Speaker by Various Artists

Paris Dispatch

by Marie-France

Paris is as chaotically beautiful as ever. There have been strikes and protests but I haven't experienced any; my sister Anne-Marie is a secondary school teacher - on strike, rolling strikes, one day per week. But the school year is now over, and more protests and "industrial actions" are scheduled for September, when school resumes. France is now looking forward to the sacrosanct summer holidays.

It is hot and sunny, every day. School children push each other in the numerous public fountains, school bag and all, startling the tourists. There are many children in the city, well-mannered with adults and roguish with their peers.

I am trying to get some boutiques interested in New Zealand-designed products: I have left samples of Saben bags with Colette and I am to meet the man in charge of the Beaubourg design boutique. Shops and stores are abundantly stocked, but my interest is not in shopping.

I have accomplished my pilgrimage to the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute), on the Seine riverbank. The strictly modernist construction made of glass and aluminium brings together architectural concepts of the Orient and the Occident. The southern facade consists of 240 moucharabiehs, with an electronically operated mechanism. The purpose of the Institute is to promote the Arab culture amongst the French and European public. Not to be missed.

The Arab culture was already very present when I left France, nearly 20 years ago. When asked what I missed about France, that was what first came to my mind: the constant chatter of Arab acquaintances, the music - particularly the Rai modern music - couscous and mint tea.

Rai music has many big hits with the French public that are unknown elsewhere, from artists such as Cheb Khaled and Rachid Taha. And yes, there are conflicts and racism, though the present conflict is internal to the Arab community, brought to the surface by the beurettes (young Arab women, French born and bred) and their ni putes ni soumises faction ("neither whores, nor submitted"). Courageous girls, when you hear the threat and violence they can be submitted to at home.

Salam aleikoum and with love...