Between 22nd of April and the 5th of May 1988, the now infamous ‘Grotte d’Ouvéa’, event took place. Ouvéa is one of the ‘Loyalty’ islands off the French colony of New Caledonia. Militants fighting for independence took local police hostage and took refuge in a cave. The incident ended with 19 anti-colonial indigenous (or Kanak) fighters and two hostages dead at the hands of French military and paramilitary forces. A year later, Djubelly Wéa gunned down the great Kanak political leader, Jean-Marie Tjibaou (1936-1989) and his aide Yeiwéné Yeiwéné during a ceremony on Ouvéa marking the end to the period of mourning for those killed in the raid. Wéa felt that Djibaou had sold out his people in signing the Matignon accords, a compromise between the forces of the white land-holders and the native people that hoped to end the mounting bloodshed. Djibaou’s death would close a significant chapter in the most recent struggle for independence from French imperialism by an indigenous people. It would also seal the destiny of Ouvéa, and particularly the caves, as a distinct and powerful postcolonial ‘realm of memory.’
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