Director of Maison des Metallos:The process of art creation is like creating a human being [Archives:2005/880/Culture]

September 26 2005
French and Yemeni musicians play music and sing at a concert in the garden of the French Cultural Center
French and Yemeni musicians play music and sing at a concert in the garden of the French Cultural Center
Mr. Gerard Paquet, director of Maison des Metallos, visited Yemen last Week. He imparted to us not only the purpose of his visit but also his lifetime commitment. Through a cosmopolitan outlook, he hopes to find our world positively changed. One can find his philosophy to be appealing as it counts on human and artistic values and a good deal of pacifism. As he describes himself, he is a “dreamer,” whose dreams usually come true.

Old cooperation:

He told the Yemen Times that this is not the first visit for him to Yemen. The first was a little more than one year ago, namely in last June when he came with a few friends invited by the Municipality of Sana'a and the French Embassy. The purpose of the first visit was to see what to do in different fields – cultural, and artistic as well as fields that have to do with light design and metropolitan planning.

He said, “The Mayor of Sana'a wanted to see how the municipalities of Paris and Sana'a could communicate as there has been partnership between Sana'a and Paris initiated a long time ago. The agreement was signed by Mr. Jaques Chirac when he was the Mayor of Paris.” He said that nothing pertaining to that agreement has been realized since then.

“I came back to Paris and made proposals but things in Paris, as in any other place, are very slow. Therefore, I decided to take the initiative and start the action from my cultural establishment I own in Paris, 'Maison des Metallos'. We started and decided to build a relationship between the Sana'a-based French Cultural Center and our house, “Maison des Mettalos.”

They started doing things through especially music, working for a long time. He went on narrating, “I believe in long and not in short things. Musicians from my cultural house came several times to Sana'a. They managed to find musical pieces that would be palatable to both Yemeni and French audiences. The leader of our choral put the music into notes and, working along with Yemeni musicians, performed a concert in Paris. That showed the emotional and artistic value as well as the human quality of the work. I was very moved myself at the Paris concert particularly when I saw Yemenis who live in France crying.”

At one of the concerts organized at the French Cultural Center in Sana'a, a congregation gathered in the garden of the Center to listen to Yemeni songs performed by French artists and French songs performed by Yemeni chorals. That drew cheers and applause from the audience who were ecstatic and jubilant at the merge.

A purposeful initiative:

The initiative has a purpose. According to Mr. Paquet, it is not just doing things for doing things. “When you really do things together with your head, heart and sensitivity, then you start to know each other and then all the barriers that exist in our minds, not necessarily immediately, will vanish. So, each has to start.”

In his last visit, he came with an architect, an urbanist, and a light designer. They had an appointment with Sana'a Mayor and discussed cooperation in technical fields. “As far as light design goes, there is a big project by Sana'a Municipality to illuminate the Old City of Sana'a. The light designer we brought is very famous. He is the one who made the lighting of the last Olympic games in Athens. He is going to make proposals for the lights. He lived in Algeria and he knows that there is a deeply rooted light design tradition in the Arab World. He is not going to propose for Sana'a the same thing as, for example, Paris. There will be something creative and characteristic of Arab tradition; an invention of something that will make sense and is very seldom done in the whole world.

The value of togetherness:

“I told the Mayor and the French Ambassador that what we are going to do, if this is done and if the Mayor decides it, is more than to do it. What is more important is that the achievement will set an example. I strongly believe that all over the world this is the way to try to do things, TOGETHER. Everyone means what he is with his own history, culture, what he is as a man, woman, society. Yet, we have to live all together on the same planet. We have to find the way to link together, to create a common space and a common story. That has to do with the story in our head about what a human being is, individually, socially and spiritually. I think that the process of art creation is like and is a metaphor of the process of creating a human being.

“This is one step after another. There have been possible and impossible things because of Yemeni and French reasons. Usually I say I never hurry because I have no time to lose. We are in a world where everything is done hastily. Afterwards, one look and find nothing except for bad things of course – suffering, wars, death, terrible things, etc. We will take time and invest in a human point of view. We will make mistakes on the road. Everyone does. But we do better the next time. We need to find the way to link all together with confidence. One has to have confidence and infuse confidence in those he is working with. This is the only way to build on a human point of view.”

He believes that even the dreams we can have together. “As I told the Mayor, I am like Martin Luther King, 'I made a dream and usually my dreams come true.' Usually in the world, we oppose dreams and reality. They actually are not opposites. However, they are interlinked. Dreams are the source of life because they deal with imagination and spirituality and help you project. But then we have to work diligently and confidently with all your senses. A part of my dream is to expand the cultural concerts into big open ones attended by thousands of people and enlivened by Yemenis, French and people from all places.”

The Roads of Peace:

His conviction is that we are in a world that changes very fast but the inhabitants of this planet have to be together. “The information travels marvelously instantly from one end to another end of the world. We are a mass of about six billion people. There are difficult times ahead of us for several reasons: wars, ecological problems, natural resource crisis, etc.”

Mr. Paquet thinks that we have probably to invent a way to live together, which may be very different from all the models we have, both traditional or so-called modern. Through a project he called the Roads of Peace, he expresses practically his conviction that the exchange between people via artistic, scientific and intellectual sorts of activities, people can coin that model.

“As it has kept strong traditions, your country can teach us a lot of things. What we have to invent is to link all together very old tradition through which human beings really got up and we have to face all those new things that encounter us as a process of artistic creation. All those things have to be merged by human beings by means of work and interchange. We – I don't know where, when and how; no one can tell – have to work on those roads to make sure that this model can emerge and exist. You cannot decide in advance which one it is. It will be the result of a countless number of communications and exchanges. Great projects start with small things and then grow up slowly. When you plant something, it sprouts slowly. You cannot eat without the natural rhythm and tempo. The same thing applies to music and social life.

“I pondered on the world and tried to understand the world the way it is. Seeing it, I said to myself if we keep on this way, we are going to organize our desperation. I don't find this very exciting. Should I just look at it? No. I should do something. I always think that one has to take their own responsibility. Most barriers and all the conflicts and wars always start in the heads of people. This shows that the example of dialogue is feasible and that the dialogue on a human and artistic perspective is possible. Although slowly, but with tenacity and strong will and quietly, we will prevail.”

The text of the Roads of Peace was written early this summer. It is going to be published in a book at the end of the year or the beginning of next year. “The Roads of Peace” is the title of his book, his conviction and the action he is going to lead. He welcomes Yemenis to contribute to this project.

Opinionated people:

Mr. Paquet expressed his being very deeply irritated by the misery and suffering of people but the real cause for his “The Roads of Peace” is the fact that “each one believes he is right. We have to share the truth. There is no other way.”

He describes the dialogue between the orient and the occident as a necessity but do not believe in conventional ways of dialogue. “Some think this [dialogue] should be tackled at international political and economic conferences. I am not sure this is going to work. I have my own outlook on real things. What is real is what you see. Beyond that is dense invisibility where life finds its way.

“Each of us has responsibility for what is going to happen. All of us have power if we DECIDE. Most of the archetypes such as the political and economic theories have proved themselves to be a failure. We don't know yet what works well. Nevertheless, I say put your stone beside mine to build the desired model. I'll bet that millions around the world think the way I do. They aspire to a world with peace where we have security and normal life. The art process is a very good metaphor of human creation.

At the end of his talk, Mr. Paquet expressed his happiness to be in Yemen, “Land des Saba”. He congratulated Yemenis on the occasion of the 26th of September Revolution which set Yemen on “the right path and in the right direction.”