How can a national narrative overtake history and charm an audience ?

Project Description:

“Our ancestors the Gauls were tall, had blue eyes, blond hair and a thick, drooping mustache” is what French pupils in elementary school during the Third Republic learned in their history books. This sentence seems problematic today for many reasons, notably multicultural and multiethnic, however, it is still part of the political landscape. Numerous French political figures such as Nicolas Sarkozy, Marine Le Pen, Charles de Gaulle and very recently Emmanuel Macron have mentioned the Gaul, presenting him as this unique and absolute original ancestor, with a proud and warlike temperament. Unfortunately there appears to be temptation to be charmed by a valiant and romantic heritage, although this vision of the past excludes many. Pandering to a vision of a white, blond-haired, clear-eyed representative historic figure is not accessible to all.

This is the whole point of the affair: that a simple and naive illustration of a Gallic camp in a school textbook can be extrapolated into a national identity crisis, fanning anger and social fractures around a nostalgic mirage. 

After having met different actors within historical institutions, such as a lecturer and guide of an archaeological museum, an archeologist, a history teacher of secondary school and actor of historical reenactments, the great druid of Brittany or a specialist of foundation stories – the versatility of history was then revealed in multiple aspects: history as spectacle and entertainment, as a trace of a memory that is as objective as it is subjective, as between spirituality, popular culture and national narrative – questioning the very fact of who owns the knowledge of history.

“Nos ancêtres les Gaulois” – Non-historical reenactments makes use of the malleability of history, and takes advantage of the subjectivity of national narratives to slip in an alternative version of the heritage of France. Challenging the power structures of historical and cultural knowledge and its transmission through educational tools such as textbooks, documentaries and archaeological museum scenographies, the project plays on the identity of the Gaul, and will be a romantic, de-virilised being, reinterpreting archaeological objects intended for warrior chariots for head jewellery and turning his famous braid into a hair monument. 

This recovery of historical narratives allows us to ask the question: how do we represent a future we want to live in?


To view the project video, click here