Secret focal point revealed!

Well hello, and happy Monday! 

So, you may be wondering who this lovely (temporarily) bald woman is - her name is Angélique - and she's the whole point of this piece.  You see, it's for a call named "Broad Changes".  Participating artists are supposed to depict a woman who precipitated change, whether in the world, in thinking, or in you personally. 

Named Marie Joseph Angélique by her owners, but known as "Angelica" in her time, she holds the unusual distinction of being a folk hero under a name she was never called, in a country in which she never set foot. 
A woman born into slavery in Portugal in 1710, she was sold first to a Flemish man, then to a French businessman who had settled in New France (later the province of Quebec in a newly formed country, "Canada"); and then, upon his death, Angélique was willed to his widow. 
Ordinarily a house slave in the household of Madam de Francheville, Angélique was sometimes sent to work on the farm owned by the de Franchville family in Montréal, which is where, historically, we meet her. 

She was put on a breeding program by her owner and produced three children who had passed away, and at age 23 so, she was sent to Montréal; and there, she fell in love - with a white indentured servant named Claude Thibault, who worked for the same family at their farm.
Snatching what time together they could between their long work hours and under close watch, their love grew, and Angélique found what small happiness a slave could find. But troubled times were on the horizon - the lovers were about to be thwarted.  
Angélique was to be sent back to the de Francheville home, where she was going to be made to breed yet again. 

Angélique protested angrily and often against this plan to her owner, and as a result, things went from bad to worse. Feeling that she couldn't control Angélique, Madam de Francheville arranged to sell her to another farmer, and the lovers would never see one another again!

Desperate and in love, Angélique and Claude plotted an escape.

They were successful, but were captured weeks later.  Claude was sent to jail, while Angélique was returned to her owner, who would decide her fate. 

But Madam de Francheville was too busy with her late husband's business to deal with the "problem" of Angélique; so Angélique was able to visit Claude while he was in prison, and it was there that they once more plotted their escape.

When Claude was released from prison, they did so, this time under cover of fire! 

But, things went far more badly than they could have imagined.

Having set a small fire in the attic of her owner's house in order to distract from their escape, Angélique inadvertently set the entire city of Montréal ablaze; and that night, while they fled, the city burned.

She was eventually re-captured, tortured, sent to trial, found guilty and hung. 

Now known as "Angelique", she is a folk hero in Haiti, where, because of her "French" background, they, with their history of slavery under the French, claim her as their own. In Haiti, she is lauded as a heroine who burned down the city of Montreal in 1734 as an act of defiance and righteous anger because of the abuse she received at the hands of her owners.

In Canada, she was largely un-recognized and certainly wasn't lauded, she was a slave after all, and she burned down a city  - this was certainly not the stuff heroines are made of! Add to this the fact that Canadians were and are very invested in sweeping our history with slavery under the rug unless it's in the light of being a nice country that slaves escaped to and it is no wonder at all that Angélique`s story was almost never told.

Nevertheless, there have been books, plays and even epic poetry written about her over the years; and approximately 15 years ago, one novel in particular captured the imagination of the public, The Hanging of Angélique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montreal.

The tale of the slave who rebelled against a master's "right" to dictate her life was suddenly a heroine in the country where she died, and more than two hundred and fifty years later, her life has been celebrated - first, with a park and then, more recently, a statue was erected in her honour  in "Old Montreal".

This past January, a new documentary about her entitled Black Hands - Trial of An Arsonist Slave was released. 

But did she do it?

More, on Wednesday.

Kit 120

Kit Lang


  1. Fascinating story! I can't wait to hear more. Angelica is looking fabulous. I love that she looks like she's been working hard. It will be interesting to see why she is a folk hero in Haiti. Perhaps she used voodoo? I can't wait, I need to go look her up.

  2. I am waiting for the continuation...just wanted to know you've me under the spell. I love story telling.

  3. What a fascinating story - and now you have left us with a tantalising 'Did She Do It'?

    I never even knew that Montreal burnt down let alone that this story. I think we always associate slavery with the USA and cotton growing - I have never given much thought to Canadian slavery.

    Like Lisa, I think I need to go and google her a bit more.

    Hilary xx

  4. She looks/sounds like someone who wasn't going to go down quietly. You have definitely captured that strength.

  5. Wow! What a story, and a beautiful depiction. Can't wait to see what develops.

  6. Ohh Kit - if I hadn't told you lately - I really love your blog and I wonder why I didn't find it sooner!! This is so interesting and has so much potential between the story and the piece itself - can't wait to see what develops. I'd go on - but all that gushing gets a bit creepy LOL

  7. I can't wait for more! You have created her beautifully!

  8. Absolutely love this ... from the sketch up !
    A story, I'm ashamed to say, that I never knew about ... a wonderful love story tied up in a struggle for freedom.
    Thanks foropening my eyes and I'm glad that she has recognition so many years later !

  9. What an incredible tale and what a strong woman she must have been.
    Star crossed lovers indeed.
    Shes delightful as she is!

  10. Yesterday, over a quick coffee in the office, I googled Angelique. And what a fascinating story - and I see what you mean by asking 'Did she do it?'.

    It seems to me from what I could glean yesterday that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was a 'problem that some one wanted to solve'. To think that the whole case seemed to hang on the testimony of a 5 year old, and one who only came along a bit later, and then a confession being obtained by the most horrendous torture ( I found a description - I rather wish I hadn't) seems so wrong.

    How the hell did our ancesters manage to live with any sort of conscience in such times? But they did - and for us all living now we can give thanks every day that we live in a tolerant society - albeit on occasions a flawed one. That applies to the UK and from what I know of Canada, to Canada too. There are still parts of the world where women are treated as chattels, where to be gay is the equivalent of a death sentence, and where to be of a different ethnicity is cause for additional struggle.

    Like that other great challenge of our times, climate change, it can all seem a bit 'too big' for us as individuals to address, but keep on creating work like this, Kit, to remind us all that there is still a fight to be won.

  11. Isn't is great that you were born to "stir the pot" in the BEST way possible, through your art. I, also, believed that Canada was slave free and very egalitarian. I watched the trailer and the interview with Dorothy Williams. One never has to look far to find the most unspeakable cruelty and horror. Like gangrene exposed to air, you expose the darkness that can live in ANY heart which is why we need the warning. Thank you my friend for being who you are.

  12. Wow Kit! What a fascinating post. Such an interesting story...I must do some research and learn more. Your depiction of her is fabulous. I can't wait to see it when it's done.

  13. Thanks for introducing me to Angelique - again, I learnt a lot! Can't wait to see "her" in the finished piece !


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