News / Europe

France, Algeria: Two Lenses on the Past

Lisa Bryant
PARIS — As Algeria marks its 50th anniversary of independence from France, two exhibits in Paris explore a painful chapter in their shared history through very different lenses. 

Algeria's war of independence from France has been retold many times - in movies and in history books on both sides of the Mediterranean.

Today, the French Army Museum in Paris offers the latest narrative - casting a sometimes brutal look at 132 years of French colonial rule. 

Exhibit curator, Lieutenant-Colonel Christophe Bertrand, says the honesty surprises visitors - especially Algerian ones. "We tried to balance our outlook"  he says, "to have a historic vision - so it's a fairly new view of what the French army did," he said.

Bertrand says the exhibit is trying to offer a building stone toward a reconciliation that must eventually take place between these two sides.

France's occupation is told through a treasure trove of objects - uniforms, weapons, paintings, documents, photos and movies. It begins in 1830.

Bertrand says French troops began settling in the capital, Algiers, and along the coast, ending the Ottoman presence.  As French conquered Algerian territory, an opposition was born, first spearheaded by Emir Abd el-Kader.

Over the decades, hundreds of thousands of French, or "pieds noirs," settled in Algeria. Algerians fought alongside French troops in the first and second world wars. But the seeds of resistance remained.

Bertrand says the events of May 8, 1945, when French shot Algerian demonstrators, helped spark the country's war of liberation in 1954.

The exhibit offers grainy films of the fighting and photographs of Algerians being tortured. Later come images of Algerians celebrating their independence, on July 5, 1962.

Fifty years later, the Army Museum's exhibit counts among a flood of books, documentaries, debates and shows here marking the anniversary.

At an art gallery across town, portraits by Algerian artist Mustapha Boutadjine celebrate the women who fought for Algeria.

Boutadjine says some of these women were tortured, raped and killed during the war. Some were Algerian but others were French. He says nobody talks about their story.

A native of Algiers, Boutadjine was 10 years old when his country became independent.

Boutadjine says his parents were tortured during the war. "They lived the revolution like all the other Algerians."  He says it is something he will never forget - but he feels no hatred toward the French.

Ties still bind the two nations. Alongside the returning pieds noirs, millions of Algerians have since immigrated to France, raising French children. Arabic words like "toubib," or doctor, now pepper the French language. And singers like Cheb Khaled are household names.

But diplomatic relations are rocky. And the past remains painful.

Visiting the Army Museum, 61-year-old Corinne Mathis says the exhibit sheds light on a period few French know much about.

Mathis says school history classes spend little time teaching about France's presence in Algeria. French must be curious to find out on their own.

Another retiree, Algerian Nourredine Kadra, admits ties today could be better.

Kadra says there shouldn't be any problems between France and Algeria. But politicians in both countries are stirring things up.

Curator Bertrand believes historians - like the French and Algerians who helped realize the exhibit - will help bring the two nations closer. With time, he believes, both France and Algeria will reconcile with their common past, and be able to look ahead.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More