CASTRIES, St Lucia, CMC – St Lucia’s queen of folk culture, Dame Marie Selipha Descartes, has died at the age of 96.
Dame Marie, “Sesenne”, as she was more affectionately called, was declared a National Cultural Hero by the Folk Research Centre in 2005.
From her discovery by the late Harold Simmons and Eric Branford in the 1950s, Sesenne has inspired several generations of St. Lucia with her unique voice and her musical compositions.
She will be widely remembered for her mention in the poem “Homecoming” by Nobel laureate Dereck Walcott, in which he wrote “my country heart, I am not home till Sesenne sings, a voice with wood smoke and ground-doves in it…”
Sesenne was the recipient of the British Empire Medal in 1972 and the St. Lucia Medal of Merit.
In 2000, she was awarded the honour of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for folk culture and art and community service on the occasion of St. Lucia’s 25th anniversary of Independence.
The cultural icon has also received numerous other honours, including being inducted in the Caribbean Broadcasting Union Music Hall of Fame for her lasting contribution to the development of music in St Lucia.