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In Paris, a double evocation of the International Colonial Exhibition of 1931

In France, it was the biggest colonial demonstration of the XXe century. Established in Paris between May 6 and November 15, the 1931 International Colonial Exhibition brought together some 8 million visitors, for 33 million tickets sold through multiple entries. Resulting from considerable development – ​​more than 110 hectares in the Bois de Vincennes, zoo included, extension of line 8 of the metro and redesign of the Porte-Dorée station in addition to the exceptional services by bus and tram – the project, which required more than a thousand days of work, dates back to 1927. General Commissioner, Marshal Lyautey (1854-1934), an emblematic figure of colonial France, demanded the integration of foreign powers – even if the British Empire, Spain and the Japan will decline the invitation – and put a capital didactic dimension at the heart of the event, hoping that people will read « a great lesson in realizing action, a focus of practical instruction ».

Outdoors, free and accessible at any time, this commemoration clearly shows a desire to democratize knowledge.

This is undoubtedly what makes the bridge between the achievement of 1931 and its current commemoration, as desired by the historian Pascal Blanchard, who co-signed with Sandrine Lemaire, Nicolas Bancel, Alain Mabanckou and Dominic Thomas a decisive Colonization & propaganda. The Power of Image (Le Cherche Midi, 296 pages, 45 euros). A little over ninety years after the event, the only remaining traces of which are the Palais de la Porte-Dorée, formerly the Colonial Museum and, since 2014, the National Museum of the History of Immigration, and the nearby and monumental statue of Léon-Ernest Drivier (1878-1951), France bringing peace and prosperity to the coloniesit is a question of offering everyone a clear perception of the event.

Thirty-six panels are simultaneously presented on the initial site of the exhibition, in the Bois de Vincennes, in twelve tripods, sequencing as many themes, offered to the curiosity of the walker, young public, sportsman, tourist who would venture on the huge original location, and, as in linear vision, on the facades of the Napoleon barracks, rue de Rivoli, near the Town Hall. Outdoors, free and accessible at any time, the exhibition clearly displays a desire to democratize knowledge, to present the options adopted in 1931 with the evocation of all the pavilions of the French Empire and foreign countries, the scenography adopted, the contextual, political and cultural issues that reveal the designers’ biases but also the reluctance, even opposition to the project, the propaganda elements mobilized in each of the camps. The weight of the armed forces too.

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