Kenya: My report on Nairobi Drums Jam on Canal+

Here is the report I was mentioning a few days ago.

The Kenya story is @ 8min50, at the end of the first part. More comments at the beginning of the 2nd part.

A French show but my report is in English with subtitles:


I found the event, filmed and interviewed the drummers and organisers.

Here is an introduction about the show in French:


+D'AFRIQUE est le rendez-vous hebdomadaire du samedi soir (20H20 UTC) sur CANAL+ AFRIQUE. +D'AFRIQUE est composée d'une équipe de journalistes, chroniqueurs, et humoristes, tous originaires d'Afrique. Autour du "capitaine" de l'émission, le charismatique Robert Brazza, l'équipe de chroniqueurs apportera du décalage, du rire, mais aussi leur sensibilité culturelle et parfois même de la folie !
Ensemble, ils accueillent sur le plateau de l'émission deux invités par semaine ayant un lien très fort avec l'Afrique. Ces invités viennent du monde culturel, sportif, économique ou associatif. Avec un regard neuf, et avec humour, ils échangent sur l'Afrique qui bouge, celle qui avance, qui crée et qui rayonne, tout en se penchant sur l'actualité des invités.
Différentes chroniques et reportages viennent ponctuer l'émission avec, au programme, les lieux tendances à découvrir, les destin africains à connaître, le portrait d'un artiste, et l'actualité africaine sociales, culturelle et économique décryptée. Sans oublier la musique, l'humour, les coups de coeur ou les coups de gueule...
+D'AFRIQUE est LE rendez-vous de CANAL+ AFRIQUE où humour, actualité et culture riment ensemble pour offrir un programme répondant aux attentes des téléspectateurs du continent africain.




Leaving Liberia

After ten days, it is time to say goodbye to Liberia.

I have a large stock of photos, vivid memories, and I've met so many incredible people and gifted journalists. I am just greatful.

As I thought, being a trainer for a journalism programme was a highly teaching experience! I have been able to move around all of Monrovia and to go out of the capital, on the southern coast, along with a team a local reporters, which was an eye-opening though short visit.

I will post more about this trip back home... 

I have now set a foot in North, South, East and West Africa, thanks to this trip. I guess central Africa is the natural next step.

Liberia, it was great meeting you and I know I will be back.
Best of luck.


Nairobi Drum Festival on TV

Dear Kenyans and Kenya's friends, my TV story on Nairobi Drum Festival is on air this week on Canal+ Horizon. 

It is in French on the French programme ‘Plus d’Afrique’.

You can find more details here:
And the video will be online on their website next week. 
Here is the introduction in French:
Au Michael Joseph Center, un lieu dédié à la culture à Nairobi, se tient Le Drum Jam Festival, un événement spectaculaire autour de l’art de la percussion. Devant un public connaisseur, des batteurs et des percussionnistes rivalisent de talent en des jam sessions donnant libre cours à l’improvisation. Le festival offre l’occasion à certains batteurs de tâter du tambour et aux percussionnistes de s’initier à la batterie, chacun tirant de l’expérience une meilleure maîtrise de cet art. Des musiciens prestigieux prennent régulièrement part à ces jam sessions comme Gogosimo, Ricky Na marafiki, Usual Suspects ou Afro Simba.


Never Let Me Go...

I love this song so much I feel like posting its lyrics...

Here is the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMBTvuUlm98

Lyrics below.


Never Let Me Go

Florence And The Machine

Looking out from underneath,
Fractured moonlight on the sea
Reflections still look the same to me,
As before I went under.

And it's peaceful in the deep,
Cathedral where you cannot breathe,
No need to pray, no need to speak
Now I am under.

And it's breaking over me,
A thousand miles onto the sea bed,
Found the place to rest my head.

Never let me go, never let me go.
Never let me go, never let me go.

And the arms of the ocean are carrying me,
And all this devotion was rushing out of me,
And the crashes are heaven, for a sinner like me,
The arms of the ocean deliver me.

Though the pressure's hard to take,
It's the only way I can escape,
It seems a heavy choice to make,
Now I am under.

And it's breaking over me,
A thousand miles down to the sea bed,
Found the place to rest my head.

Never let me go, never let me go.
Never let me go, never let me go.

And the arms of the ocean are carrying me,
And all this devotion was rushing out of me,
And the crashes are heaven, for a sinner like me,
The arms of the ocean deliver me.

And it's over,
And I'm going under,
But I'm not giving up!
I'm just giving in.

Oh, slipping underneath.
Oh, so cold, but so sweet.

In the arms of the ocean, so sweet and so cold,
And all this devotion I never knew at all,
And the crashes are Heaven, for a sinner released,
And the arms of the ocean,
Deliver me.

Never let me go, never let me go.
Never let me go, never let me go.

Deliver me.

Never let me go, never let me go.
Never let me go, never let me go.

Deliver me.

Never let me go, never let me go.
Never let me go, never let me go.

Never let me go, never let me go.
Never let me go, never let me go.

And it's over,
And I'm goin' under,
But I'm not givin' up!
I'm just givin' in.

Oh, slipping underneath.
Oh, so cold, but so sweet

Algeria and France - 1962/2012

I am still in Liberia but this week is also published my story about Algeria's independence, 50 years later, and the commemorations in the country and in France.

Here is a link:



Algeria – 50 years – France
Melissa Chemam
Think Africa Press

March 19th commemorates the 50 years anniversary of the ‘Accords d’Evian’, the Evian agreements, which put an end to what is rarely called in France but is the Algerian War.
The Algerian War, or Algerian Revolution as it is usually referred to on the Algerian side, opposed France and Algerian independence movements from 1954 to 1962, and led to Algeria’s independence from France, officially from July 1962.

Despite the anniversary, it is not very much discussed in France and even less taught in French schools but it was objectively one of the important decolonisation wars. The war was even one of the most bloody colonial struggles ever, according to specialists.  

And as the historian Guy Perville stated it in his essay ‘Pour une histoire de la guerre d´Algérie’, ‘For a history of the Algerian War’, it was also a civil war between loyalist Algerians who believed in a French Algeria and insurrectionist Muslim Algerians (chap. "Une double guerre civile", Picard, 2002, pp.132–139). And during its final months, the conflict also evolved into a French civil war between pro-French hardliners in Algeria and supporters of General Charles de Gaulle who saw from 1960 that the independence was unavoidable.

As the BBC World Service stated in 1999, France has only started re-writing one of the most painful periods of its history in the past 15 years, first “by recognising that its colonial conflict in Algeria was, in fact, a war” in a bill setting the record straight on Algeria[1].

Discreet commemorations, intense reflections

But nowadays, the current French government is not really vocal about the Algeria’s 50 years of independence’s anniversary. Luckily for both parties, historians and media are a little more. And this month of March will be a high moment of reflection as many documentary films and books are to get out.

As the French-German television channel ARTE has scheduled a broadcast of the famous “Battle of Algiers” on March 12, and of a historical film realised by historian Benjamin Stora and filmmaker Jean-Michel Meurice, it is Benjamin Stora again who directed with filmmaker Gabriel Le Bomin the two-parts documentary “La Déchirure’’ that is currently broadcast on the public channel France 2 on Sunday evenings, March the 11th and 19th.

The two-hour film wants to give an “objective and panoptic vision of the conflict”, as it has almost never been before, explains historian Benjamin Stora. It is only based on television archives, with no interview but a very well written voiced commentary. The historian and his filmmaker partner have wanted to cover the whole duration of the conflict and in an accessible way for all form of publics. Stora even considers that the Algerian war is a pattern that can allow us to re-read our own time, culture and international relations, between Europe and Africa. Indeed, it “represents a matrix of our era with the end of the colonial enterprise and the redeployment of France towards Europe instead of Africa”, he insists, presenting the documentary in France 2’ producers. And, indeed, the war all happened while and in spite of the change from the fourth to the fifth Republic in France, and no one can deny the war had a huge impact in this political collapse of French institutions during the year 1958.
The film successfully manages to take the audience on a journey from the rise of the Aures in the autumn 1954 to the Algerian independence in July 1962, through the key events, battles and turning point of the conflict, thanks to a choice of lively and striking video archives and the beautiful writing of the commentary, read by the famous French-Algerian actor Kad Merad, whose father is Algerian and mother French.  The dynamic tale of the main political and military events quickly brings us to the high and turning point where French General Charles de Gaulle came to power while the collapsing Fourth Republic was troubled by the Putsch des Generaux, the French Algerian army’s military coup attempt.
Benjamin Stora is also very much aware of the fact that the war did not end on the historical or political consensus and that this leaves the wounds very much open, until today, on both French and Algerian side.

From the historians’ notebooks to the political scene

Other events are also commemorating the anniversary of the Algerian independence in France in order to work on a better understanding of this painful part of the two countries’ history, including the exhibition “La Guerre d'Algérie, images et representations” (Algerian War, images and representations) at the Forum des images in Paris in February or the novel “L'Art français de la guerre” (The French Art of War) by writer Alexis Jenni.

Books have also made their way into the French bookstores for once like the beautiful “L'Algérie en couleurs”, by Slimane Zeghidour and Tramor Quemeneur
(Editions Les Arènes
), containing 350 unreleased photographs taken by Algerian war French soldiers between 1954 and 1962, or 'Algéries 50' at Magellan Editions, directed by Yahia Belaskri et Elisabeth Lesne and gathering contributions from 25 writers from Algeria and France about Algeria in the past 50 years.


The national radio station France Culture is also devoting 24 hours of programmes to the Algerian independence, partly broadcasting from Algiers for the occasion from Friday March 16.


And the commemoration - despite the discretion on both official sides - has started to enter the political agenda, at least in France, where a few events are - despite the general political silence - scheduled for the whole first semester of the year.
According to some Algerian columnists and intellectuals, the appalling discretion on the anniversary from both countries has a few heavy reasons: the electoral presidential campaign in France is one of the biggest, along with the upcoming North African country's legislative elections in May, the impossibility for French leaders to recognise past mistakes, the general political and economic crisis in Europe and the frozen social scene in Algeria – which does not wish to generate more fuss than 2011 already brought in North Africa… And then, of course, for now no common event has been scheduled.

Despite the quietness, on March 9th, French President Sarkozy, campaigning in Nice in South-eastern France, met some former ‘Pieds noirs’ – nicknames that still designate the Europeans form colonial French Algeria. And he did not hesitate to state again that according to him France did not have to apologise for the Algerian war, condemning “atrocities and violence”, still. He had however promised in 2007, during his presidential campaign, to recognise – at least - the French responsibility in the abandoning of Algerian ‘harkis’, those Muslims who fought in favour of the French rule.
It therefore definitely seems that neither Algeria nor France’s politics are ready to talk openly about their common past, even 50 years after the end of the war. But luckily for us, other voices are loud enough.

[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/365868.stm


Kenya: General Elections in March 2013... or December 2012?

The Debate over the election date in Kenya continues...
Kenya's National Civil Society Congress (NCSC) has called on President President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to dissolve their Grand Coalition Government by Oct 19, 2012, to enable Kenyans to go to the polls in December.
They claim it is the timeline preferred by the majority of the people.
 - -
The electoral team has also set December 17 as an alternative date if it is forced by either arms of the government to reverse its decision to hold the General Election on March 4, 2013.
- -
 To be continued...

Kenya: General Elections on March the 4th, 2013?

Kenya polls body sets elections date

 Monday, March 19  2012 at  00:00

The Monitor

In Summary: Voting date. The electoral commission has announced that the general elections will be held on March 4.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has announced that the next General Election will be held in March 2013.

IEBC chairman Issack Hassan said his Commission has been “compelled” to set the March 4 date since President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have failed to agree on a date as set out in a court ruling.
“....the Commission hereby announces that the general elections will be held on Monday, March 4, 2013,” said Mr Hassan during a news conference in Nairobi on Saturday.
He said before setting the date, the IEBC had consulted widely including approaching the principals with a view to them agreeing, in writing, to dissolve the Coalition Government and precipitate an election within 60 days. However, Mr Hassan said, the President and Mr Odinga differed.
“The Commission has consulted widely within and without, and in particular, it has consulted the two Principals with a view to actualise Option A of the Court Judgement,” said the IEBC boss.

“It should be understood that this Commission has repeatedly stated that it is ready to conduct the general elections in December 2012. However, after these consultations, it has become clear to the Commission that there is no agreement between the Principals as required by the Court Judgement under Option A.”

“In the circumstances, the Commission is compelled to proceed with Option B of the Court Judgement which requires that we fix an election date within 60 days from the expiry of the term of the 10th Parliament,” said Mr Hassan.
He said in setting the March date, the Commission had considered several electoral processes including requirement that political parties comply with the Political Parties Act 2011 by April; need for public officers intending to contest in the polls to resign at least eight months before elections; mapping of new electoral units; voter education; inspection of voters’ register and procurement of electoral material.
“We appreciate and understand that there are Kenyans who may have preferred an earlier election date, but we call upon Kenyans to be understanding and support the commission in delivering a peaceful, free, fair and credible election,” said Mr Hassan.
The electoral commission’s announcement came just hours after Mr Odinga said he preferred a December election.

In a statement, the premier said calls for elections next year in March were misplaced and such a move would prolong the life of Parliament beyond its current term.

“The Prime Minister prefers December to any other date for elections because it is a date Kenyans are familiar with and used to. All elections since 1992 have been held in December,” said Mr Odinga Saturday.

Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua also disagreed with the IEBC date saying it had pre-empted a pending appeal over the matter in court.

“Announcing a March poll when the appeal against election ruling is a few days away is a move to influence the outcome of the appeal,” Ms Karua said on Twitter.



First night in Monrovia

A new hotel room is never the best place to sleep soundly. 

We arrived in Monrovia Roberts International Airport - a corridor with lots of slow security checks but no chair or waiting lounge - in the middle of the night, via a Royal Air Maroc flight transiting in Casablanca.

The heat and the humidity are often the welcoming signs of tropical cities down the water; Monrovia is no exception, even at 4 am. But we were lucky enough to be properly welcomed in person by the TV direction of LBS, Liberia Broadcast Service, a charming and knowledgeable journalist of 29 years of experience who lived in exil in the USA during the Liberian War.

There are no street lights outide Monrovia's city centre, so no night picture this time...

We are taken along the dark main road from the airport to the Golden Gate Hotel, who partly holds the right name for it is definitely gated... A heavy military-like gate and trucks and security agents guard the entrance. 

As usual, while travelling, while arriving in a new place, I cannot sleep well, though I know we have a busy six-day-work-week ahead of us. Too much to anticipate, to much to compare from the read and listened to knowledge of Liberia I have had for years and what began tonight to be a reality I am experiencing of this very special country.

Liberia, the word carries this strange mix of Liberty and USA, like the country's flag displays stripes and a star... And yet what most people know of Liberia is the monstrous civil war than turned the nation into bloodsheds of nightmare. The country is Africa's oldest republic, founded by former American black slaves and local indigenous populations in order to built a new kind of nation. And yet again, as other striking exemples of hope around the world, it had to go through a dark and wounded path. I cannot say I am not thinking of other countries I know toO well... 

You are never more alive than after death and a rebirth...

Nevertheless, when arriving in Monrovia what dominates the senses is the striking sunlight and the humid warmth, aren't those a source of life and joy?

Later today we are to meet our fellow journalist again and to talk about visiting the national radio newsroom and meeting the future TV staff team. I hope we will also so have time to have a glance on Monrovia's streets, the one I dreamt about all of last year, in Nairobi, while daily passing by on Monrovia Street, the heart of the Kenyan capital's city centre...



Back on the African trail

I am based in Europe but I work and write about Africa.

The recent video Kony 2012 sparked a crazy and bubbling spell of reactions on Uganda and the LRA but really, it is difficult to write an article on the issue that could now bring a little more clarity, or to find one!

I have been to Uganda twice, last year during the presidential election in February and later in April, I visited the NorthErn towns of Lira and Guru where the LRA used to be active. All I can say here is that the area is now living again a normal daily life, where farmers have started to grow organic vegetables in order to feed their families and to earn a living. The LRA time is behind them, even though not forgotten or forgiven, but as we can all see from recent interviews, the people of Northen Uganda do not endorse the Kony 2012 video and do not trust those kinds of movements to do any good for their country.


In the meantime, I am myself writing a story on Algeria, ahead of the 50th anniversary of its independence from France. I should be able to post a link this week. March 19th commemorates the Evian agreements that put an end to the Algerian war. It will be the first time I write an article about it, a first breach into the mysterious and thick past... I hope it will help some to get a better insight into French-Algerian relations today.


Then it will be time to leave for Africa again. This time, I am heading to Liberia, Monrovia for twelve days.

I will get back to it.

''Africa is the future''...

On David Hockney

Melissa Chemam on Twitter (@melissachemam)
3/15/12 8:42 AM

I loved it so much, i wrote about it. RT via @laboiteasorties La Royal Academy de Londres consacre David Hockney – tinyurl.com/7zabvbq

My recent article on the Royal Academy of Arts' exhibition of David Hockney's recent painting. It is in French for a website dedicated to culture and arts...



15 mars 2012
Première rétrospective du genre consacrée aux toiles récentes de l’artiste, l’exposition de la Royal Academy consacrée au peintre britannique contemporain David Hockney signe une consécration sans égale pour l’artiste de 74 ans, encore très prolifique. Elle rassemble des œuvres achevées entre 2006 et fin 2011, célébrant l’éternel motif paysager et la gloire des couleurs, dans une pulsion créatrice enthousiaste aux croisements de l’art contemporain et des traditions impressionnistes et « maitres anciens ». Une des grandes expositions qui a donné le coup d’envoi de l’année culturelle olympique de la capitale britannique – à suivre.
Les grands artistes bénéficient souvent du temps, pour jouer de leurs tournants et revirement et régulièrement se réinventer. David Hockney, icône britannique du Pop Art dans les années 1970, orfèvre du paysage sur toile géante, apparaît désormais aussi comme un maitre du figuratif, renouvelé par un regard rétrospectif sur son pays d’origine, le Yorkshire. Après avoir passé plusieurs décennies à Los Angeles à partir de 1964, Hockney s’est inspiré ces dernières années des paysages champêtres de sa campagne anglaise natale dans laquelle il s’est réinstallé en 2005. Mais à travers ces toiles – présentées en ce moment à la Royal Academy of Art de Londres, l’artiste dépasse largement le figuratif pour transcender l’art de la représentation paysagère via son gigantisme et ses couleurs audacieuses. Datant essentiellement de 2006 à décembre 2011, soit pour certains seulement quelques semaines avant l’installation de l’exposition, ces tableaux offrent un exemple de cohérence picturale, dans les thèmes comme dans les choix esthétiques, d’une intensité rare.
La plupart des salles présentent de très grands formats de Hockney, reposant souvent eux-mêmes sur un principe de composition de plusieurs toiles assemblées en modèles géants, composés comme A Closer Winter Tunnel de six tableaux, ou encore dans le sublime Sermon on the Mount – A Bigger Message (salle 10 de l’exposition, 2010) de trente toiles assemblées en une massive œuvre… La plupart de ces tableaux étant d’ailleurs exposés pour la première fois. Le musée britannique a également réunis des aquarelles – des paysages aussi inspirés par la campagne du Yorkshire – ainsi que des carnets de croquis de l’artiste, des vidéos et des dessins réalisés – dernier cri de modernité – sur une tablette numérique. La dernière salle réunit enfin des toiles d’envergure inspirées par les paysages éternels du parc américain du Yosemite, dans le grand ouest états-unis.
Le but de la Royal Academy est d’ainsi mettre en avant « l’engagement émotif » de l’artiste dans des paysages qu’il connaît et a côtoyés depuis sa plus tendre enfance. Né en 1937 à Bradford, dans l’est du Yorkshire, Angleterre, David Hockney a en effet grandi dans la région avant de se rendre au Royal College of Art de Londres en 1959. Il a alors connu le succès dès le début des années 1960, participant ainsi aux débuts du British Pop Art. La fin des années 60 le voit installé pour un bon moment en Californie et dans la veine colorée et lumineuse mais déjà paysagiste de ce mouvement bruyant et mondialement exploré.
A travers cette dernière exposition, les figures de l’arbre, du sous-bois, de la floraison, et des chemins étroits jonglent avec la thématique des quatre saisons, triomphant dans le projet de la salle 9 de l’Académie consacrée à l’étude de l’arrivée du printemps, The Arrival of Spring in Woodgate, comprenant 51 imprimés et une toile géante composée de 32 tableaux. Ils ont été réalisés entre début janvier et fin mai 2011 à partir de la représentation d’un seul et même chemin de la petite bourgade de Woodgate, évoluant sous les pinceaux de Hockney de la mortification de l’hiver à l’éblouissement d’une nature pré-estivale. Le tout offre également un triomphe visuel des couleurs qui virevoltent entre les verts les plus variés et se mêlent de lavandes subtiles, de violets éclatants et d’ocres intenses dans un défilé à la palette aussi large qu’imaginable.
La toile titre Winter Timber, le ‘bois d’hiver’, aux couleurs criardes et aux traits lourds, et la série inspirée de la toile biblique du français Claude Lorrain datant de 1656, Le Sermont sur la montagne, viennent apporter une vague d’hétéroclisme à ce cheminement champêtre.
Le tout donne un immense défi à l’histoire de la peinture contemporaine récente, nie les excès de l’abstraction et du Pop Art dont Hockney lui-même a été l’un des totems vivants…
A presque 75 ans, David Hockney présente ainsi un visage plus que jamais décomplexé et maitrisé de ses œuvres, d’ailleurs au sommet de leur énergie et de leur élan, et une créativité à l’opposé de celle des Young British Artists qui font la jeune génération d’artistes du pays emportée par le mondialement connu Damien Hirst – qui fera lui l’objet d’une exposition au moins autant attendue à la Tate Modern à partir d’avril prochain .
Melissa Chemam
Photo : David Hockney, ‘Woldgate Woods, 21, 23 & 29 November 2006’, 2006. Oil on 6 canvases. 182 x 366 cm. Courtesy of the Artist. © David Hockney. Photo credit: Richard Schmidt


Hello London Folks!

It's almost spring and it's a blooming artistic season so what else than a little London break for this week?

On my to-do-list, friends and art galleries, among which Lucian Freud at the National Portrait Gallery, German art at Saatchi Gallery and the latest events at the Whitechapel. A little tour from Hampstead to Kensington via East London.

That's for today. Tomorrow is another day and should be enlightend by David Hockney at the Royal Academy.

Join me if you can...


March 8...

Paris, France, March 8, 2012

After a short break in Berlin, an intense trip to Kenya, and a marvellous discovevy of the Southeastern part of India, I am now back in my hometown, Paris, France. And it is a time of many anniversaries.

As you know, March 8 is the International Day of Women. I do believe that picking one day to celebrate and defend half of humanity is ridiculous and even insulting, but if some intitiatives can help some women somewhere, why not?

As for me March 8 was absolutely a day of liberation, once, in 2002, when I pass the written test to enter in Sciences Po Master of International Relations and Journalism, thanks to a history dissertation on Women in the political and social scene in France throughout the 20th century...

Since then, March 8 remains a special day for me and a metaphor of personal empowerment. As you may imagine, few people at the time thought I could pass the test, as a humble granted student from a low incomes immigrant family... But the topic of women in French history came just on time on the right day to help me show the French University world that it was actually possible.

 Then again, early March brought me another breakthrough in 2008. It is the date when I moved to the US, to Miami specifically, to be on the continent during the presidential campaign that brought Barack Obama to the White House and myself on the roads of the world. The best decision I ever took was to leave the France 24 newsroom in Paris and to become a foreign correspondent! I thus managed to make my dream of a life of travels come true.

So today I'm in Paris but it's only my base for now.

 This weekend I'll be back in London and next week I'll be back in Africa if all goes well.

And there are only more travels ahead...

"I must be gone and live, or stay and die"... On travels and literature

     Travels are privileged times. And reading is the ultimate privilege of patient travellers.

While on the roads of South India, I took many buses, on rides that took hours and even nights, and I stayed alone in quite a few guesthouses and restaurants. Therefore my cherished companions were mainly books, novels, guides and one travel literature masterpiece.


My first choice was a personal one, a novel by Jack Kerouac I came across on a London bookshop, down the Old Street Tube Station, Camden Locks Books. Not 'On the Road', his well-know masterpiece, but 'The Subterraneans', a short novel remaining as a embodiment of the unique Beat Generation writing years. Its unseen and revolutionary style, its singled out voice and its peculiar topics - unprecedented for the times - are more than ever noticeable nowadays and made the novel become right away one of my favourite texts of the American literature I came across.


The second one started with a memorable quote: "I must be gone and live, or stay and die" (Romeo, in 'Romeo and Juliet', Act 3, Scene 5, by William Shakespeare). As in the Epigraph of 'The Way of the World', by Nicolas Bouvier.

Nicolas Bouvier was a Swiss traveller and writer who wandered on the Eastern routes in the 1950s, crossing the Balkans, Turkey, Iran and India, while the Cold War was only starting. And from these journeys, he brought back some amazing words. 'The Way of the World' was published in 1963 and written in French, and is still considered as a masterpiece of travel literature. It recounts of a journey taking Bouvier and his painter friend Thierry from Serbia to the gates of India, mainly through the Balkans, Turkey, the Caucasus and Iran.

I can confirm there is a great feeling of inspiration coming from reading travel literature on the road. For at least you know one person understood the depth than can come from what others only sees as a running-away bad habit... For most people believe, as a French man once told me, that "to leave is to die a little", as the Edmond Haraucourt's (1857-1941) poem 'Rondel de l'adieu' stated in its first verse, becoming a common French adage. I, on the contrary, strongly believe there is no life without movement, and travel is an essence of life. 


Stopping for a while in Auroville, Sri Aurobindo and Mira Alfassa's dreamt and utopian city located in the very heart of India's Tamil Nadu, I encountered a new classic, the 'Letters from Africa' by the great Karen Blixen. The correspondence of the Danish writer with her mother, her brother and her closest ones in Denmark offers a direct insight into Blixen's life in her African farm on the Ngong Hills in Kenya from the 1910s to the 1930s and marvellously complete her unforgettable novel 'Out of Africa'

Since Nairobi has become one of my favourite places among all the cities I have been lucky to live in, this text could only feel very special to me. Reading them while away on my first trip to Asia, a few weeks away only from my latest journey in Kenya - last January - these letters have open a long list of reflections in my thoughts and considerations of this new year, a year already dedicated to travelling and reading and writing... 


Discovering South India

Some trips are simply eye-opening. I was expecting a lot of a first journey to India. First because I had been willing to travel to India since I was 19 years old... Secondly, because a dear friend of mine has been living in South India, near Pondicherry, for years. 

Towards the end of 2011, I decided 2012 would be a wonderful year of travels. It was my first resolution for the new year. In January and February, I had already traveled to Berlin, Nairobi, London and Paris, but it was not enough. The year had to start with the greatest travel of all, and it was time to make room for 'Incredible' India.

In order to spend some time in the legendary Auroville where my friend lives, I then flew to Chennai (ex-Madras) mid-February and scheduled to spend some time in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

We started the journey with my friend in Mamallapuram / Mahabalipuram, near Chennai, on the Indian Ocean for a short introduction to Tamil Nadu heat and sun and temples...

Tamil Nadu is a very special state of India, very traditional and out of time, so spiritual and colourful, I was lucky enough to travel from Chennai to Pondicherry via Auroville.

While Auroville is so uneasy to define with common words, for its unique social and spiritual experience and its international gathering of people from all over India and the world, Pondicherry is the charm itself of a middle-sized city along the ocean, enlighted by historical and especially French influences, which remain today as a positive and lovely impact.

There is nothing more agreable than a walk in the middle of Pondicherry's main market, more colourful than possible, or a ride through the white streets of the French quarter.

Before spending more time discovering more in depth Auroville, I took a week to travel to the rest of India and decided to ride by bus around Karnataka, to reach the holy temples of Hampi and the Maharajar's palace of Mysore, north and south of Bangalore.

                                                           (Hampi's main temple)

Hampi was quiet, hot and warm and so historical.

Mysore is on the contrary very busy and extremely dynamic.

Getting back to Tamil Nadu through Bangalore, I came back to spend the third week of my journey in Auroville.

But that's already another story.

More soon....