Monday 13 September 2010

Hier le monde

It's a French day today: teaching it at school and talking to the French assistante in the staffroom, writing a Reunion story in my free periods, answering a request for captions for a New Caledonia piece in next week's Herald (I think). Oh, and a friend is going to Paris soon for the first time, and is naturally excited about that.
So, France? Reunion? Mauritius? Tahiti? Monaco? New Caledonia? Akaroa? There are so many French-speaking countries that I haven't been to: Vietnam, Switzerland, Belgium, the Seychelles, Vanuatu, Quebec... and that's not mentioning all of those in Africa, where I have yet to set foot. The French were all over Africa like a rash: the British were such busy colonists, you can forget that the Frogs were at it equally enthusiastically. But they were, and just as insensitively.
That was the nub of the New Caledonia story: that after years and years of being dispossessed and oppressed, the native Kanaks are gaining standing, pride and a future in the tourist industry. Naming the fabulously designed, yet curiously empty, Cultural Centre after the indigenous rights leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou (a brave man despite his girly name) was a start - but even better is their adoption in July of the Kanak Freedom Flag as the second official flag of New Caledonia, to fly in tandem with the Tricolour: the only country in the world to have two flags. Maybe one day, they'll all get along well enough to agree on one flag for everybody.
(Having said all that, I ought to mention that only this year was it agreed that the Tino Rangatiratanga flag should be allowed to be flown here on Waitingi Day.)

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