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Glendon’s Francophone Week Brimming with Cultural Experiences.


March 20th marks the annual International Francophone Day, when Canada honours French language and culture – one of its two founding linguistic entities - country-wide, with a multitude of cultural and community events. This date commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Niamey (Nigeria) in 1970, which brought into existence the Cultural and Technical Cooperation Agency, now known as the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. Francophones on five continents celebrate this date with music, literature, drama, food, choosing their own way to express their pride in their culture.

Over the years, the celebration has expanded, and Canada’s 2006 Les rendez-vous de la Francophonie spanned 16 days, from March 10th to the 26th. At Glendon, where French language and culture represent one of the campus’ defining characteristics – bilingualism – the ninth annual celebration of the Semaine de la Francophonie (Francophone Week), from March 20th to 25th promised many events including theatre, the visual arts, literary readings, social gatherings, in short, something for everyone.

Glendon’s festival opened with lunchtime theatre on March 20th, introduced by Léonard Rosmarin, professor emeritus of French literature at Brock University, and an authority on dramaturge Liliane Atlan. Actors Geneviève Trilling and Michèle Tredger performed a series of deeply moving scenes from Atlan’s play, “Les Mers rouges” (The Red Seas), directed by Genie-award winning director Kalli Paakspuu. Atlan’s work immortalizes the victims of the Holocaust from Saloniki, Greece, her family’s ancestral home. Without any props, but with superb control of voice, gestures and expression, Trilling and Tredger transformed themselves in turn into martyrs of Auschwitz, a victim of sterilization by Nazi doctors, the wife of a surviving couple who is unable to return to the normalcy of daily life, a woman whose child was exterminated in the camps. The ancient Ladino love songs performed by Trilling, filled with sweetness and pain, were particularly heartrending. The audience remained in hushed silence at the end of the performance, attesting to its power to move.

March 20th also marked the gala opening of a new exhibition, Bolerama - the work of Franco-Ontarian artist Lise Beaudry, at the Glendon Gallery. A capacity audience was welcomed in Glendon’s new gallery space with a festive buffet lunch and reception. The wonderful Romanian wines served on this occasion were the gift of the Romanian consul general in Toronto, Mr. Nicanor Teculescu, also present at the opening. Mr. Teculescu conveyed his government’s formal invitation to the ‘Summit of the Francophonie’ taking place this summer in Bucharest. Bolerama consists of a series of large colour photographs accompanied by a bilingual sound installation. They display inside and outside perspectives of the Boler trailer, an egg-shaped, compact camping trailer built in the artist's hometown of Earlton, Ontario until the late 1970's. As Beaudry explained, Bolerama is a ‘snapshot’ from a moment in time in rural Ontario. An actual ‘Boler’ was parked outside the gallery, allowing visitors to experience this ethnocultural icon first hand.

Francophone Week also welcomed Terre rouge (Red Earth), a play by contraversial, early 20th-century French playwright Antonin Artaud. Under the direction of Glendon drama professor Guillaume Bernardi, this ambitious Glendon student production presented Artaud’s short play recording his journey to the north of Mexico in 1936, to the land of the Tarahumaras. This indigenous tribe introduced him to the shamanic rites of the peyotl, a hallucinogenic plant which, when consumed, produces visions lasting two or three days, at times terrifying or hilarious. The cast, comprised of both Anglophone and Francophone students, created an existentialist atmosphere which was enhanced by excellent use of video technology, showing photos of Mexico from the time of Artaud’s visit.

The week’s programs included several other literary events, notably a lecture on March 22nd featuring the work of Swiss author Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz, given by Doris Jakubec, honorary professor of the University of Lausanne and responsible for the publication of Ramuz’s work in the prestigious Bibliothèque de la Pléïade. Under the sponsorship of the Swiss Consulate-General and GREF, Glendon’s French-language publishing house, the evening also featured readings from Ramuz’s work by writer and theatre personality Jacques Roman.

March 23rd offered a Midi-littéraire (Literary Lunch) in the gallery, welcoming two outstanding local writers published by Glendon’s GREF: Pierre Léon and Daniel Soha, who read from their work. Though their tone was light-hearted and humorous, the subjects they chose to ridicule were deep and serious, particularly Léon’s satirical description of the woman who was stoned to death for having ‘evil thoughts’. Said Léon, “That will teach [her] how to live!” And Soha, amazed at life’s many risks, was at times poetic in expressing his great love of life itself. The audience enjoyed the refreshments, wiped the tears of laughter from their eyes and left with thoughts of some of the great questions about life.

First presented in 1998, Glendon’s Semaine de la Francophonie was the brainchild of Alain Baudot, professor in the French and Multidisciplinary Studies Departments, and Director of GREF. Since then, it has been organized annually under the leadership of Martine Rheault, Director of Artistic and Cultural Affairs, Office of Student Services. Said Rheault, “All of us have so much to celebrate!”

This article was submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny

Published on March 30, 2006