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Walking Over Haddon in The Peak District

I confess I'm a fair weather walker, which means I often want to walk on our holidays, but whether we go is always dependent on the weather. I have a Goretex jacket but it's like a talisman. I own it, but I don't want to wear it and I hope vainly that just by having spent so much on it an schlepping it with me that it's going to ward off the rain! As you can see my travel planning involves a good deal of "magical thinking!" In California our cultural exuberance (paired with low standards) means we shamelessly call anything a "hike"  - as if we've scaled Everest in an afternoon. Here in England I'm not sure I even qualify as a "walker" because that denotes a level of seriousness I've failed at previously. Minimally it means you're wearing boots  and have an Ordnance Survey map (and possibly a compass) in your back pocket. I guess I'm more of stroller to be honest and I've blogged about my strolls all over the world; m…

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.

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