here is an 'emergency call' I received this morning. It is from the current director of the Museum of Civilisations and Reunion Unity, Francoise Verges. I have followed this project over the past couple of years (Reunion has been my fieldwork place since 1995) and, despite much possible criticism, I support its aims and objectives.
Following regional elections in La Reunion (a French overseas department in the Indian Ocean), the new majority party has announced that this project is to be scrapped. There is a lot of local politics, old jealousies and drama involved here. The museum project was one of the flagship initiatives by Paul Verges, until now regional president, leader of the island's communist party, and a historical figure of the island's 1960s decolonisation struggle (and Francoise Verges' father).
The project in question was widely criticized for splashing public money, in particular European structural funds while a majority of the islanders are struggling with difficult economic situations. Despite these critiques, and the huge and often unfair polemics against this project, I think it is a good initiative providing the islanders with a space to tell their own story. This is why I think it should continue and why I support this. Please feel free to join in.
March 22nd 2010
Maison des civilisations et de l’unité réunionnaise
You have heard about the project of Maison des civilisations et de l’unité réunionnaise. Some of you have accepted to support it from the
beginning, others have been invited to give a conference in Reunion Island,
others have contributed to its scientific program… All of you have, at one
point or another, let us know that you consider the project to be innovating,
creative, and opening new grounds.
This is why we appeal to you today. There is an emergency! Yesterday, the Conservative candidate who won the elections for the
Regional Council declared upon recognizing his victory: “My first decision will
be to put an end to the MCUR project!” Six years of intensive work, of public
educative actions, of valorization of vernacular practices, of current projects
of research are threatened to be cancelled for ideological reasons.
The objectives of the MCUR project are to give equal treatment to the civilizations from which the Reunionnese come from, to
valorize vernacular practices, to offer a space for encounters and debates, a
contact-zone for exchanges, creativity, and open discussion. The Conservative
leader has offered no argument against these objectives.
The threat is real.
We ask you to urgently protest against this decision by sending to the French Prime Minister with cc to the Minister of Culture, the
Minister of National Education, the European Community, the Prefect of Reunion
Island and the future president of the Regional Council the following letter,
with your name, function and country:
We have learned that the MCUR project is threatened to be cancelled by the newly elected president of Reunion Island Regional Council.
We will be extremely surprised that the government of the French Republic would
support such a decision. Cultural centers are, in our times, sites of debates,
exchanges, mixing, multiculturalism and citizenship.
We know the work of the scientific and cultural team of the MCUR led by Françoise Vergès, the quality of its work, its objectivity, its
openness to new cultural forms. It has been instrumental for the inscription of
maloya to the World Intangible Heritage list. We cannot believe that, when
everywhere cultural center are proving to be sites of creativity, of economic
development, of research, you will allow the MCUR to be cancelled and that you
will agree to the denial of twenty young Reunionnese’s work and commitment.
Prime Minister, François FILLON : http://www.gouvernement.fr/premier-ministre/ecrire
Minister of Culture and Communication, Frédéric MITTERRAND:
Minister of National Education, Luc CHAYEL: http://men.public.lu/functions/contact/index.php
Prefect of Reunion Island, M. LALANDE: firstname.lastname@example.org
Region Reunion Regional Council: email@example.com