Thursday, June 20, 2013

Africa in Paris - Ménilmontant

Earlier this month, Tom and I took a tour of the Ménilmontant quarter of Paris that is offered through an equitable tourism initiative called Paris Ville Monde. The idea behind this month-long event is to introduce visitors and citizens alike to the incredible diversity that exists in communities throughout the city. Each tour comprises not only commentary about the history and contemporary life of the area, but also introductions to shopkeepers who present their stories and their wares. It provides an opportunity to get "up close and personal" with people and places in town that would otherwise remain unknown.

We took a walk with Anne, born in Paris of a family from Côte d'Ivoire. Representing the organization called Paris par Rues Méconnues (Paris by Unknown Streets), she took us on a stroll called L'Afrique à Ménilmontant (Africa in Ménilmontant).

Anne – Paris par Rues Méconnues
© Discover Paris!

We ambled through some of the back streets of the quarter, whose main streets are virtually never seen by tourists and are not even well known by many Parisians. Tom and I have visited Ménilmontant a few times during our 21 years in Paris, but we had never seen this part of it. What we experienced on this walk was surprising - we discovered an enormous church that we'd never seen before,

Notre Dame de la Croix
© Discover Paris!

a wealth of art by two of our favorite street artists - Jérôme Mesnager and Nemo -

Street art by Nemo
© Discover Paris!

C'est nous les gars d'Ménilmontant
Jérôme Mesnager
© Discover Paris!

and a beautiful alleyway lined by stand-alone homes tucked behind walls that were overhung with greenery and flowers.

Cité de l'Ermitage
© Discover Paris!

We visited a food shop operated by women from Côte d'Ivoire,

Tom and Côte d'Ivoire shopkeeper
© Discover Paris!

Smoked fish
© Discover Paris!

Aubergines, okra, and peppers
© Discover Paris!

a fine-food shop run by a young Algerian woman named Nassima,

Nassima, owner of Souk Botanique
© Discover Paris!

Dried fruits, hibiscus leaves, and tea canisters
© Discover Paris!

Spices, cereals, chocolates and other items
© Discover Paris!

and a boutique filled with beautiful items made from recycled materials such as tire rubber and plastic sacs.

© Discover Paris!

We also walked past a foyer - a residence reserved for African men.

Street art near foyer on rue de Retrait
© Discover Paris!

But for me, the true "find" of the walk was a shop that is filled with fine African fabrics.

Diyananko is located at 72, rue de Ménilmontant. Upon entering, you note that fabrics of all textures and colors occupy much of the front room. Shelves and piles of fabrics are also visible in the rear room, which is open to the public. What interested me most was the fabulous selection of indigos and bogolans - fabrics that one does not see so commonly in the shops at Chatêau Rouge. Aicha, the shop owner, also sells beautiful jewelry, hand-carved statuettes and puppets, and home decor items.

Bazins and indigos
© Discover Paris!

Jewelry display atop Bogolan fabric
© Discover Paris!

Cowrie shells
© Discover Paris!

Aicha hails from Guinea. She is friendly and quite accommodating, though you need good French to carry on a conversation.

Monique and Aicha at Diyananko
© Discover Paris!

Diyananko is definitely worth a visit!

72, rue de Ménilmontant
75020 Paris
Metro: Ménilmontant (Line 2)


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LAFF said...

Thanks for this wonderful walk down memory lane. Paris will always be one of the most magnificent, beguiling cities on earth.

About Beauford Delaney said...

You are most welcome, LAFF. I agree that Paris is magnificent and beguiling!

Denise Gordon said...

How enchanting, thanks for taking me there. Tell me, when you are researching like on this tour and sharing for your blog, do you take notes or run home with your memories to write?

About Beauford Delaney said...

My pleasure, Denise!

Regarding how I write these types of articles, I do a little of everything. I take notes but can't write things verbatim. So I rely on my memory as well, aided by photographic cues If I am fortunate enough to be able to contact the guide afterward, I'll do this to fill in any gaps.