Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Few Good Black Men

Each month, our Paris Insights newsletter presents the hidden jewels that comprise the "real" Paris – the people and places that are the true heart and soul of the city.
Click here to sign up for the Paris Insights newsletter announcements and to receive our free Practical Paris guide!


The Cité de l’Histoire de l’Immigration at the Palais de la Porte Dorée is hosting an exquisite exposition that explores the history of soccer in France and its introduction into the French colonies. I went to see it because I was living in Paris in 1998 when France won its first World Cup competition. I vividly remember the joy with which the citizens of Paris embraced the “black-blanc-beur” (black-white-Arab) team that brought home the trophy. Though ephemeral, it was a period of racial solidarity that was celebrated in France and widely acclaimed by the press.

Entry to the French Soccer Exposition

One of the topics that the exhibit addresses is the contentious question around the recruitment of foreigners. At the end of World War II, there were calls to limit the number of non-French players on French teams because the presence of foreigners was supposedly obstructing the emergence of French talent in the game. Ironically, francophone African or South American players who were on French teams at that time were not considered foreign because their homelands were “part of the French community” (that is, part of the French colonial empire).

I spent over three hours at the exposition reading, watching various videos, and looking at artifacts and other items—and could have easily spent three more there. Here is information about just a few of the players from Africa or of African descent who are featured there:

Raoul Diagne

Son of Blaise Diagne, the first black African in the French National Assembly (representing Senegal) and the Minister of Colonies, Raoul Diagne was raised as a member of the Paris bourgeoisie. He left the banking industry to take up the game of soccer in 1930. In 1931, he became the first black man to play on France’s national team. He participated in the World Cup match of 1938, and would continue to wear the French jersey until 1940.

Ben Barek: La Perle Noire

Born in Casablanca in 1915, Larbi Ben Barek was the first major soccer star from Morocco. He began his French career on the Olympiade de Marseille team in 1938, and was selected to play for the national team against Italy that same year.
Larbi Ben Barek

He enjoyed tremendous success in France until the Second World War, when he was forced to return to Morocco. He returned after the war and played for three additional seasons before his contract was purchased by Spain. So renowned and appreciated was his talent that a French journalist wrote "Sell the Arc de Triomphe or sell the Eiffel Tower, but don’t sell Ben Barek!"

Salif Keita

This Malian began his French soccer career in Saint-Etienne in 1967. He would play for this team until 1972, when he transferred to the team in Marseille. After a year, he moved on to play for Spain, Portugal, and finally, the New England Tea Men Boston in the United States. He studied business in the U.S. so that he could return to Mali to work for the development of soccer in his home country. He went on to found a soccer training center for youth in Mali that bears his name.

As a member of the Saint-Etienne team, Keita was the first recipient of the African Soccer Player of the Year Award in 1970. The town of Cergy-Pontoise, located northwest of Paris, inaugurated a stadium in September 2009 and named it after Keita.

Joseph-Antoine Bell

Joseph-Antoine Bell

Joseph-Antoine Bell is a native of Cameroun. He played on four soccer teams in France from 1985-1994. In 1989, he was subjected to an overtly racial attack, with spectators throwing bananas at him and calling him a monkey throughout a game played at the stadium in Marseille. This event caused the French soccer club owners to finally take the issue of racism in the game seriously and to take steps to deal with the problem. Bell is currently a commentator for Radio France International 1 (RFI 1).

Marcel Desailly

Marcel Desailly

Born in Accra, Ghana, Marcel Desailly was raised in a bourgeois family in Nantes (his mother married the French Consul of Ghana and his stepfather adopted him). He began his soccer career with the “Football Club of Nantes” in 1986 and went on to be selected for France’s national team numerous times between 1993 and 2004. He was part of the victorious “black-blanc-beur” team of 1998, but did not finish the game due to penalties. He and the entire team were named Chevaliers of the Legion of Honor by Jacques Chirac. Since that time, he has become a media personality in France. He currently splits his time between Accra and Aix-en-Provence.

The Cité de l’Histoire de l’Immigration exhibit closes on January 2, 2011. Fortunately, its sister exhibit at the Musée National du Sport has been extended until March 2, 2011.


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Marmite d'Or Competition

Each month, our Paris Insights newsletter presents the hidden jewels that comprise the "real" Paris – the people and places that are the true heart and soul of the city.  
Click here to sign up for the Paris Insights newsletter announcements and to receive our free Practical Paris guide!


Marmite d'Or Trophy
© Discover Paris!

On December 16th, over 100 people gathered at the auditorium of the Hôtel de Ville de Paris to discover the winner of the 12th “Marmite d’Or de la Gastronomie Afro Antillaise” competition in Paris / Ile de France. Organized by the Association Internationale Culture Sans Frontières (AICSF), the goal of the competition is to promote Afro-Caribbean cuisine.

Criteria for selection as a candidate for the prize are quite strict; they consist of:

• restaurant accessibility

• appearance and content of the menu

• longevity of the restaurant

• quality of the dishes proposed

• value (quality versus price) of the dishes proposed

• conformity to laws regarding restaurant operation

Once selected as a candidate, each restaurant is judged on its decor, its service, the originality of the presentation and the quality of the competing dish, and the level of hygiene on the premises.

Performers regaled the audience with music, comedy skits, dance, and spoken word in celebration of this culinary heritage. The most powerful performance by far was that of JYB (Jean-Yves Bertogal), who recited an ode to Haïti that evoked the recent earthquake and its aftermath. He received an ovation for his moving performance.
JYB (aka Jean-Yves Bertogal)
© Discover Paris!

There were only two finalists in the competition – DouDou Kréyol of Alfortville and Restaurant Loyo of Paris’ 18th arrondissement.  Representatives from both restaurants addressed the audience to explain the origin of the dish that they entered into competition.  DouDou Kréyol presented a “Soupe au Kongo,” while Loyo entered “La Sauce Claire.” A jury of five then retired to a room to taste the dishes and render a decision.

The Jury
© Discover Paris!

This year’s winner is DouDou Kréyol of Alfortville!

Chef Gus Cuistot of DouDou Kréyol
© Discover Paris!

After the winner was announced, the audience was invited to a room adjoining the auditorium to partake of the dishes that were presented for the competition. Judging from the crowd that remained around the table, the food was excellent!

Post-ceremony Buffet
© Discover Paris!

In early 2011, the public will be invited to DouDou Kréyol for a more intimate ceremony, where the trophy will be presented to the restaurant and its chef once again.

DouDou Kréyol
183, rue Paul Vaillant Couturier
94140 Alfortville
Tel :
Public transportation: RER D Maisons Alfort – Alfortville, then Bus 103 to Mairie d’Alfortville
Internet :
Hours: Lunch Monday through Saturday 11:45 AM to 2:30 PM
Dinner Tuesday through Saturday 7:00 PM to 10:30 PM

Chez Loyo
18, rue Batchelet
75018 Paris
Metro: Lamarck-Caulaincourt (Line 12), Château Rouge (Line 4)
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 7:00 PM to midnight


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Black Women in Europe™: Power List 2010

Each month, our Paris Insights newsletter presents the hidden jewels that comprise the "real" Paris – the people and places that are the true heart and soul of the city. Click here to sign up for our newsletter announcements and to receive our free guide called "Practical Paris”!


I am proud to be a member of Black Women in Europe™, a dynamic group of women led by Stockholm resident Adrianne George.

When Adrianne saw that Michelle Obama was named the most powerful woman in the world in Forbes "100 Most Powerful Women" list this year, she noted that none of the seven black women on the list live in Europe. She was therefore inspired to create the Black Women in Europe™: Power List 2010, which celebrates the power and influence of black women in Europe. It includes fifty-eight women in six categories: business, lifestyle, media, politics, social entrepreneurs and NGOs.

The women included on this first Black Women in Europe™: Power List were chosen from nominations from the general public and editor Adrianne George and co-editor Mark Derek McCullough, based on their achievements and sphere of influence.  They are seasoned politicians, accomplished performers, and champion athletes as well as social entrepreneurs and rising stars in the business world. “This list will serve as a source of inspiration to black women everywhere,” Adrianne says. “In all arenas we are known to excel.”

Note:  Black Women in Europe™ has an award-winning blog that Adrianne founded in 2006. It aims to celebrate the lives of the ordinary and extraordinary black women living in Europe. To learn more, visit the blog at:


Entrée to Black Paris™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Black Paris Profiles™: Manda Djinn

Each month, our Paris Insights newsletter presents the hidden jewels that comprise the "real" Paris – the people and places that are the true heart and soul of the city.  
Click here to sign up for our newsletter announcements and to receive our free guide called "Practical Paris”!


Manda Djinn
© 2010 Discover Paris!

I had the pleasure of meeting Manda Djinn several years ago, when she was preparing one of her plays for the Paris stage. Her career is awe-inspiring, beginning at the age of eleven with tap dancing as the opening act for the likes of Bo Diddley and Sonny Till. She subsequently developed a routine involving Latin, Calypso and African rhythms, and danced to this music until the 1960s, when an injury ended this phase of her career. She then began singing the music to which she once danced.


Black Paris Profiles is now available on Kindle.  Only excerpts are available on this blog.
To get your copy of Black Paris Profiles, click HERE.


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

In Memoriam: James Baldwin's Paris

Each month, our Paris Insights newsletter presents the hidden jewels that comprise the "real" Paris – the people and places that are the true heart and soul of the city.
Click here to sign up for our newsletter announcements and to receive our free guide called "Practical Paris”!


James Arthur Baldwin
(August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987)
1982 © MDCArchives

James Baldwin and Richard Wright were the two most famous African-American expatriates to have lived in Paris in the post-World War II era. Though they both critically examined social issues in the U.S. and abroad from France, their lives in the French capital were quite dissimilar. Wright was a central figure in the African-American community in Paris, while Baldwin was peripheral to it. Wright achieved fame prior to moving to Paris while Baldwin did so afterward. Wright became increasingly cynical and embittered during his years in Paris, while Baldwin evolved as a writer and a man in embracing aspects of his nationality and sexuality that eluded him in America. And while Wright maintained a self-imposed exile from the U.S. during the civil rights era, Baldwin returned home to experience firsthand those turbulent times and to chronicle them.

Baldwin moved to Paris in the winter of 1948 at the age of 24. Never swayed by the myth of a colorblind France that attracted many African-American expatriates of that time, his life and his writing were profoundly influenced by his experiences there nonetheless. Upon his arrival, he spoke almost no French and had few friends and very little money. His first acquaintances (besides Wright) were white American students and artists. He befriended African students and frequented Arab cafés before he enlarged his circle of African-American acquaintances and wrote essays invoking these encounters to earn money to support both himself and his New York family. He reworked his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), in the upper room of the Café de Flore – one of Paris’ most famous literary cafés. And he transformed the ground floor apartment of a French friend into the suffocating abode that he describes in Giovanni’s Room (1956).

Café de Flore
© Discover Paris!

Wright’s Café Tournon crowd overlapped little with Baldwin’s entourage. Baldwin’s friends included painter Beauford Delaney, composer Howard Swanson, dancer Bernard Hassell, and writer Ernest Charles “Dixie” Nimmo. Their favorite nightspots were the Montana on rue Saint-Benoît, Gordon Heath’s L’Abbaye on rue Jacob, and Inez Cavanaugh’s Chez Inez on rue Champollion.

Invitation Card for Gordon Heath’s L’Abbaye

Another preferred spot was Johnny Romero’s Les Nuages on rue Bernard Palissy in Saint Germain des Prés.

Beauford Delaney (left), James Baldwin, Johnny Romero (center), and friend
at Les Nuages
© Discover Paris!

Baldwin’s coverage of the 1st Congress of Black Writers and Artists for Encounter magazine in 1956 was a watershed moment in his career – it inspired him to return to the U.S. to contribute to the struggle for racial equality. He became a passionate and eloquent spokesperson for the movement, roused by the injustices that he witnessed firsthand in his travels throughout the South. He brought this passion back to France, staging a march on the American Embassy in Paris in support of the March on Washington just one week prior to Dr. King’s historic event. He filled the void created by Richard Wright’s untimely demise, achieving renown as the leading African American that the French press sought out for comment on racial issues around the world.

Though Baldwin was often critical of the French in his prose, he frequently depicted their land – and particularly their capital – romantically in his fiction. Giovanni’s Room (1956), Another Country (1962), and Just above My Head (1979) among other works, all feature Paris as a setting. Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Montparnasse, and Les Halles figured prominently in Baldwin’s own life, so it is not surprising that many of his characters find themselves in these localities as they grapple with the issues Baldwin gave them to resolve.

Giovanni’s Room, Another Country, and Just above My Head are perhaps the best tributes that Baldwin left to the City of Light.


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Remembering Richard Wright

Happy Thanksgiving from Discover Paris!

Each month, our Paris Insights newsletter presents the hidden jewels that comprise the "real" Paris – the people and places that are the true heart and soul of the city. Click here to sign up for our newsletter announcements and to receive our free guide called "Practical Paris”!


 Richard Wright in Paris living room, 1947
Photo: National Archives

Richard Wright was the "kingpin" of the African-American expatriate writers who came to Paris after the Second World War. He promptly fell in love with the city upon his arrival in 1946, and returned to the U.S. after a few months to make arrangements to move to Paris permanently. He, his wife Ellen, and his daughter Julia returned in 1947. From his new home base in Paris, Wright would continue to write, travel the world, participate in the founding of the literary journal Presence Africaine, and act as speaker and liaison between the American and African delegations at the First International Congress of Negro Writers and Artists. He would end his days in the City of Light on November 28, 1960, at the age of fifty-two.

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Wright’s death, Discover Paris! has created a new edition of its downloadable, self-guided walking tour entitled "Richard Wright’s Paris."  The tour contains descriptive commentary and photographs of the numerous sites that Richard Wright frequented during the ten years that he lived in the Left Bank.  Those taking the tour will learn about his apartment, his favorite cafés and restaurant, his local bookstore, and the Luxembourg Garden - one of the most splendid gardens in Paris - where the Wright family had numerous neighborhood outings.

Plaque honoring Wright at 14, rue Monsieur le Prince
© Discover Paris!

Discover Paris! released the first edition of this tour in 2008, in celebration of the centennial of Wright’s birth.

The latest edition of the walking tour incorporates new text and enlargements of previously included photographs, as well as new photographs that illustrate the walk, a photographic portrait of Wright, a chronology of his life in Paris, and original photos of Père Lachaise Cemetery, his final resting place.  The latter section includes images of the columbarium, where Wright was cremated, and the niche containing his ashes.

As is true for all Discover Paris! walks, "Richard Wright's Paris" includes informed commentary, photographs and illustrations, and a map that highlights the route of the itinerary.  These allow you to navigate the sometimes confusing layout of the city with ease.  We also provide restaurant suggestions, eliminating your fear of selecting a less-than-satisfactory place to lunch or dine. The walk is available in pdf format.

To access the Web page for Discover Paris’ downloadable walking tours, click HERE.


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ed Clark, "Broom-Pusher" Artist

Each month, our Paris Insights newsletter presents the hidden jewels that comprise the "real" Paris – the people and places that are the true heart and soul of the city. Click here to sign up for our newsletter announcements and to receive our free guide called "Practical Paris”!


Ed Clark, Artist
© Discover Paris!

The Montparnasse district of Paris is renowned for an artistic tradition and Bohemian lifestyle that dates from the early 1900s. That tradition was still alive when more than 200 African-American soldiers took advantage of the educational benefits of the GI bill after World War II and moved to Paris to study. Among them was Ed Clark, one of the most successful African-American artists to live and study in Montparnasse.

Ed Clark Self-Portrait
1949-1951 Watercolor on board
Collection of the artist

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Clark moved with his family to Chicago after the Great Depression and finished his primary education there. He learned at a young age that he was gifted with artistic talent. After fulfilling his military service, he enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago, and then moved to Paris to study under the GI Bill. He arrived in 1952, determined to become a great artist. Greatness, he says, is something to which he has always aspired.

Clark is one of the few living artists of the post-World War II African-American expatriate era. Though he currently resides in New York City, he returns to Paris almost every year to paint. He is fond of the studios that are made available to artists at the Cité Internationale des Arts on quai de l’Hôtel de Ville, and has stayed there twenty-eight times since moving stateside in 1956. At the Cité, he is free to cover the floor with thick plastic, place his monumental canvases on the floor, and paint with push brooms using the unique technique that he developed in 1963.

Ed Clark at Cité Internationale des Arts
© Discover Paris!

At eighty-four, Clark is as vigorous and quick-witted as a person half his age. He is a veritable font of information about the Paris of the 1950s and 60s, and has numerous stories to tell. One particularly interesting tale concerns his studio at 22, rue Delambre. He rented an apartment on the top floor of a dilapidated building that had no windows – a great handicap for an artist! His friend and fellow expatriate Richard Gibson described the studio as a “chicken coop.” One day, one of the residents of the building climbed onto the roof, cut a large rectangular hole in it, and covered it with plastic! Clark immediately had all the light he needed, and was subsequently the envy of his artist colleagues.

Paris daylight has a special luminosity that Clark particularly appreciates. He says there is a special blue in the atmosphere of Paris that he does not see elsewhere, and that the quality of light influences his selection of colors when he paints here. This can be perceived when one looks at a collection of his works.

Clark’s first encounter with “different” colors occurred when he took his first transatlantic voyage to France. On board the S.S. Liberté, he noted a special shade of blue in the overalls that the stevedores wore. He said that the color was reminiscent of the powdery blues that Monet used in his paintings.

Clark uses these shades of blue when he paints in Paris, but not elsewhere. He first noted that his “colors changed” when painting in Paris during his three-year stay here from 1966-1969. He says that he unconsciously changes color schemes when he paints in different geographical locations – he observed this effect when he stayed in Greece, Nigeria, Brazil, and other countries.


Ed Clark is participating in an exposition entitled African American Abstract Masters at the Opalka Gallery on the Sage College campus in Albany, NY through December 12, 2010.  To learn more about him and to see samples of his work, visit


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Le Petit Dakar: Not Just Any African Restaurant

Each month, our Paris Insights newsletter presents the hidden jewels that comprise the "real" Paris – the people and places that are the true heart and soul of the city.
Click here to sign up for our newsletter announcements and to receive our complementary guide called "Practical Paris”!


In the heart of the Marais district, just north of the trendy rue des Francs Bourgeois, lies a small restaurant called Le Petit Dakar.  It is an unusual find in this fashionable neighborhood, and one worth exploring!

The old façade of the restaurant was more evocative of Africa than the modern one, so that now, only the name indicates to passersby that they will find something other than French fare inside.

Le Petit Dakar - Old Façade
© Discover Paris!

Le Petit Dakar - New Façade
© Discover Paris!

Upon entering, one does not find the kitsch that decorates the interior in many of Paris’ African restaurants. The walls and ceiling are light-colored, and the tables are made of light-colored wood. Multi-media works of contemporary African art on the walls and African music playing on the sound system are the only indications that this is anything other than a traditional restaurant.

Le Petit Dakar - Dining Room
© Discover Paris!

As the name suggests, Le Petit Dakar specializes in Senegalese cuisine.  Yet not all of the dishes on the menu come from Senegal.  The entire series of entrées is listed under the title Un Détour par les Iles (An Island Detour), which acknowledges the culinary culture of France’s departmental and territorial islands, and one of the main dishes on the menu is from central Africa (see below).  One dessert is Senegalese (Tiacri - consisting of a millet couscous and milk-based preparation flavored with ginger and cinnamon), but the Fondant Tout Choco (chocolate cake with a melted chocolate center) is unabashedly French.  A small selection of ice creams round out this part of the menu.

As for beverages, the restaurant proposes two apéritifs that I recommend: Vodka bissap orangé, made from vodka and bissap (juice from the hibiscus flower) flavored with orange juice, and Rhum gingembre ananas, made from rum, ginger, and pineapple. It also proposes virgin bissap juice and ginger juice on its beverage menu.  A Senegalese beer called La Gazelle is available for beer drinkers, but be aware that the bottles contain a whopping 63 centiliters of the brew!  If you prefer wine with dinner, there is selection of French wines on the menu as well.

My husband Tom and I first dined at Le Petit Dakar a few weeks ago.  The traditional, Senegalese Yassa (chicken marinated in lemon juice, then smothered in onions) that I ordered as a main dish was quite tasty, and Tom loved his Thiéboudiènne (the national dish of Senegal, made from fish, rice, and tomato sauce – served only on Fridays and Saturdays).   We returned last Thursday, anticipating that dinner there would be the perfect follow-up to the vernissage (art opening) we attended that evening at the contemporary African art gallery Les Arts Derniers on the nearby rue Saint-Gilles. 

© Discover Paris!

This time, both Tom and I ordered the same thing: Assiette Seka (warm bell pepper, eggplant, and zucchini atop a mixed salad) and a central African main dish called Sauce Graine.  This consists of lamb stewed with okra and palm nuts, with a mound of white rice served alongside. (The “gravy” was not at all slimy, which is what most people fear when they hear that okra is part of a dish.)  We happily accepted the server’s suggestion to accentuate the dish with finely diced peppers served in a tiny ceramic container, and dosed our dishes with the fiery condiment according to our individual taste.  I had a glass of ginger juice with the meal, which was refreshing and pleasantly complementary to the flavor of the stew. 

Sauce Graine
© Discover Paris!

While we found the appetizer to be “correct,” we both devoured the Sauce Graine!  We forewent dessert, as we were quite satiated after finishing the main dish.  We were even more pleased with our bill - we paid a modest 60 euros for our apéritifs (two Vodka bissap orangé), first and main courses, and my glass of ginger juice.

For an “off-the-beaten-track” dining experience in the center of Paris, try Le Petit Dakar!

Le Petit Dakar
6, rue Elzevir
75003 Paris
Metro: Saint-Paul (Line 1)
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday—Noon to 2:30 PM and 7 PM to 11:00 PM; Sunday—Noon to 2:30 PM


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Black Paris Profiles™: Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen

Each month, our Paris Insights newsletter presents the hidden jewels that comprise the "real" Paris – the people and places that are the true heart and soul of the city.
Click here to sign up for our newsletter announcements and to receive our complementary guide called "Practical Paris”!


I am pleased to announce a new feature of the Entrée to Black Paris blog:
Black Paris Profiles. These profiles will introduce you to individuals who make up Paris' African-American community today. Our stories are rich, complex, and exciting, and I am looking forward to bringing them to you!

Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen
Photo courtesy of Prissy Mag

Today, I bring you the story of Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen—writer and online magazine editor. Priscilla hails from Heflin, Alabama.  She moved to Paris in 1999 after having met "a charming Frenchman" while working at Sigs Publications in Manhattan.  Now she is kept very busy juggling marriage, family, and career in Paris.  She says that it’s tough at times, but that "you sort of just go with it after a while.  There’s a set rhythm here that you have to get used to.  Big cities are busy in general, but Paris has its own rhythm.  I try to make Sundays my 'family day' but now and then I do tend to sneak some work in too."


Black Paris Profiles is now available on Kindle.  Only excerpts are available on this blog.
To get your copy of Black Paris Profiles, click HERE.


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.
Black Paris Profilesis a Discover Paris trademark.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Passion for African Art

Each month, our Paris Insights newsletter presents the hidden jewels that comprise the "real" Paris – the people and places that are the true heart and soul of the city. Click here to sign up for our newsletter announcements and to receive our complementary guide called "Practical Paris”!


Aude Minart
Photo courtesy of Aude Minart

Aude Minart is passionate about art and all other expressions of creativity. Originally from a town near Lille in northern France, she lives and breathes to promote African art in her native France. For her, art is a means to slowly erode the perceptions that her compatriots have of Africa—to demonstrate that there is a modern Africa, and that contemporary artists abide and thrive there.

Aude granted me an interview during the last days of her latest art exposition in Paris: Tout est Possible Tous les Possibles. The show was marvelous! Every medium except photography was displayed there, including video.

We first discussed and dispensed with the subject of primitive arts. Primitive arts (now called arts premiers, or first arts, in France) consist of masks and carvings such as those displayed at the Musée du Quai Branly and the Musée Dapper in Paris. Aude says that this is the first thing that springs to a French person’s mind in thinking of art from Africa. She firmly believes this view of Africa’s art is too restrictive, and stated that this form or art is not at all what she promotes.

Likewise, she says that all African art is not art brut, which she defines as works made from materials recuperated from other items (such as the throne pictured below). Relatively few of the works that she promotes fall into this category.

Le Trône
César Dogbo
2004, Mixed media
© Discover Paris!

Aude seeks to promote the most modern image of Africa possible. Living on the continent for seven years, and visiting fifteen countries as a journalist for USA Today and Paris Match fueled this desire. The artists that she represents are city dwellers; they constitute part of the urban fabric of Africa. They are generally well known in their homelands, and can benefit from active promotion in Europe. Aude works to build strong relationships with these artists, because it is difficult to market their works successfully unless she can show the same artists’ works repeatedly to potential clients over a period of months to years.

After having chosen the name La Galerie Africaine for her business, Aude discovered that it was too limiting. Because there are artists in Brazil, the French Caribbean, and other areas of the world who also merit the attention of the French art world, she added the words Visibilité Noire—Black Visibility—to the gallery’s name, so that it would be more inclusive.

The works of two artists in Aude’s latest show, Camara Gueye from Senegal and Marie B from Guadeloupe, particularly attracted my attention. Photographs of some of their works are below.

Details of a Marie B sculpture and a Camara Gueye painting
© Discover Paris!

Camara Gueye
2008, Mixed media
© Discover Paris!

Marie B
2005, Composite
© Discover Paris!

Adolescents sur un banc public
Camara Gueye
2006, Mixed media drawing on cardboard
© Discover Paris!

Le Baiser
Marie B
2008, Composite (sold)
© Discover Paris!

Aude is a “galeriste nomade,” meaning that she does not have a permanent exhibition space in which to show her artists’ works. She therefore has to be very careful when selecting venues for her shows. “Location, location, location,” is what she says is important. The environment in which the art is shown has to “make people dream.”

Two of her favorite venues in Paris accomplish just that. The recent Tout est Possible Tous les Possibles exposition was held in the medieval cloister of the Paroisse des Billettes in the Marais! Aude also likes the Hôtel Mezzara, an art nouveau mansion in the 16th arrondissement built by Hector Guimard. These beautiful, if incongruous, backdrops accentuate the power and originality of the works displayed there.

 Views of the cloister enlivened with art
© Discover Paris!

La Galerie Africaine – Visibilité Noire
Contact: Aude Minart –


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Montparnasse Unveiled

Each month, our Paris Insights newsletter presents the hidden jewels that comprise the "real" Paris – the people and places that are the true heart and soul of the city. Click here to sign up for our newsletter announcements and to receive our free guide called "Practical Paris”!


Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of conducting a private, guided walking tour with Dr. Celeste Hart. She engaged Discover Paris! for several activities and products (as you will read in her testimonial below), one of which was a walk through Montparnasse. We spent two hours wending our way through the streets, conjuring up the spirits of the African-American and Bohemian past that made the district unique and famous.

Monique and Dr. Celeste Hart catching a glimpse of the courtyard
of an old artists’ studio complex from the early 20th century.
© Discover Paris!

Dr. Hart’s testimonial:

I recently engaged Discover Paris! to provide private, guided Afrocentric tours of the Louvre Museum and the Montparnasse district of Paris. I also purchased two of their downloadable walks – one on Richard Wright’s Paris and one on Josephine Baker’s Paris (The Black Pearl Walk).

I enjoyed both private tours immensely. They were filled with information and perspective that I couldn’t have gotten elsewhere, and I was able to engage the guides with questions and discussion that would not have been possible in a group tour. The guide for the Louvre tour provided a lively commentary which drew on her broad understanding of art history to provide fascinating insights into the significance of the inclusion of blacks in works of art spanning 3 centuries.

A special highlight of the Montparnasse tour was a dossier of rare photographs that the guide used to illustrate her discussion. Being able to see photos of the artists and their works as we passed their studios and favorite haunts added greatly to this experience. It was surprising to see how little some of their studios have changed over the years.

The downloadable walks contained remarkable detail about the places that Richard Wright and Josephine Baker frequented during their time in Paris.

Celeste B. Hart, M.D.
Tallahassee, FL

The beauty of Montparnasse does not lie in its architecture – the city razed the vast majority of the district during an urban renewal project in the 60s and 70s to construct mostly character-less buildings. The beauty of Montparnasse lies in its history, much of which is unknown to the average traveler. It teems with stories of artists and writers who came to Paris for a better life, beginning at the turn of the 20th century. African-American artists such as Henry Ossawa Tanner, Hale Woodruff, and Loïs Mailou Jones contribute as much to this history as do European artists such as Picasso, Pascin, and Modigliani.

Beauford Delaney, whose memory we recently honored by inaugurating his new tombstone, called Montparnasse home for the majority of the roughly twenty-six years that he lived in Paris. African-American writers James Baldwin and Chester Himes spent time there as did white American writers Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Herb Gentry and his wife Honey Johnson operated a business near the Carrefour Vavin that was an art gallery by day and a jazz club by night. And we can’t forget that Josephine Baker performed for the final time of her life in Montparnasse…

Funeral procession for Josephine Baker
in front of the Bobino Theater, Montparnasse

Take Discover Paris!’ Entrée to Black Paris™ tour of Montparnasse and feel the artistic and literary pulse of this quartier beat again! For more information, contact us at info(at)discoverparis(dot)net.


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Remembering Eugene Bullard

Each month, our Paris Insights newsletter presents the hidden jewels that comprise the "real" Paris – the people and places that are the true heart and soul of the city.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter announcements and to receive our free guide called "Practical Paris”!


Eugene Bullard (1895-1961) was an African-American expat whose life in Paris spanned World War I, the interwar years, and the early part of World War II. He was a boxer, vaudeville performer, drummer, and entrepreneur. He owned and operated night clubs, and even owned an athletic club. Here is a brief overview of his remarkable life.

At the tender age of twelve, Bullard sailed for Europe on the German ship Matherus. He debarked in Scotland, where he worked at odd jobs to make ends meet. He soon moved to Liverpool, England, where he found himself attracted to the world of boxing and began training for the sport. He then went to London as the protegé of Aaron Lester Brown, the "Dixie Kid," who eventually arranged for Bullard's first fight in Paris. After that first taste of the city, Bullard knew that he didn't want to live anywhere else.

Back in London, Bullard joined the traveling vaudeville troupe Freedman's Pickanninies as a performer. He reasoned that when the troupe got to Paris, he would not move on with them. Once in the City of Light, he returned to boxing, learning French and German during his first several months in town. With the outbreak of World War I, he joined the French Foreign Legion.

As a member of the Foreign Legion, Bullard was wounded in battle at Verdun during World War I and was awarded the Croix de Guerre with a bronze star for heroism. He then became the first ever African-American fighter pilot—training with the French and then joining the Lafayette Escadrille, an American flying corps under French command. (At that time, the U.S. armed forces did not permit blacks to fly.) Bullard flew at least twenty missions with two squadrons in the Lafayette Escadrille before Dr. Edmund Gros of the American Hospital arranged to have him permanently grounded because of Gros’ own race prejudice.

Bullard next to his plane with his pet monkey Jimmy

Bullard's Military Medals

Bullard capitalized on the jazz craze that swept France after the war, learning to play the drums and then going to work as the drummer, manager, and artistic director at Zelli’s night club in Montmartre (in the area that is now called Pigalle). He continued to box during this time, and fought his last professional bout in Egypt in 1922. Returning to Paris, he married his French girlfriend and continued to work at Zelli’s. Sometime later, he went on to manage the night club called Le Grand Duc. He would eventually buy this club, and another called l’Escadrille just a few meters away. Ada “Bricktop” Smith and Langston Hughes worked at the Grand Duc while Bullard was manager there.

Bullard in a boxing pose

In addition to Le Grand Duc and L’Escadrille, Gene Bullard owned and operated Bullard’s Athletic Club in the same neighborhood. Professionals such as “Panama” Al Brown trained there, but the club was primarily a place for everyday residents to exercise—including women and children! His businesses continued to do well in the 1930s despite the Great Depression because of his ability to speak fluent French. He eventually sold Le Grand Duc, but kept the Escadrille and the gym.

Ad for Bullard's Athletic Club

In 1939, Bullard was recruited by French military intelligence to become a part of the counterintelligence network formed to identify and watch German agents operating on behalf of the Nazis. He would spy on Germans who frequented his establishments.

Just before the Germans advanced into Paris in 1940, Americans began leaving France. Bullard opened his establishments to friends in need of assistance during the evacuation. In 1940, he closed his businesses and sought to join his old World War I regiment. He left Paris on foot, marching south. He joined a unit in Orléans several days later, and was injured by an artillery shell on June 18. He was forced to flee France and return to the U.S., where he was once again subjected to daily humiliation and discrimination because of his race.

Bullard died forty-nine years ago today, in New York City. He was buried in a French Foreign Legion uniform, and received a military funeral service. Per his request, a French flag was draped over his coffin. Members of the Federation of French War Veterans, France Forever, and the Verdun Society attended the service. Afterward, the French War Veterans led the procession of cars to his final resting place the French War Veterans Cemetery in Flushing, NY.


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.