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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

Art Deco Murals at the Palais de la Porte Dorée

The murals at the Palais de la Porte Dorée are breathtaking.  As you know from my previous post we loved the exterior of the building and were amazed to find these mural inside.  Dominationg a large central room they are a masterpiece of colonial propaganda, extolling the beneficence of France's colonial regime and the paternalistic advantages of Empire. Stylistically they reminded me of the murals at the Beach Chalet in San Francisco that I blogged about here. However while murals in the US tend to have emerged from union or other progressive traditions  (like the work of the Mexican master muralist and artist Diego Rivera) the murals at the Palais de la Porte Dorée are about justifying, expanding and celebrating the colonial status quo.
The central allegorical panel (above) dominates the main room while the surrounding walls are organized around various panels extolling the virtues of France's "gifts" to its colonies; medicine, religion, science and commerce. There's a beautiful mosaic floor, here's D., not sure what he's doing - perhaps imitating one of the Hindu gods??!
Everyone looks very  industrious and rather picturesque. The colonial figure seem to be earnestly working rather than sipping gin and tonics! They are represented as tirelessly bringing modern science and medicine to the backwaters.
There are lots of muscular bare chested "native" men, along with plenty of good looking women. Where ever they are from, Asia, Africa or the Maghreb, everyone looks highly industrious and purposeful. In this mythic narrative they are all participating happily in the expand commercial activities brought by colonization. There's no room for a Marxist  or post-Structuralist analysis here! As you can see commercial activity and agriculture are celebrated in the following panels.
Much of the symbolism is heavy handed and today the message  is anachronistic. Here the enslaved and "primitive" Africans are clamoring for religious enlightenment from a beneficent priest, another aspect of the modernizing process. 
Some of this is less clear and frankly I have no idea what all of it means, though isn't it extraordinary isn't it? The only certainty is that it's celebration of French colonial paternalism with lots of horses and naked women  thrown in! I couldn't resist including the images below.