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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs