+April 26, 2019
Western urban landscapes, African masks, Noëlla L's Mask Off takes a look at the question of identity in French society. Is our cultural heritage a richness or a burden ? In the process of integration do we , children of immigrants, have to bury our cultural heritage? At first, this series was named F**K not my ethnicity a nod to a Kendrick Lamar song, but at the last moment she renamed it. If you know her work, she's more into portraits and urban photography but with this series, she wanted to go out of her comfort zone and address deeper issues ( ethnicity and national origin ) without forgetting what she likes most in photography : colours, lines and symmetry.
It’s not a secret that France has always struggled with the question of immigration or should we say its identity. In a better world, French identity today should have been redefined by France colonial past, but it’s still a challenge for many descendants of immigrants to consider themselves French.
Is there one way to be french?
How can we feel a sense of belonging to the country when we still have that otherness status? In 2010, Cris Beauchemin a researcher at the National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED), with the National Statistics Institute (INSEE), completed a multiyear study of attitudes on national origin, including immigrants from former colonies and France’s Overseas Territories. Among the study’s key findings: Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian, Sahelian African (including Sudanese), and Turkish immigrants and their children are the least likely to feel they are considered French.
Beauchemin's in-depth study that looked at 22,000 case studies showed that second-generation immigrants often fared less well than the first generation. More than half of the immigrants from Africa, even following naturalisation, "think people do not regard them as French," the study found.
Even if France's championship-winning World Cup team featured no less than 15 players with African roots, those athletes still regularly have to prove their dedication to the blue, white and red flag.
How can we honor our cultural heritage (the past) and at the same time broaden the concept of Frenchness (the present )? You can notice all those lines in Mask Off which emphasize the feeling of being at the crossroads of many cultures, many communities. She wanted to tackle all those issues with her series Mask Off, but above all, celebrate our multicultural heritage.
Text originally written by Noëlla L. and adapted.