Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Athletics at the Museum of the History of Immigration in Paris

The Musée de l’histoire de l’immigration (Museum of the History of Immigration) was officially opened last year in Paris after several years in development. It is housed in a magnificent building near to the Bois de Vincennes that was originally built for the 1931 Colonial Exhibition. The space once used to glorify the French empire is now being used to tell a different story of the migrants who have settled in France over the past 200 years or more- many of them of course from parts of the world which France once invaded and ruled by force (as with British immigration, part of the story is that 'they' are here because 'we' were there).

Swimming statue outside the Musée de l’histoire de l’immigration

Part of the mission of the museum is to celebrate the contribution of immigrants to French society - did you know, for instance, that the creator of Asterix was born to Ukrainian-Polish Jewish parents and grew up in Argentina? 

As with Britain an immediately visible contribution has been in sports and entertainment, a double edged position since that very success is arguably a measure of the exclusion of migrants and their descendants from other spheres. But nevertheless the museum is right to highlight the important role sports has played in the lives of migrants to France. Here's a few images from the museum:

Algerian-born Ahmed Bouguera El Ouafi (1899-1959) - left in the photo - won the Olympic Marathon in Amsterdam in 1928. In the lead up to the competition he worked in a Renault factory in France - hence the caption 'le champion ouvrier' (the workers' champion)

Algerian-born Alain Mimoun pictured after winning the Marathon for France at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.

Top - Georgian basketball players in 1932; Bottom - swimmers from the Yiddish Workers Sports Club in 1935  (a Jewish athletics club associated with the Communist Party)

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