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Great Collection!! The French And Their Memories of Africa.

The Africa has pride of the Third Great Gathering organized by the National Archives of Friday, 18 November to Sunday 20 November. For three days, the French as foreigners living in France can come drop in the hundred places open for the occasion of “souvenirs family , correspondence, documents, travel , photography …” individual memory component of “relationships between Africa and France in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. All aspects – political, cultural, economic, migration, etc. – This story melee of both continents are concerned.

These objects will enrich the funds of public archives so far made in their almost entirely by administrative documents retracing in particular the French colonial expansion. The National Archives of Overseas (ANOM), installed in Aix-en-Provence since 1966, and store records of the Ministries of the colonial empire and of Algeria . Records of the protectorates exerted on Morocco and Tunisia are stored in the centerof the diplomatic archives of Nantes .

“Their share of truth”

The purpose of the Great Gathering is to make up another memory which is not limited to colonialism and makes room for individual paths. “We realized that we lack the sensitive dimension of relations between the two continents. a story which shows men and women caught in these conflicts, such migrations explains Hervé Lemoine, director of the Archives of France. It is also our responsibility to give our researchers subjective stories. They have their share of truth. “ instructions were given to archivists who welcome the public to appraisetheir legacy to stand ready to record oral evidence when they identify singular stories.

In 2013 and 2014, the first two Grande Collect operations were devoted to the First World War and attracted 20,000 people and led to the digitization of 350,000 documents. This time, the director of the National Archives recognizes duty conduct a less marked year, one of the difficulties is to reach to reach audiences who are unaware of archives. In addition to information broadcast on several TV channels and radio stations such as Radio France International (RFI), Hervé Lemoine account the work done on the ground by the associative networks. “By capillary action, we hope to reach more unusual public for us “he says. The collection will continue for several weeks beyond November 20 for those who could not attend the event this weekend .

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Woman and child of a Beninese emigrated to France sent no doubt on the occasion of New Year’s Day. Photograph of the Photo Biova studio in Cotonou, January 5, 1982. Fonds Manuel Charpy given to the National Archives in 2016. Credits: NATIONAL ARCHIVES

At Troyes, the departmental archives were close to Veterans Associations, but also cultural associations and mutual aid. “We wanted to involve people of African origin beyond the memory of the conflict. And what arose, these are multiple places solidarity created from the 1970s, “says its director Nicolas Dohrmann citing Aube-France-Mbour- Association Senegal or Bouilly fraternal Association Approximately Bougnounou with Burkina Faso .

History “from the bottom”

Researchers have already promised to pay for public funds as their own archives such correspondence in the form of “letters cassettes” qu’envoyaient Nigerian migrant workers to their families in the 1980s This story between France and Africa told “by down “is one that is of particular interest, insists the historian Jean-Pierre Bat, part of the scientific committee of the Grande Collection:” beyond the great political moments, there is a civic memory that remains unknown and may be difficult to pass . “in the third of college classes, teachers were asked to organize one hour of debate from the archives or testimonials that students bring.

Exercise does not necessarily go in the direction of the pacification of memories, but for Philippe Artières, research director at CNRS, it reflects a desire to “finally take colonialism while the French company it has always been very strong. the colonization, as the first World war, is a global fact of our history. in every family there is a memory , a link with the colonies. “

In the most directly linked to our colonial history places like Bordeaux , archivists have seen out attics stories of some characters: diplomats, merchants, for example, “We hope to see. Emerge little treasures” Confesses Pascal Geneste, deputy director of the departmental archives of Gironde.

Saliou Mbaye, former director of the Archives of Senegal and member of the Scientific Committee, sees another challenge of this large gathering: “It will perhaps show that Africans are part of this shared history in recognizing a place” that their Is still too often denied.

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Written by How Africa

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