Newsletter 04/10

Banlieues Bleues: Festival Le Cap in Aulnay sous Bois

A musical encounter full of rhythm, mingling the musette waltz from the working-class neighbourhoods of a long-vanished Paris and the jazz of Sophiatown, the Johannesburg district famous during the 1950s, where Myriam Makeba made her career. Between them, Frenchman Braka and South African Carlo Mombelli have created a thrilling show.

Constantia wine, a great vintage with roots in French and South African history

One of the most famous wines on the world wine map comes from the Constantia Valley, just 8 km from the Cape of Good Hope.

In Les Fleurs du Mal (1857), Charles Baudelaire likened the taste of it to a beloved's kiss and ranked it on a par with a "Nuits" from Burgundy: "Je préfère au constance, a l'opium, aux nuits, L'élixir de ta bouche où l'amour se pavane, " he wrote, "Even more than Constantia, than opium, than Nuits, I prefer the elixir of your mouth, where love performs its slow dance."

The first vintage wine from Constantia dates back to 1689. It is a dessert wine made from grape varieties descended from the Muscat de Frontignan variety grown in France.

The grapes ripen in February or March are left on the vine for a further four weeks and only harvested at the end of March or in early April.

The resulting wine is stored in oak vats for two years to produce a rich, aromatic nectar. The deposed Emperor Napoleon, imprisoned on the island of Saint Helena in 1815, enjoyed a regular supply of the wine until his death in 1821.

Later, in 1833, King Louis-Philippe became one of the most prolific buyers of "Groot Constantia".

Such was the reputation of Constantia wine as evoked by the poet Baudelaire that France entered into a ten-year commercial treaty with Britain in 1860, to promote the export of French wines to London at the expense of Cape Province wines.

Under trade agreements with the European Union, it is now a simple matter to export wines from Constantia and the entire Cape region to Europe.

South African writers and Francophony

Most South African authors have a certain predilection for Paris.

Some have lived here, like Breytenbach or André Brink, and have an excellent command of the language.

Nobel literature laureate Nadine Gordimer is widely read here, and her work is inspired by Proust.

Eric Miyeni has also been won over, as the publication of his book, “A Letter from Paris” testifies.

So could South Africa be considered an honorary member of the francophone community?

The "Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie" (OIF), now celebrating its 40th anniversary, covers 70 countries with a total population of 870 million people, of whom 200 million are French-speakers.

Almost half of these French-speakers, 92.6 million in total, live on the African continent, in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.

Pothier the jurist (1699-1772), the most influential French figure in South Africa

Robert Joseph Pothier, Professor of Roman Law at the University of Orléans in the mid- 18th century, was the author of influential legal works on the subject of contracts, obligations, company law and marriage contracts.

Much South African law took its inspiration from his work.

Pothier's fame as a legal authority rapidly spread beyond Europe, in particular to the United States, where his marble relief portrait may be found in the Capitol, and to South Africa where he is still recognised by the courts as a binding authority and fount of law.

After his death, his work (highly representative of the enlightened legal spirit of the 18th century) shaped whole chapters of the French Civil Code of 1804.

Architect in France of the Civil Code, binding authority in South Africa, Pothier is an important link between the two countries. When he was a law student at university, Nelson Mandela certainly studied the works of Pothier.