After the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and the groundswell of affirmation for freedom of expression in France, you might have thought that all was well in the land of Liberty, Egality, Fraternity. At least as far as what the state is prepared to allow in the name of artistic expression.
Not so in the small town of Fremainville, in Northern France, whose mayor has removed the statue of a black Marianne from outside the town hall. Here is the statue in question.
Beautiful, isn’t she? Marianne is a national symbol of the French Republic, an allegory of liberty and reason, and a portrayal of the Goddess of Liberty. You will be shocked to learn that most Mariannes are white.
And it appears the mayor, Marcel Allègre, wants to keep it that way. He claims that a black Marianne is a “Marianne of liberty, but not a Marianne of the French Republic. She undoubtedly represented something, but not the French Republic.”
This particular controversy reminds me of similar reactions and responses reported in the French media to the African-American opera singer Jessye Norman being symbolically presented as ‘Marianne’ in the 1989 bicentennial Bastille Day parade directed by French designer Jean-Paul Goude. Seemingly a black woman draped in the tricolore flag fashioned as a flowing ceremonial robe and singing ‘La Marseillaise’ was just a step too far for certain cultural sensibilities within a (so called) ‘colour-blind’ France. Thank you for posting this image of the statue.
Thank you so much for following my blog! I thought you might like to know that my graphic novel “The Poet and the Flea” (Volume 1) about the poet-painter William Blake is now on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/868711984/the-poet-and-the-flea-ode-to-william-blake-volume Please check it out and help spread the word! Thank you so much! —G. E.