from-africa-total-icaoi-at-mgi-october-2015web.pdf


In Kreol, Material Matters Talk


https://www.lalitmauritius.org/modules/documents/files/LalitMauritius-c24cd76e1ce41366a4bbe8a49b02a028.pdf


 Nu premye vizit enn galri lar


 


 Premye fwa mo’nn ale.


 Mo pa ti kone ki li ete, sa galri lar la. 


Mo’nn deza pase la,


Mo pa ti pran li kont.


 


Kan mo rantre mo truv enn bolom an goni –  


So lizye andan, 


Lakord otur so liku,


Enn latet, lakord otur so liku.


Ena enn buro deryer li,


Avek enn kikenn, 


Eski li pu al met li pandi?


Li osi?


Bolom an goni deza ena lakord otur so liku.


 


Kan mo ti rantre,


Mo ti krwar li enn mize fer per.


Sa galri lar la.


 


Lerla mo’nn gete partu


Mo’nn truve.


Mo’nn reflesi.  


 


Premye fwa mo’nn ale.


Dan enn galri lar.


La,


Mo’nn  admir li byin.


 


We.


Ena enn tablo lekritir anbalao,


Anbalao.


Kumadir tras disan.


Li pe dir lemond anbalao.


 


Ena enn stati blan,


Enn stati blan fer ar polistirenn?


Bizin lespri-mem


Pu fer sa,


Pu skilpte sa.


Pa sima sa?


Pakejing sa. 


Pa fasil sa,


Enn stati blan fer ar polistirenn.


 


Karotsu la, anba, fer nu reflesi,


Ki li ete? 


Mo reflesi, mo truv


Enn dimunn pe ale, ale, li tom malad,


Lerla li enpe byin,


Li malad ankor, li anpire,


Sa eklate.


We. Sa karotsu la.


Li vinn enn fler nwar, sa karotsu la.


 


Enn dra inn brode alamin.


We. Enn tapi, brode ondire lontan, lor la. 


Brode alamin.


Enn lot ena lalenn.


 


Mo’nn truv seve vas lor enn tablo lapintir maron,


Seve vas, kuler nwar.


Seve vas.


 


Enn lot stati kuler blan, mo’nn truve.


Ar lapo bef. Lapo bef.


Ek so sabo. 


Li form enn dimunn, 


Enn stati kuler blan,


Enn stati san latet, san lame.


San latet, san lame?


Kifer sa?


 


Sa madam ki pe asize, asize anba la,


Kifer sa?


Li fatige. 


Pena transpor.


Ena enn tristes lor so figir. 


Li fatige.


Li pe reflesi,


Enn toksikomann? 


Posib.


Enn travesti? 


Posib.


Li fatige. Fatige. Tris.


 


Mo’nn reflesi lor sa kivet emaye la. 


Enn fam li’nn met enn goni parter, 


Li’nn met so kivet emaye lor li, 


Li pe dekras so linz ar savon avek so lame.


Avek so lame.


Li pena linz lor li.


Li’nn met so kivet emaye,


Li pe lav li ladan.


Kuma lesklavaz.


 


Premye fwa mo’nn ale.


Mo pa ti kone ki li ete, sa galri lar la. 


Mo’nn deza pase la, mo pa ti pran li kont.


Mo pa ti pran li kont.


 


Poem dekuver par Lindsey Collen apre vizit zelev literesi enn galri lar, 2015.