The work and legacy of surrealist poet Aimé Césaire featured at The Dalí Museum this fall

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The work and legacy of surrealist poet Aimé Césaire featured at The Dalí Museum this fall
Unknown photographer, November 20, 1945. Pierre Matisse Gallery.

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.- The story and legacy of renowned Martinique poet, author and politician Aimé Césaire (1913-2008) is being celebrated in a special installation at The Dalí Museum this fall. Aimé Césaire: Poetry, Surrealism and Négritude explores Césaire’s poems, political activism and strong ties to the art and literature of his time. Césaire once said about his writing: “Surrealism provided me with what I had been confusedly searching for.”

Aimé Césaire: Poetry, Surrealism and Négritude is organized by The Dalí Museum and co-curated by founder and artistic director of Studio@620 Bob Devin Jones and Dalí Museum curator of education Peter Tush. The free exhibit is on view in the Raymond James Community Room on the Museum’s ground floor Sept. 10 through Dec. 5, 2021.

“It has been an honor to leverage my passions by working with The Dalí to share with our community the story of this significant Black literary arts figure,” said Jones.

“As a museum focused on the legacy of an artist who always daringly pushed perspectives, The Dalí strives to present exhibitions that meaningfully provoke thought, admiration and understanding,” added Tush. “This exhibit and the work of Aimé Césaire aligns with the tenets of Surrealism – a topic we vigorously research. Césaire’s work has been of interest to The Dalí for some time.”

Hailing from the French Caribbean island of Martinique, Césaire, while studying in Paris, co-founded Négritude, a movement that drew on Surrealism in developing an anti-colonialist awareness of Black culture. With his wife, fellow writer Suzanne Césaire, he founded the review Tropiques, which brought together a group of Martinican intellectuals to write anti-colonial poetry and essays influenced by Surrealism. In 1941, Césaire met Surrealism founder André Breton, who became his friend and supporter. When Césaire’s book-length poem “Cahier d'un retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to the Native Land)” was published in 1947, Breton said it “is nothing less than the greatest lyrical monument of our times.”

Césaire also developed a close friendship with Pablo Picasso. In 1949, Césaire published his poem collection “Corps perdu (Lost Body),” which featured 32 drypoints and etchings by Picasso, including his “‘Negro, negro, negro...’ Portrait of Aimé Césaire, Laureate.”

In addition to being a great literary figure, Césaire was a well-respected politician. In 1945, he was elected mayor of Fort-de-France, Martinique, and deputy to the French National Assembly. He later founded the Parti Progressiste Martiniquais and served with the party for 47 years. In 1955 Césaire published “Discourse on Colonialism,” a denunciation of European colonial racism, decadence and hypocrisy.

A variety of Césaire’s books will be available for purchase in the Museum Store. A range of thought-provoking programs, including poetry readings, performing arts and educational lectures inspired by Césaire’s life and works, will be held at both The Dalí and Studio@620, one of St. Petersburg’s most active centers for the arts.

Access to the Museum’s ground floor is free and open to the public; online timed reservations are available at

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