International Colonial Exhibition of Paris 1931

May 6, 1931 - November 15, 1931


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French Equatorial Africa

French Equatorial Africa at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1931

Architect(s) : Fichet

The AEF pavilion at the Colonial Exhibition was intended to give a synthesis of what our Congolese empire represents in the national economy. Without doubt, there are larger and more sumptuous pavilions, but the AEF pavilion is characteristic of a reborn colony whose wealth is now being exploited with the most modern means.

The plans are by the architect Fichet.

In the centre stands a circular construction 27 metres in diameter, with a dome some 20 metres high. This shell-shaped construction is a faithful reconstruction of the dwellings along the Logone. Circular galleries surround it.

At the entrance to the pavilion are the offices of the Commissariat and those of the propaganda department. For, in order to provide the visitor with the most complete information on everything relating to trade and industry in A. E., the offices of the Commissariat and the propaganda offices are located at the entrance to the pavilion. E. In order to provide the visitor with the most complete information on all aspects of trade and industry in East Africa, the exhibition includes brief monographs, tables, statistics, photographs and products well presented in the form of samples in bags, jars, display cases and shelves: oilseeds, palm kernels, sesame seeds, castor beans, karite seeds, groundnuts, copra, palm oil, bamboo oil, groundnut oil, sesame oil.
Gums, rubber and copal. Textiles: cotton, kapok, raffia, sansevières, pineapple, various fibres.

Dioramas by the most renowned colonial artists evoke the most picturesque aspects of the tropical forest, the Congo-Ocean route, or the shady banks of the Congo and Oubangui rivers.

We also see various ropes, native spartan goods, basketry, coffee, cocoa, vanilla, tobacco, furs, vegetable hair, bones, horns, tanning materials (mangrove bark), dyeing materials, papyrus and wood pulp, ivory, and also those incomparable riches of the A. E. F.., mineral products: precious stones, gold, silver, copper, lead, etc. Also on display are food products: manioc, rice, millet, iguanas, potatoes, bananas, honey, peppers, etc., as well as fishing gear and fish, molluscs and shellfish.

In a second gallery, we find items related to folklore, hunting and tourism, indigenous weapons, fetishes, ornaments and instruments. Here the public can see that there is a Negro art and that it deserves to be studied.

Curious minds can capture the thousand incidents of daily life in a Pahouin village which is home to some forty natives: woodcarvers, weavers, leatherworkers, etc...

The primitive art of the populations of our great African colony perfectly reflects their sense of nature and things.

The indigenous ivory carvers, who, like the other craftsmen, work under the eyes of the public, with the raw materials supplied by the A. E. F. commissariat, have conceived and executed numerous models, among which: a lion abducting its prey, monkeys eating, a water carrier, a chess game, etc...

Ebony carvers have translated a number of animals in their own way: gorillas, turtles, elephants, etc.

Woodcarvers have created various groups of pirogues with their crews, indigenous masks, pyrographed woodcarvings, dance groups, etc.

Blacksmiths make, among other things, ebony-handled assegais and daggers inlaid with ivory.

All the raw materials: ivory, ebony, kakomo wood, various skins, come directly from EFTA.

Since EFTA is still the country of the great hunters and will perhaps one day be the country of great tourism, the visitor is shown tourist and hunting maps as well as naturalized animals, hunting trophies and beautiful photographs.

A third gallery is reserved exclusively for the exhibition of woods. In addition to forestry maps, wood mercurials, sample panels of different woods, rough cuts of various species, local wooden furniture and samples of various wooden objects from the colony are on display.

Artists can find new sources of inspiration by contemplating the objects of collections, ornaments, musical instruments, indigenous weapons and fetishes that have been brought together there by the care of a committee of particularly competent people.

In the centre of the palace, there are dioramas, panoramas, relief maps and a large-scale map of French Equatorial Africa. This is where French and foreigners can get an idea of what life is like in FEA. E. F.

Is it necessary to add that ethnographic, commercial and other statistics show that FEA is seeing its population increase and its commercial movement grow from year to year, and that a reading of the balance sheets allows one to judge its good economic balance.

Although the AEF is the youngest of our colonies, it has the concern to present to the French of Metropolitan France an exhibition as original as it is evocative of the great possibilities that the future holds.

However ignorant he may be of the resources of our great equatorial possession, the visitor at a glance, as soon as he enters the pavilion, receives a precise and clear impression.

This is what Governor General Antonetti and the Commissariat of the Colony in Paris wanted to show.

It shows the unfolding of a half-century-long history that begins like an adventure tale and, after a dark period, blossoms into a marvellous perspective. Musical instruments, everyday objects and fetishes offer us a picture of the indigenous life that preceded our settlement. These are excellent reasons to dream. However, it does not take much imagination to evoke, in front of these masks and sculptures, the bloody ceremonies of abolished cults, the monstrous festivals in the clearings, the strange marriage of love and death.

Thus introduced to the life of our Congo, we follow its awakening, from floor to floor, from the day Brazza entered it to the day when the first blow of the pickaxe of the Congo-Ocean opened a new era to our beautiful equatorial colony.

©Livre D'Or - Exposition Coloniale Internationale - Paris 1931