Exposer le patrimoine immatériel dans un musée ? L’expérience “Paroles d’Afrique“

Abstract : Exhibiting intangible heritage in a museum? The “Words of Africa” experience Sandra Bornand (CNRS, UMR 8135) et Cécile Leguy (Université Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle, EA 2288) If ethnographic museums in their current state harm to our science, it is because they perpetuate the old illusion that knowledge of material objects is what matters most. (Van Gennep 1914: 21) We will focus on this aspect of researchers’ work that is now called ‘outreach’, and more specifically on the experience of an exhibition at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Bordeaux which was devoted to “Words of Africa” and offered to the public during the year 2012-2013. This exhibition was curated by two specialists of African oral literature with the help of a team of colleagues. Its purpose was to question the social, cultural and political features of words – both oral and written – on the African continent. As a venue for popular education, a museum is also an instrument for intercultural awareness. In this two-voice paper, we will present the main characteristics of the project, assess it and, in a reflective perspective, address the two following points: -How can the intangible be exhibited? It is a real museographic challenge to not only exhibit words and materialize the intangible, but also make visitors feel the words’ effects through sounds, images and objects. -How can we share with the public our questions about the diverse and complex ways contemporary African societies understand, organize, preserve and enhance this intangible heritage par excellence that words are? How do we establish a dialogue with the public – specialists or neophytes, adults or children – and offer a different perspective on “African” words in order to deconstruct, one by one, the many clichés often evoked? These two issues are closely related, for scenography is a construction, a representation of the world proposed to the public. « Museums are now involved in the definition of what constitutes “cultures, assigning a greater or lesser importance to one or another of its aspects based on their implicit or explicit systems of values. » (NOTRE DIVERSITE CREATRICE 1996: 203 in Deubler Ziegler and Perret, 2005: 38) In these times of isolationism and political tension in France and Europe, an exhibition entitled “Words of Africa” can only deconstruct essentialist conceptions of culture. This aim is reached through a scenography in the service of reflection. This is the reason why we chose to complete our “outlined” journey with a room where the two continents dialogue. It shows that word notions and learning processes, which have demonstrated their effectiveness in the African societies where they originate, can be brought to Western societies in need of social ties, including within the school system. Bibliography Deubler Zieger Erica et Geneviève Perret, 2005, « L’autre, une construction permanente » in E. Deubler Ziegler et G. Perret (éds), Nous autres », Musée d’Ethnographie (coll. « Tabou »), Genève, pp. 13-41. Van Gennep Arnold, 1914, Religions, mœurs et légendes : essais d’ethnographie et de linguistique, Paris, Mercure de France.
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Sandra Bornand, Cécile Leguy. Exposer le patrimoine immatériel dans un musée ? L’expérience “Paroles d’Afrique“. 10th Conference of International Society for the Oral African Literatures, ISOLA, Jun 2014, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. ⟨halshs-01185898⟩

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