Thursday, August 27, 2015

Haïtian Art and Artists at Dorothy’s Gallery

Dorothy’s Gallery, American Center for the Arts, is partnering with the Haitian Embassy, the Haïti Jazz Foundation, Haïti Futur, Haïti Action Artistes and other organizations to celebrate 500 years of history and creative spirit in Haïti.

Dorothy Polley, gallery owner and founder of the American Center for the Arts, has opened her phenomenal exhibition space to these organizations in support of the reconstruction and continued development of Haïti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.

Entering the gallery, you are greeted by an enormous collaborative painting by six artists from Jacmel in southeast Haïti.

Collaborative Painting by Artists from Jacmel (Southeast Haïti)
Acrylic on polycanvas
© Discover Paris!

All of the artists belong to Haïti Action Artistes, an association that was founded in 2011 with the intent to provide sustainable support for Haïtian artists and sculptors after the quake. It appealed to 650 artists in France and around the world to donate works for auction.

The proceeds financed a collaborative project called Tout Pou Youn, which furnishes imported art supplies to Haïtian artists at affordable prices. The association partnered with the Haïtian enterprise Matpar to create a line of acrylic paints that are locally available.

Also displayed in the gallery’s front room are mixed media works and drawings by Elodie Barthélémy, Eddy Saint-Martin, and Gérald Bloncourt.

Portrait en pieds 2012
Elodie Barthélémy
© Discover Paris!

Eddy Saint-Martin
2011 Mixed media on American box
© Discover Paris!

Haïti – 1804
Gérald Bloncourt
May 2015 Drawing on paper
© Discover Paris!

In the second room of the gallery, small canvases, works in wrought iron, artisan crafts, and books about Haïti are displayed.

Small canvases by various artists
© Discover Paris!

Mask in relief
Jacques Eugène
© Discover Paris!

Artisan crafts, rum, and CDs for sale
© Discover Paris!

Books by Mimi Barthélémy
© Discover Paris!

And in the spacious room at the rear of the gallery, mixed media works on textiles, oil paintings, and works in inks and pastels are on display.

Gérald Bloncourt
1999 Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

Eddy Saint-Martin
2014 Mixed media on cotton, hand painted
© Discover Paris!

Bloncourt works in ink, pastel, and oil
© Discover Paris!

Videos about various aspects of Häitian culture and contemporary life are available for viewing on a flat screen.

Video on education by Haïti Futur
© Discover Paris!

Haïtian Schoolgirls on video
© Discover Paris!

Eighty percent (80%) of all sales of art and crafts are donated to Haïti Action Artistes and Haïti Futur.

This unique and heart-centered exhibition runs through September 27, 2015.

Dorothy Polley
© Discover Paris!

Dorothy’s Gallery
27, rue Keller Paris
75011 Paris
Telephone: 01 43 57 08 51
Métro: Bastille (Lines 1, 5, 8), Voltaire (Line 9)
Hours: Wednesday to Saturday from 1 PM to 7 PM
Tuesday and Sunday from 4 PM to 7 PM
And also by appointment: contact the gallery for information and private visits.


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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Jeanne Vialle - Black Woman Senator

In a recent Entrée to Black Paris blog post, I spoke of Eugénie Eboué-Tell - Counselor/Senator for the island of Guadeloupe from 1946-1952. A few weeks ago, I learned that another black woman served in the French Senate at the same time.

Her name was Jeanne Vialle.

Jeanne Vialle
Photo from French Senate Web site

Vialle was born in Ouesso, Congo in 1906. Daughter of a Congolese mother and a French father, she attended high school in Paris and went to work as a journalist at the press agency Opéra Mundi.

Vialle joined the French Resistance in Marseille in 1940 and was captured by the Germans in 1943. She was sent to a concentration camp and then to a prison, from which she escaped. She was awarded the Medal of the Resistance for her courage.

After the war, she toured West and Central Africa, traveling 9,000 miles through Senegal, Ivory Coast, Oubangui-Chari, and Chad to speak at conferences to raise awareness of the educational, cultural, and economic needs of Africans. She worked for Agence France Presse and several publications in French West Africa.

In 1946, she became a member of the editorial board of the formerly clandestine journal Combat. She carefully followed the then-current debate on how France would administer its colonies as a newly formed Union Française, which was supposed to be based on equality of race and class.

Map of the Union Française
Source: FRONAC

At this time, she and Eslanda Goode Robeson interviewed each other when Robeson visited the French and Belgian Congo.

In 1947, she was elected to the French Senate as a representative of Oubangui-Chari (today's Central African Republic). That year, she co-founded an economic cooperative called L'Espoir Oubanguien (Oubanguian Hope) with French engineer Bernard Laffaille. She led this organization until 1949.

Vialle was a staunch promoter and defender of equal rights for the citizens of France's colonies and of women's rights and education. In 1948, she founded l'Association des femmes de l'Union française d'outre-mer et de métropole (AFUF) (Association of Women of the French Union) to encourage and support the education of girls from France's colonies in France so that they could return to their homelands and work to improve conditions there. She believed that without such support for African women, no sustainable progress would be possible.

Re-elected to the Senate in 1948, Vialle became vice president of the France Overseas Commission the following year and also participated on the Labor and Social Security Commission. In 1950, she left this post to rejoin the committee for national education and once again focused her energy on improving the state of education and social development in France's African colonies.

Vialle joined the United Nations' ad hoc committee on slavery and visited the United States more than once to participate in discussions about 20th-century slavery. She was featured on the cover of Crisis Magazine in April 1950. The full-length story that the magazine published was partly sourced from a press release written by the French Embassy in the U.S. and released in March 1950.

An Associated Press article published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on June 14, 1950 refers to her as "Mme. Jane Vialle, dark skinned member of French West African coastal family and a representative of her region in the French Senate." The Indianapolis Recorder refers to her as "Mme. Jane Vialle" and described her as "one of 17 women and 28 colored persons in the 320-member council" (Council of the Republic - upper house of the French legislature) in an article published on April 28, 1951.

Banner from Afro-American newspaper - May 12, 1951

The Afro-American (Baltimore, MD) published two articles about Vialle in 1951. The first, published on February 10, refers to her as a "colonial stalwart" (along with Senate leader Gaston Monnerville) and reports that "With the United Nations, she is trying to put an end to slavery for all time."

The second article, published on May 12, refers to her as "Senator Vialle, one of two colored women among 28 colored people in France's Council of the republic"and reports that she "speaks fair English, but used an interpreter."

The NAACP bestowed membership on Senator Vialle during a Boston luncheon in 1951; on June 2, 1951, the Afro-American reported that she was presented an orchid in honor of the occasion and that she wore a tailored gray suit with a matching beret. The Belgian journal Civilisations published a four-page paper called "Femmes Africaines" (African Women) authored by Vialle in 1951.

Vialle ran for re-election once again in 1952. This time, she was defeated by an independent candidate.

She died in a plane crash in southwestern France in February 1953 and was cited posthumously by the Order of the Nation on May 23, 1953. This citation is awarded to civilians and military personnel for "services or acts of exceptional devotion, accomplished for France at the risk of one's life..."


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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Black Images in European Art: Musée des Années 30

When I first saw the Charles Cordier busts of an African man and a Caribbean woman at the Musée d'Orsay, I thought I might never again see such noble and faithful "ethnographic" works.

Nègre de Soudan and La Capresse
Charles Cordier
Marble, onyx, and bronze
Musée d'Orsay
© Discover Paris!

At the Musée des Années 30 in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt, I was amazed to find dozens of them!

The museum was founded in 1939 and was originally located at City Hall. In 1998, it moved into 3,000 m² of exhibition space at the Espace Paul Landowski.

Espace Paul Landowski
© Discover Paris!

Musée des Années 30 - Entrance
© Discover Paris!

While there are works portraying blacks on each floor of the museum,

La Sièste, 1934
Auguste Clergeau
Oil on canvas
Ruhlmann Furniture display, fourth floor
© Discover Paris!

including a small representation of Josephine Baker (second floor),

Joséphine Baker, 1936
Sebastien Tamari
© Discover Paris!

the majority of the paintings and sculptures of this genre are found on the third floor.

Here, almost half of the display space is devoted to "colonial art."

Information panels (in French) provide background information on "orientalism" and the early 20th-century scientific/ethnographic missions in Africa, Central Asia, and China. Paintings and sculptures by dozens of artists are displayed. Several of these were originally exhibited at the former Museum for African and Oceanic Art in Paris.

Below are photos of some of the works found here. I found the sculptures to be particularly magnificent.

Jeune Somalien, 1936
Antoine Lyée de Belleau
Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

Rythme Africain, 1951
Evariste Jonchere
Patina on Plaster
© Discover Paris!

Chef Manzinga, 1925
Alexandre Iacovleff
Sanguine, pastel on paper
© Discover Paris!

Jeune fille Guéré, ca. 1940
Pierre Meauze
© Discover Paris!

The collection includes two paintings by Emile Bernard, the French Post-Impressionist painter who mentored Loïs Mailou Jones.

Etude de Mulâtresse, 1895
Emile Bernard
Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

Femme accroupi, 1895 (detail)
Emile Bernard
Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

Boulogne-Billancourt is easily accessible from Paris via metro.  The Musée des Années 30 is well worth a visit to this western suburb!

To access an online brochure on the museum (in French and English), click HERE.

Musée des Années 30
Espace Landowski
28, avenue André-Morizet
92100 Boulogne-Billancourt
Telephone : 01 55 18 46 42
Metro : Marcel-Sembat (Line 9), Boulogne-Jean-Jaurès (Line 10)

Opening hours:
Tuesday through Sunday 11 AM to 6 PM (ticket office closes at 5:15 PM)

Entry fee: 6.50 euros; reduced rate for seniors: 4.50 euros


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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Cayenne Produces Powerful French Politicians

France's Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira, is nothing less than a fireball on the political scene. Prior to accepting this post in President François Hollande's government, she was a deputy for French Guiana in the National Assembly from 1993 to 2012, a deputy for the European Union from 1994 to 1999, and a candidate for the French presidential election in 2002. She is the author of the law that declares slavery and the slave trade a crime against humanity.

Christiane Taubira
© Discover Paris!

Minister Taubira was born in Cayenne in 1952. She is the latest in a string of strongly influential 20th-century politicians from her homeland.

French Guiana is the largest overseas department of France. Located on the north Atlantic coast of South America, it borders Brazil to the east and south, and Suriname to the west. The country is the home to the primary launch site of the European Space Agency.

Guyane map-en
Map of French Guiana
Creative Commons License

Long before Madame Taubira was born, her countryman, Gaston Monnerville was on the path to greatness.

Gaston Monnerville
Deputy of French Guiana - 1932

Monnerville was born in Cayenne in 1897. He studied law at the University of Toulouse. He began his political career by serving as Deputy of Guiana from 1932 – 1946 and as Undersecretary of Colonies in the late 1930s. He served in the Resistance during WWII, followed by a long stretch as President of the Council of the Republic from 1946 – 1958. When the Council of the Republic became the French Sénat (Senate) during the Fifth Republic, he served as president of this legislative body from 1958 – 1968. He went on to serve on the Constitutional Council, the highest constitutional authority in France, from 1977-1983.

Monnerville worked diligently to establish equal rights for the citizens of France’s overseas departments and territories. He was instrumental in having the remains of Victor Schoelcher and Félix Eboué transferred to the Pantheon in 1949.

A commemorative bust was installed in his honor across the street from the Luxembourg Garden on 20 December 2011, in the presence of M. Jean-Pierre Bel, president of the Sénat, and M. Bertrand Delanoë, Mayor of Paris. He died in Paris in 1991.

Bust of Gaston Monnerville
© Discover Paris!

Félix Eboué (1884-1944), was a contemporary of Monnerville.

Félix Eboué and Charles de Gaulle in Chad

Educated in Bordeaux (high school) and at the Ecole Coloniale in Paris, he served in Oubanqui-Chari (Central African Republic) for twenty years and then in Martinique (Secretary General) and French Sudan (Secretary General and Interim Governor of what is now Mali). He married Eugénie Tell in Guiana in 1922 and became a Freemason. In 1936 he was made interim governor of Guadeloupe, the first Black man to be appointed to such a senior post anywhere in the French colonies.

Two years later, with conflict on the horizon, he was transferred to Chad, arriving in Fort Lamy on 4 January 1939. He was instrumental in developing support for the Free French in all of France’s black African colonies in 1940, an action which earned him the position of governor general of French Equatorial Africa and ultimately gave Charles de Gaulle's faction control of the rest of French Equatorial Africa. He died unexpectedly during a visit to Cairo, Egypt.

His wife, Eugénie Eboué-Tell, was a powerhouse in her own right. Born in Cayenne in 1891, she married Félix Eboué in 1922 and went with him to Oubanqui-Chari, Martinique, Sudan, and Guadeloupe before moving with him to Chad on the eve of WWII. During the war, she was part of the Free French Forces and worked as a nurse in a Brazzaville hospital.

Eugénie Eboué-Tell, Sénatrice
© Discover Paris!

After the war, she served as a deputy (representative) for the island of Guadeloupe from 1945-1946 and then Counselor/Senator for the island from 1946-1952. In 1951, she was Vice-President of the Commission for Overseas France, and on July 10, 1952, after leaving the Palais du Luxembourg, she became vice president of the French Union Assembly. She was always a strong advocate for rights in the overseas departments and territories. In 1958, she was elected municipal councilor of Asnieres, a town on the outskirts of Paris.

Eboué-Tell died in the Paris suburb of Pontoise in 1972.


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