Dear M. Lui, Minister of Information, Communication and the Arts, Dear M. Iswaran, Dear M. Iswaran, Excellency, Dear President, Dear Stéphane Martin, Dear Founding President of the Museum of Asian Civilizations, Dear Kenson Kwok, Commissioners, Ladies and gentlemen, Dear friends,
It is sometimes said that interbreeding is one of the new fetishes of our post-modern cultures in the West. After the fetishism of the commodity, would there today be a fetishism of the miscegenation? If we take the trouble to change the meaning of the planet and “provincialize” Europe, and if we delve into the history of diasporic cultures, we see that this is not the case. Blending is ancient, and it also knows how to give us keys for our future. Because from the straits so far, globalization is an old affair.
It is a great pleasure to see you again, Mr Minister, for the inauguration of this exhibition, which benefits from the high patronage of the President of the French Republic and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore. I particularly admire the fact that Singapore is a city-state capable also to suspend the time of affairs, to make development of culture and arts one of its national priorities in the coming decade.
The exhibition we are inaugurating this evening reminds me of an observation made by anthropologist Arjun Appadurai: globalization is not so often synonymous with cultural homogenization, as each society has its own way of appropriating modernity. “Inner Signs of Wealth” invites us to discover the culture of a community, the Peranakan of Chinese origin; it also invites us to revisit globalization, to change our perspective.
Among the Babas, one could therefore wear the Chinese costume or the Malay sarong under the smoky vaults of the English clubs, where it was mainly brandy and billiards that reigned supreme, in a colonial scene of the 1920s where hybridity competes with the mimic of which Homi Bhabha spoke in Places of culture. Upstream and downstream, from the 15th century straits to the televised revival of Little Nonya, the history of the Peranakan community reminds us that the interbreeding is not only a new brilliant that would come elegantly set our postcolonial times. As Serge Gruzinski also showed for Iberian globalization, the reality of the intermingling is rooted in a long history: that of a globalization of which the West has long wrongly believed itself the only initiator.
The Babas send back to us the image of a community that through history has been able to superimpose codes, marry ancestral worship and plurilingualism, cut Mandarin with English and Malay, marry multiple identities and mix styles. The sarongs, the furniture and the porcelain, the kitchen also, which, from the constructions of identity, is the splendid metaphor, all elements of everyday life that reflect the luxury of a mix, in the intimacy of the interiors evoked, once again with talent, by the scenography by Nathalie Crinière. These interiors remind me, in the spirit of association, of a pair of slippers which, in In the mood for love Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong trip to a Singapore hotel room, keeper of her secrets.
Baba Bling, it is the emblematic story of a community that has opened up to the mutual fertilization of cultures in the city-state; it is also the history of a brilliant globalization.
Once again, by hosting this exhibition, the Musée du Quai Branly shows its formidable ability to highlight the crossovers of world cultures. Fleeing from formatted and uneventful otherness, far from easy exoticisms, his vocation is clear: it is a formidable way to confront us, on the contrary, with the complexity of plural identities. I can only commend once again the extraordinary work done by Stéphane Martin and his teams.
It is also an opportunity this evening to discuss the density of cultural cooperation between France and SingaporeI can only rejoice. Mr Minister, since our meeting a year ago, our Cultural Cooperation Agreement has made it possible to intensify our joint actions. I refer in particular to cooperation between museums Since the launch of the ASEMUS network by President Chirac and Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in 1996, much has been achieved. This network, dear Stéphane Martin, you have been leading it with talent since 2008. The partnership between the Musée du Quai Branly and the Asian Civilisations Museum is bearing fruit today, with this exhibition and the “Singapore Festivarts” season in which it is part of; as for the “Rivière Congo” exhibition, which just ended yesterday after a great success, it will be welcomed at the ACM at the end of the year.
The cooperation between our museums is also, for example, an exhibition of the NMR on gardens which will be the first exhibition of the National Art Gallery of Singapore, realized by the French agency of the architect Jean-François Milou, when it opens its doors in 2015. Closer to home, it is also, in June 2011, the exhibition on the history of video art at the Singapore Art Museum, in partnership with the Centre Pompidou. While Monet is in the spotlight in Paris, I will also mention the exhibition of Impressionist masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay at the National Art Museum in 2012.
In addition to these high-quality projects, another aspect of our cooperation concerns: the reception of French artists in Singapore. Royal de Luxe is scheduled to arrive in 2012. I also hope that we will reach an agreement so that the beautiful project of a stage in Singapore of the Comédie française during its Asian tour in autumn 2011 can be realized.
There are many other areas which we have discussed together, in which there are exciting prospects for mutual enrichment. I’m thinking of film co-productions, for example. I also want to talk about the visit of Singaporean cultural professionals to France, at the invitation of the Embassy of France in Singapore, who come to visit our cultural places, our institutions and our festivals: I attach particular importance to interpersonal relations and field experience, which play an essential role in our fields of action. Finally, I would also like to thank you for the honour and trust you have placed in us by considering our cultural policies as a source of references and expertise that can be useful to you.
We can go even further in intensifying this fruitful cooperation, and I look forward to coming to Singapore in the very near future to explore with you the possibilities open to us.