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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs