Inauguration of the War and Colonies photography exhibition
The inauguration of the War and Colonies photography exhibition took place on Monday 24 February at the Alliance française de Dhaka, in presence of H.E. Mr. Michel Trinquier, Ambassador of France to Bangladesh.
Below is the speach given on this occasion.
Dear Mr. K.H. Masud Siddiqui, Honorable Secretary, Ministry of Liberation War Affairs,
Mr. Ferdinand von Weyhe, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Germany in Bangladesh,
Mr. Abdul Majid Chowdhury, President, Alliance française de Dhaka,
Distinguished representatives and guests,
Friends of France, Europe, and Alliance française,
Good evening, bonsoir.
I am delighted to be present as Chief Guest here tonight to inaugurate the first part of the War and Colonies project, an exhibition on colonial troops engaged in the First World War.
Mr. Olivier Litvine, Director of the Alliance française de Dhaka, and the craftsman behind this remarkable project, could sadly not be present with us tonight. Our thoughts are with him through these difficult times.
2014 marks the Centenary of the outbreak of World War One, the first global conflict of the 20th century.
This devastating event, which led to the loss of 1.4 of France’s 39 million population, also left countless orphans and widows, hundreds of thousands of disabled, and millions of wounded.
Just as importantly, it had long-term psychological effects on the French people.
So did World War Two, which France will also be commemorating this year, as 2014 marks the 70-year anniversary of the liberation.
Reconciliation, peace, and friendship, are central themes of this year’s commemorations.
After having fought three wars, France and Germany today operate as friends and partners, and this is particularly well exemplified here in Bangladesh.
Over the past two years, the Goethe Institut and the Alliances françaises of Dhaka and Chittagong have jointly organized two very successful cultural events. Next year, a joint Franco-German embassy building will open in Baridhara.
The War and Colonies event also illustrates nicely the friendship and cooperation that now define the relations between France and Germany. In that respect, the participation of Dr. Rainer Bendick, the German co-author of the first Franco-German history textbook, is especially noteworthy.
Reconciliation, peace, and friendship.
At the center of this year’s commemorations, is also the recognition of individual commitments and contributions to the collective History of the Great War.
More than a moral duty, honoring the memories of friends and allies throughout the world is also an imperative for the co-construction of a shared History, as the foundations for a peaceful global future.
To organize the commemorations that will take place over the next 4 years, the French government has set up, under the aegis of the French Minister Delegate for Veterans, Mr. Kader Arif, a Public Interest Group : the Mission du Centenaire.
Furthermore, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs is supporting, through its embassies, cultural activities organized by Alliances françaises or French Institutes to commemorate the centenary of the Great War, especially when they are organized in partnership with local institutions.
This is the case of the War and Colonies event.
In addition, the President of the Republic of France, Mr. François Hollande, has sent a letter to His Excellency, Mr. Abdul Hamid, Honorable President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, inviting a member of the Government in charge of war commemorations to attend this year’s 14th of July parade in Paris, together with 4 young Bangladeshis.
The War and Colonies exhibition and conference, organized by the Alliance française de Dhaka, in partnership with the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs, the Liberation War Museum, and the University of Dhaka, is an ambitious project.
And the Embassy of France in Bangladesh is particularly proud to support, through its Cooperation and Cultural Action Service, an event of such quality.
Both the photographic exhibition that is inaugurated today, and the 2 days of conference that are starting tomorrow, are of particular significance.
Firstly, the focus on the relationships between war and colonies will shed new light on a part of History that is often overlooked, if not completely forgotten. That is that of the hundreds of thousands of men who either fought along with European troops, or contributed to overall war efforts.
These men, from sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, Ireland, India, Indo-China, and China, are given recognition through the 35 photographs exhibited today.
Not less significantly, the role of Bengal in the First World War will also be granted a particular place, with 5 papers specifically dedicated to this topic.
Not only will the War and Colonies event provide a learning opportunity for all. It will also, and more importantly, offer a venue for individual and collective reflection on our common History.
Convinced that such enlightening material should be made available to the largest possible audience, the Cooperation and Cultural Action Service of the Embassy of France in Bangladesh will be supporting its travel to Chittagong later this year.
For War and Colonies to be seen outside of the city it was initiated, is also a wish of its originator, Olivier Litvine. Let us hope it materializes.
Until then, I look forward to discovering the rare photographs of colonial troops displayed at La Galerie, and wish the participants to the upcoming conference fruitful discussions on the fascinating topic of the relationships between war and colonies.
Merci, thank you.
For more information about the War and Colonies exhibition and conference, visit the event’s website.