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Posts tagged "france"

#TBTAfrica: Pablo Picasso, Cubism and African Art.

Although he never set foot in Africa, Picasso drew a lot of his inspiration from West and Central African art. Although in the Western world he is portrayed as one of the fathers of cubism, it must be noted that without his exposure to traditional art works from West and Central Africa, he may never have arrived at such a point in his artistic career, leading him to become one of the most noted artists of all time in the Western world.

Picasso’s ‘African period' is said to have began from 1906 to 1909, during a time when, as a result of colonialism and French expansion into West and Central Africa, often stolen works from these regions of Africa were brought back to be displayed in museums throughout Paris. Picasso’s interest was sparked by fellow artist Henri Mastisse who showed him a mask from the Dan people of Liberia and Ivory Coast (see above).

Throughout the course of his life, the artist assembled a vast collection of statues and masks from various parts of the continent. His collection amassed over 100 different works.

Picasso’s private collection can now be found in museums in Paris such as the Louvre, Musée Quai Branly and the Musée Picasso, as well as in the private collections of members of Picasso’s family. [x]

As far as can I know, no efforts have been made to return any of these pieces of artwork to their country of origin.

Picasso also denied any evidence of African influences in his artwork. [x]

The LaurenceAirline Spring/Summer 2014 Lookbook is here.

Heavily influenced by creative director, founder and designer Laurence Chauvin-Buthaud’s travels between France and Cote D’Ivoire, we once again see the menswear designer incorporate a mixture of subtle but classic motifs and designs from both of her geographical influences. The looks are simple but highly dynamic presenting both casual and formal aesthetics.

See the entire lookbook.

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All Africa, All the time.

Born and raised in France with a French mother and Malian father in a household that was more culturally French than anything else, blogger Fan Sissoko attempts to answer the one question that has been plaguing her her entire life: “Am I African?”

On the subject of cultural identity, I remember my childhood as being the most fruitful time for internal questioning. I looked at my mum, and I looked at my dad, and I wondered why they both looked so different to me. I guess I wasn’t the only one wondering. When I was about 6, a random woman in the streets walked towards my mum and asked about me and my brother, who were holding her hands: “Did you adopt them? They are so cute!”

Despite that, I don’t think I ever wondered if I was adopted. I accepted the fact that light beige + dark brown = a slightly darker shade of beige, or a slightly lighter shade of  brown, depending on the season. My internal  questioning was more about culture than ethnicity. I looked at other children at school and felt a bit jealous of how they managed to be so assertive about their own cultural identity. I grew up in a very diverse area of Paris, and every child I knew seemed to have a ‘bled’ to go to over the Summer holidays, be it Burgundy or Algeria, Portugal or Senegal. I had Montreuil, and the closest I’ve ever been to Mali were the Malian foyers (workers’ accommodation) where my dad first lived when he immigrated to France, and where he sometimes used to go to feed himself maafe when he had enough of my mum’s boeuf bourguignon.

By the time I was a teenager, I had learned to deal with annoying questions with either humour or icy cold silences and was no longer perplexed when people addressed me in Creole in the streets. I suppose I was dealing with a much grander type of identity conflict, wondering what I could do with the rest of my life, and discovering what it meant to be a woman, and all that jazz.

When I moved to Ireland, in my early twenties, the question disappeared altogether. I was just Fan. People knew I was vaguely French, but that was the extent of their curiosity. Or perhaps they were just to polite to ask (set aside the farmer who asked me if I knew what a tractor was, and if I had any  in my country – he quickly backed away when I told him with a contemptuous stare that my country was France). Either way, the whole “being 20 in Dublin and making up my own identity as I go along” experience was very liberating.

Then I moved to London. I have lived in London for nearly four years, and have come up with two definitions to sum this city. The first one is a big hungry monster that swallows people forever. And the second is an identitary minefield. If you are not sure what I mean by identitary minefield, take a colonial past, mix it with a class structure that hasn’t quite been questioned yet, add to this a status of immigration metropolis, and finally layer with a sheet of truly exciting multiculturalism and you get what I call an ‘identitary minefield’ where every assumption you make about where someone else comes from and what they stand for is bound to be wrongly assumed, in the best case, or outrageously offensive in the worst case. Not only I moved to London, but I chose Brixton, out of all places. So add to the mix described above a backdrop of gentrification (which, of course, as a young creative professional, who has recently moved into the area, is not an issue I can ignore), and you rightly wonder how  I can be at peace with who I am, where I come from, and most importantly what I represent.

For a long time, I ignored the question. Of course, I sometimes had bouts of confusion that turned into guilt, or the opposite. But a recent event made it clear to me that I need to be stronger and more assertive with my self-defined identity, no matter how complex it is. 

So the event. Some time ago, in the office, someone made a comment about the fact that we were becoming more and more diverse as an organisation (it was not meant as a joke, but it could have been – I have never worked in a more homogenous organisation). This person remarked: “We almost have every continent represented! Well, apart from Africa and South America.” I interjected: “Hey, I’m African! My dad is from Mali!” To which she replied: “Well, that doesn’t really count.”

I was hurt. Why would it not count? I was born and grew up in France, and culturally, I define myself as European, yes. But my father is from Mali, and although he didn’t raise us ‘à la malienne’, 50% of me is and will always be Malian. Sometimes, claiming I am Malian feels like an imposture, because I did not grow up there. But dismissing my Malian self is much worst. It would be outrageous if I did it to myself, so having it done to me by someone who knows close to nothing about me feels like murder.

I drew the series of flags above when I was 24 and still living in Ireland, to remind myself and others that the “Where are you from?” question is never innocent, and the answer is always more complex than one expects. I am, and will always be confused about my cultural identity, and that is fine. I see it as a comforting symptom of the fact that I am an evolving being, and that I am lucky enough to be able to define my own identity, not only based on where I was born and where my parents are from, but also on the places I lived in and learned to love, and on the people that inspire me.

What I will not allow is someone else to be confused about my identity and to make assumptions about who I am, and where I should fit in their view of the world.

While the editor of ELLE France has been making headlines this week for all the wrong reasons, or rather just one (hint: it’s racism!), it’s both interesting and refreshing to see France’s Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira, on the cover of their November issue as the “Woman of the Year”.

Under that heading, Taubira, who’s been serving as a minister and as part of President Hollande’s cabinet since 2012, is quoted as saying, “I do not fear racism, sexism, or ignorance”. Rightly so as, like her Italian colleague Cecile Kyenge, Taubira has been the victim of on-going public racial taunts and attacks by mostly far right-wing French party Front National (FN). It seems European racism lacks much creativity as the FN went down that road of comparing Taubira to an ape (which similarly happened to Kyenge as well, and has happened to so many of us black people throughout history). Furthermore, due to Taubira’s support of gay marriage in France, she once again received racially-charged insults from gay marriage opponents.

But that doesn’t take the sting out of the insults, nor does it make it easier to deal with and confront. In fact, the Guyanese born politician has admitted to being hurt by these insults, in an interview with French paper Le Parisien.

Concerning the juxtaposition of the actions of ELLE France’s editor Jeanne Deroo and this here cover feature, guess it all really comes down to ‘good publicity’ and the seriously odd way in which people defend their bigotry by doing things which they believe to be evidence of anti- or non-racism..

Oh, France the ‘liberal’, you rarely disappoint.

The final episode in Al Jazeera’s 3-part documentary series, ‘Black France’, that explores the history and relationship between France and its black citizens and colonial territories focuses on the ‘extreme racism and discrimination black immigrants faced during times of economic hardship and through political shifts in post-World War II France’.

Catch up on the series by watching episode 1 and 2.

In Al Jazeera’s newly launched 3-part documentary series ‘Black France’, the relationship between one of the most dominant European colonial forces in Africa and the Caribbean, and the political and social dynamics of its former colonies and their citizens is explored to tell the story of black people in France and the country’s history of ‘segregation, racism, protest, violence, culture and community building - from the turn of the 20th century until the present day’.

Beginning in the mid-1500s, and following in the footsteps of the larger and more dominant British Empire, France began to colonize foreign territories starting with North America’s Gaspe Bay in what is today Canada. For centuries France would continue to expand its colonial reach building an empire that spanned across various regions in North America, the Carribbean, South America, Africa and Asia. It would not be until 1980 with the independence of Vanuatu that the French Empire would officially be disbanded worldwide.

Today, France is home to one of Europe’s black communities, mostly of African and/or Caribbean descent - a direct result of the country’s relationship with its colonial territories in these regions.

'Conflicting Identities', the first episode in the trilogy, explores the duality and complexes of what it means to be 'both black and French in the decades before France’s African colonies achieved independence' during the latter part of the 18th century, beginning with the fight for equality for France's black community to the experiences of black people in early 20th century France including both World Wars and the Great Depression.

Interestingly, the particularities of France’s differing and hierarchical relationship between it’s ‘colonial subjects’, with Africans being treated as the most inferior, are also brought to light. Where African-American individuals and culture were celebrated and marveled at with great interest - a perverse fascination of sorts, and where individuals of Caribbean territories were given French citizenship - but not full equality, Africans were mostly denied such privileges and were dehumanized and stigmatized as backward black savages.

Regardless of the differing treatment of black people from various parts of the world, racism was always the underlying factor in France’s social and political approach to black people, seeing them as inferior and ‘the other’ - a view that in some ways still has not changed.

[English & French w/ French subtitles]

ICONIC WOMEN: The Mino of Dahomey or the Dahomey ‘Amazon’ Warriors/Dahomey Amazons

From the late 17th century until the end of the 19th century, the Kingdom of Dahomey in the what is today the West African nation of Benin (sandwiched between Nigeria on the east and Togo to their west) an incredible regiment made up of only women, from within the Fon community, challenged and refuted gender norms by occupying spaces usually reserved for men. 

This all-women Fon army was originally established by Dahomian king King Houegbadja, the third king of Dahomeny, who ruled from 1645 to 1685, with the intention of having these women serve as elephant hunters known as ‘gbeto’. Later, during Houegbadja’s son King Agadja reign during the early 1700s he developed the gbeto into an established bodyguard and warrior unit who became known as the Mino meaning ‘our mothers’ in Fon - a name given to them by the men’s army of Dahomey. During this time, the Mino gained one of their first major successes in being part of the Dahomey army that defeated the neighbouring kingdom of Savi in 1727. Their incorporation into the army was done to increase the size of the Dahomey military, thus appearing larger and more intimidating to their opponents.

In King Ghezo’s time, between 1818 to 1858, great emphasis was put on Dahomey’s army and military units, perhaps due to the growing threat of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the threat that neighbouring ethnic groups may have posed as a result of it. As a result, King Ghezo poured much of his resources into developing the Dahomian army, including the Mino, increasing their budget, formalizing their structure and training, and arming them with guns obtained from the Dutch through trade.

It is said that by the mid-19th century there were between 1,000-6,000 women in the Mino unit which comprised of both free Dahomian women and women who may have been taken as captives during war. Women in the Mino, sometimes referred to as ahosi (the king’s wives) were not permitted to marry or have children as the were considered wives of the king. This allowed the women to obtain positions of great power and influence as they were highly revered in Dahomian within the army - especially for their braver, and within society as well.

As European colonial forces began to move more aggressively throughout Africa in the 1800s, French forces on colonial campaigns in West Africa placed increasing pressure on the Dahomian Kingdom leading to an outbreak of war between French and Dahomian forces in 1890. The first Franco-Dahomian War broke out in that year with the Dahomey Army led by anti-colonialist King Behanzin. Part of the French forces consisted of Tirailleurs - French-trained Senegalese and Gabonese soldiers who had been recruited due to their countries being colonized by France. Despite the Dahomian army being greater in number, they were ill-equipped in comparison to the French and lost the war resulting in Dahomey being added to France’s colonial territories in West Africa.

This defeat also signified the disintegration of the Dahomian army and thus the women who the Europeans had referred to as the ‘Dahomey Amazons’. The last surviving Mino is thought to have been a woman named Nawi who died in 1979.

Someone needs to make a sci-fi animated fantasy or make a comic about or inspired by these women.

(sources 1, 2, 3)

 AUGUST: Highlighting African Women

STYLE ICON: Sarah Diouf

Seriously can’t get enough of founder and editor-in-chief of Ghubar Magazine, a Paris-based fashion and culture magazine, Sarah Diouf's fun, flirty, flawless and feminine aesthetic.

Ghubar celebrated it’s fourth anniversary this year, and also reached a milestone of over 40 issues.

Get more inspiration from their tumblr or follow them on twitter and instagram.

AUGUST: Celebrating African Women

THIS DAY IN HISTORY: Chad gains independence from France

August 11th, 1960 was the date that the Central African landlocked country of Chad, currently home to a large number of various ethnic groups - such as the Fulbe, Moundang, Zaghawa, Kotoko, Toubou and Massa, collectively speaking over 100 different languages both outside of and within the same ethnic groups, gained independence from French colonial authority.

Before French colonization of the area, the Sao and Kanem Empires each flourished in the region.

Beginning in the 7th millennium BC, human populations moved into the Chadian basin in great numbers. By the end of the 1st millennium BC, a series of states and empires rose and fell in Chad’s Sahelian strip, each focused on controlling the trans-Saharan trade routes that passed through the region.

France conquered the territory by 1920 and incorporated it as part of French Equatorial Africa.

In 1960, Chad obtained independence under the leadership of François Tombalbaye. Resentment towards his policies in the Muslim north culminated in the eruption of a long-lasting civil war in 1965. In 1978, the rebels conquered the capital and put an end to the south’s hegemony. However, the rebel commanders fought amongst themselves until Hissène Habré defeated his rivals. He was overthrown in 1990 by his general Idriss Déby. Since 2003, the Darfur crisis in Sudan has spilt over the border and destabilised the nation, with hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees living in and around camps in eastern Chad.


August 7th, 2013, marks the 53rd independence day of Cote D’Ivoire from France. The West African nation became a French colony in 1893, after treaties between the kings of Grand Bassam and France had been signed between 1843-1844 leading to the expansion of French control over the area. However, Europeans had been present on that part of the continent since the days of the transatlantic slave trade, with Portuguese explorers arriving in 1482.

Prior to European colonialism, the region that is modern-day Cote D’Ivoire was home to various empires and kingdoms such as the 17th century-founded kingdom of Gyaaman established by the Abon who were an Akan group, the Muslim Kong Empire established by the Juula in the 18th century, the Baoulé, Senuofo and Bouna kingdoms, and the Ghana, Songhai and Sudanic empires that extended into the area during their reigns in West Africa.

French rule in the area was not met without resistance. To many, the treaties signed with Grand Bassam leaders meant little, if anything, and Madinka forces, mostly from Gambia, fought a long war with the French in the 1890s. The Baoulé and other eastern groups continued opposing French colonial influence using guerrilla warfare until 1917, and it wasn’t until 1918 that local forces were defeated by the French. Samori Ture, leader and founder of the Wassoulou Empire, is a legendary figure known for his continuous resistance against France’s colonial presence in West Africa and fought against French forces from 1882 until his capture in 1898.

In 1960, Cote D’Ivoire gained independence under President Felix Houphouet-Boigny who held power until his death in 1993.


In July 1761 an illegal slave ship foundered near Tromelin, a speck of land 200 miles east of Madagascar. After six months on the island, the surviving gentlemen and sailors assembled a makeshift boat and departed, promising to return for the 60 slaves left on the island. They never did.

The slaves kept a fire going for 15 years while they struggled to survive on an island of barely 0.3 square miles. They fashioned houses from coral and sand, built a communal oven, and subsisted on turtles and seabirds.

“We have found evidence of where they lived and what they ate,” archaeologist Max Guérout told the Independent in 2007. “We have found copper cooking utensils, repaired, over and over again, which must originally have come from the wreck of the ship.”

Many of the castaways simply succumbed. At one point 18 left on a makeshift raft; it’s not known whether they reached land. In 1776 a French sailor was shipwrecked on the island, built a raft, and escaped to Mauritius with three men and three women. When a rescue ship arrived for the last seven castaways, they included a grandmother, her daughter, and an 8-month-old grandchild who had been born on the island.

The governor in Ile de France declared them free, since they had been bought illegally. He adopted the family of three and named the boy Jacques Moise. His surname is a French form of Moses — a baby rescued from water.

Happy Independence Day Algeria!

After a nearly eight-year war against colonial French rule in the country, Algeria’s independence was officially declared on July 5th, 1962.

The Algerian Revolution/War of Independence was fought from 1 November 1954 – 19 March 1962, between Algerian independence movements and France. An incredibly complex and decolonization war, various stages of the fight included battles between Algerian independence movements against both France and each other. The National Liberation Front (FLN) - the leading Algerian liberation movement that Fantz Fanon was involved with - fought viciously against the Algerian National Movement (MNA) and the right-wing Organisation de l’armée secrète (OAS) fought against both the FLN and the French government’s forces.

Women also played crucial roles in the Algerian Revolution, both on the French and Algerian sides, and were particularly active within the FLN where they were given more instrumental roles. Revolutionary Djamila Bouhired is one of the most well-known woman fighters from this time.

The end of the war came into being after the leader of the French Republic, Charles De Gaulle, held talks with the FLN and the signing of the Évian Accords - a 93-page treaty that detailed agreements between Algeria and France, from prisoner releases to the treatment of Pied-Noirs (European-descended people living in Algeria), and put an end to the war with the declaration of a cease-fire.

Read a more in-depth post about the Algerian Revolution.

Happy Independence Day to everyone from Madagascar!

The Republic of Madagascar was formed on June 26, 1960, after gaining independence from France. Madagascar was a colony of France from 1896 to 1960. On August 19, 1992, Madagascar’s constitution was adopted by a national vote.


Camp de Thiaroye (1988) - Ousmane Sembene & Thierno Faty Sow

“We’re back from Europe where we fought your enemies. Now we fight for Africa.”

Thirteen people have gone on trial in Algiers, accused of trafficking an unknown number of Algerian children to the French city of Saint-Etienne.

The network behind the alleged trafficking was reportedly composed of both French and Algerian nationals.

The case came to light in 2009 after a woman died during an abortion at an illegal clinic in Algiers belonging to the main suspect.

The network had been operating since the 1990s, according to Algerian media.

Algeria’s security services dismantled the “dangerous” network in 2009, the Algerian press agency APS reports.

However, the investigation has so far been unable to determine the exact numbers of children involved.

Paper trail

The main suspect in the case, Dr Khelifa Hanouti is accused of impersonating an obstetrician and running an abortion clinic in the Algiers suburb of Ain Taya, the agency says.

Abortion is illegal in Algeria.

Dr Hanouti was prosecuted in 2002 for performing illegal abortions and served nine months of a two-year jail term, his lawyer says,

He is accused of illegally transferring children abroad with the help of two notaries who are suspected of falsifying “disclaimer” documents signed by single mothers.

The security services reportedly discovered 12 “adoption certificates” at a nursery in the Algiers suburb of El-Biar written between 2005 and 2006, with nine children sent abroad for a sum of money.

Dr Hanouti’s lawyer, Allel Boutouili, says the charges against his client, who has been in jail since 2009, are unfounded.

"There was no appropriation of children," he told AFP news agency.

According to the lawyer, the case rests on the claims of a woman who says her twin girls were kidnapped and sold to a couple in France.

However, he says he has documents in his possession to show that the children, born in 1997, were adopted by a woman living in Algiers.

Some of the accused based in Saint-Etienne did not appear in court on Monday.

Remember this story about child trafficking from Chad to France?