Thursday, June 13, 2013

Un Musée & Un Manifestation

Friday after classes turned out to be a really great afternoon! We all met up after class (around 1pm) to visit the museum that is part of the Notre Dame cathedral (in Grenoble, not Paris [a lot of things in France tend to have the same names as other more famous places]). The museum was really really interesting. They have a decently sized collection of artifacts dating all the way back to the Paleolithic period (think cavemen). I wanna say a lot of the artifacts were actually found in Grenoble/the area, but that may be completely incorrect (I never claimed to be an expert).
Look! An ancient bear skull!

Many of the artifacts were tools, bowls, etc - all the everyday things that somehow got left in the dirt and preserved for thousands of years. There were also several really awesome dioramas depicting Paleolithic and Neolithic life, as well as Roman life. We think the artists must have gotten bored with the Romans because we found a little guy in one wearing a modern day button-down green tourist shirt and khaki shorts! And they thought no one would ever notice.
Diorama of either Paleolithic or Neolithic life during winter 
I used to be able to tell you what period of art
this came from based on the style of the hair and eyes...
but apparently I forgot everything from Art History.
Fun fact: Berlioz, the composer, was born in Grenoble!

Robert Doisneau's camera
 There was also a special exhibit going on, showcasing the famous photographer Robert Doisneau, responsible for capturing this famous snapshot of a couple in Paris (it was recently revealed that it was staged, not candid as many thought for decades). He was famous for "photoshopping" his photos before photoshop was even a real thing - he would meticulously cut out parts of his photos (usually people) and then paste them onto a different photo to create a whole new image - it was nearly impossible to tell that the photos had been cut-and-pasted (quite literally), because he was so perfect in cutting them out. He was also famous for taking pictures of skiing, many of which he took right here in Grenoble. His photos are all of life, just as it happens, and nearly all of his subjects are people, which I really enjoyed. We weren't supposed to take pictures in his exhibit, but I didn't know that at first so I was able to snag a few shots before our director told me to stop...ha.
Original prints of Robert Doisneau
The best part of this museum for me, though, was the last bit, underground. As I've said before, Grenoble was once a Roman city (around the 3rd century AD), and under the church are remains of Roman walls and the foundation of an ancient baptistry, as well as some really beautiful Catholic relics. It was the prefect balance of spooky and reverent down there; you could simply feel the history oozing from every surface. Those walls were 1800 years old! I can't even fully comprehend how long that is. To be able to see so much "living" history so often here is so incredible, cause you just can't get that in the States.
Nate displaying the lovely 1800-yr-old Roman wall

After the museum we all went and got ice cream and then planned to head home. However, as Nate, Xavier and I walked to the tram stop we discovered that we wouldn't be taking a tram anytime soon - there was un manifestation, a protest, going on that was completely blocking the trams (the people were marching down the tram rails). This phenomenon is common enough to have its own name in French, descendre dans la rue, "to descend into the streets". It is highly effective in France because the streets are so narrow, if there are a few hundred or thousand (or more) people marching in the streets, it will completely block the traffic. It happens most frequently in Paris, but will take place in other cities as well.

Descendre dans la rue can happen for a multitude of reasons - a workers' strike, a political protest, a demonstration of really any kind. I've read so much about these demonstrations in my french courses, it was quite exciting to witness one in person. It took us a while to figure out what this one was about, but as we got closer we were able to read some of their banners, as well as make out what they were chanting: "Grenoble! Grenoble! Anti-fasciste!" Grenoble is a historically Socialist (left-wing) city; this manifestation was in protest to the murder of an 18-year-old college student in the streets of Paris the previous day - he had been beaten to death by a group of extreme right-wing fascist neo-Nazis due to his political beliefs (he was a Socialist). So on this Friday, the people of Grenoble wanted to make sure that Clément did not die in vain, that his brothers and sisters would speak out against the racists in hopes of preventing another terrible death like his.

It was truly an incredible event to witness. There probably between 500-800 people marching, holding up trams for at least 20 minutes as they marched to le Verdun Prefecture, the square where many of the municipal government buildings are. Once there, several people spoke on the topics of fighting racism, sexism, Fascism, and they held a moment of silence in honor of Clément's memory. It was a horribly unnecessary death, but it was truly amazing to see how the French people didn't just stand idly by and say "Oh, that's so horrible, how sad" and then go about their days - they came together and actively spoke out against hate and violence, in a very visible way. The French are a people of action, of standing up for what they believe in, which is a trait I have always admired about this people. They refuse to lie down and just let others walk all over them - their multiple revolutions and rewrites of the constitution are evidence enough. It was quite a sight to behold, and I feel very lucky to have been able to see this first hand.
Holding his fist to show solidarity
during the moment of silence.

The main banners in front of the government building at Verdun Prefecture

1 comment:

  1. Such rich experiences compacted into such a short time span ... so glad you are sharing! I am excited for your trip to Paris this weekend -- give Kristen a hug from me, and then she can give you a hug from me too! Love!