Festival Ono’u: A Meeting of Colours

Edouard Pack from our editing team writes about an important festival happening in Tahiti this month and what it means to him.


I didn’t grow up in a particularly cultured household- we didn’t go to museums or exhibitions every weekend nor attend the opera or theatre on Friday nights. But art does exist around us, and learning how to find it and appreciate it under its different forms is enhancing and satisfying to me. Through the tahitian festival Ono’u, I had the chance to discover street art while seeing the face of Papeete being modified progressively year after year.

The name of the festival, “ONO’U”, is inspired by the fusion of the two Tahitian words “ONO” (action of joining one thing to another) and “U” (colors) to express the action of connecting a color to another and “the meeting of colors” in Tahiti through the art of graffiti.

The festival was created in 2014 by Sarah Roopinia, a young Tahitian entrepreneur who discovered Street Art while studying in Paris and Berlin. After four editions and dozens of international and local graffiti artists, Ono’u has become an important event in the world of graffiti. It is also a popular festival that has helped change the somewhat sad face of Papeete, turning the city into an open-air art gallery.


Since 2014, the festival has attracted numerous artists each year, but also a charming crowd; gathering workers stopping by during their break, students coming after school, or simple passerbys. During those ten yearly days of reshaping, the festival has often turned into a seeking game for my friends and I, walking through the city to witness the new pieces that pop up around corners, on the shop walls, or near our high school.

At a first glance, we used to gaze these ten meter high walls with artists lifted in front drawing some abstracts forms. But as days went by, the advancing street art started to take shape, the pieces of the puzzle coming together until the final work is completed. The initiative of the festival was very controversial at the beginning, with the local population being afraid of the normalisation of graffitis that would allow small “gangs” and youngsters to draw freely wherever they feel like.


But one of the announced objectives of Ono’u? To bring a form of well-being, joy and poetry into the everyday lives of Polynesians through art- a gentle escape that takes them out of their sometimes dull immediate environment and routine.

The challenge for the 6th edition of Ono’u, specially created for social housing in partnership with the Polynesian Office of the Habitat, is to transform one thousand square meters into works of art in less than 10 days. Four social residences are involved in this operation which takes place from October 15th to 25th 2019 and will allow the transformation of 7 large social housing wall façades with a selection of 9 international and local artists.

Students residence “Paraita”, by OKUDA & RIVAL

Comparing the festival Ono’u to “un été au Havre”, I am thrilled of the ephemerality of both events, attracting people because of their limited presence, but at the same time leaving the remaining works of past editions which continue to adorn the cities, giving a charm to them.

On the occasion of the celebration of Le Havre’s 500th anniversary in 2017, Jace, a Le Havre-borned street artist called on Thai artist Alex Face to create this collaborative work. The piquant meeting of two emblematic characters of street art, the gouzou and the famous childish character in the costume of rabbit and the third eye.

During the floods in Tahiti on January 22th 2017, one of the graffitis has been photographed flooded, gaining a mystical yet realistic perspective, giving life to the Va’a (Polynesian canoe, ndlr) and the Vahine who navigates it.


The festival Ono’u is first and foremost a place of sharing colorful international artistic exchanges, and more importantly, a place of opening on contemporary urban art and culture in the heart of the South Pacific. I like to think that street art is crystalizing the essence of art, adding a more accessible aspect to it by mixing them with the architecture of the city.


The City With Red Doors

[From the print] Our correspondent relates the experience of an anonymous prostitute on the streets of Kolkata.

Source: Sandra Hoyn

Society has always viewed prostitution as a universal evil and the people associated with it are vessels that harbour an unimaginable form of sin. Society has certain names for us, names that are meant to demean, for the purpose to abuse and shame. People in the sex industry can never escape the tag of their profession, I often feel as if there was a tilak (mark) on my forehead. Everyone I know, knows who I am and what I do. Most of them do not know my name but that does not matter because to them, I am a whore.

I was named after the Hindu Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi. In the dichotomous framework that India finds itself in, Lakshmi was both a goddess said to bring prosperity and fortune and a prostitute with broken dreams and nowhere to go. Amma, the woman whom I was sold to by my trafficker refused to have one of her ‘girls’ be called after a goddess, whose legs were open like one of Lakshmi’s lotuses. Amma was a pious woman and her tolerance towards blasphemy, freedom, and justice was an incontestable nil.

For years, the only escape, I had was my tiny window with an ineffective mosquito net and broken dreams. I would take refuge in the dream of going back to my village but quickly shook away the thought. I was one of them, a whore, a sex worker. My village would never accept someone with that label.

So, eventually Lakshmi was forgotten and Munni was born. There were three other Munni’s where I worked. They all probably had stories similar to mine but we never asked one another. Our name had no character, no significance, a perfect fit for the profession. A prostitute was a person with no stories, to be used as an object to please and fulfil fantasies. If my client replaced my name with another, it did not affect me. I was an artificial host of the dirty and unmentionable, who was less than the rest and society had chosen her to be the sacrifice of its community.

Source: Bernard Henin

The words used to describe my kind are considered vulgar and offensive in almost every spoken language in the world. From Bengali to English, prostitution has negative connotations. My profession itself was an offence. A whore, slut, prostitute, hooker are words that are meant to bring shame to the person who is called one. Language, often provides, a good insight on society. For instance, the tone and language used for prostitution tells you just what the community feels about it: filthy and immoral. When one joins my former profession, it is near impossible to escape from its clutches. Where do we go? Everywhere we try to run or hide and all they can see is a woman who has lost her morality and ergo her identity. If you were to go to any sex worker their thoughts or educate them on societal labels. They would laugh at how little the world knows. How little the world knows and how much the world hides. The slurs that were thrown at me stopped bothering me after a while because they had helped erase all that made me human.

Source: Prateek Jain

The Sonagachi red-light district in Kolkata, my former home was and still is a favourite amongst men, the kind that always had narcotics with them and greeted us with slurs. It was also the home to men who had large bungalows in the affluent localities of Alipore and Park Street . They were awful, they saw me as nothing more than the products of their sick twisted fantasies. These men were responsible for Sonagachi’s prosperity but refused to acknowledge their acquaintance with the place. Sonagachi is known for a lot of things in the city of Calcutta but it is most certainly not known for its justice. The Government of India has failed miserably to rehabilitate sex workers. The promised voter cards have been given but we can’t do anything. The powerless do not give the powerful power, it is taken away from us. Sonagachi is a label that never goes away. Your identity revolves around it and society only fixates on that.

Yama, the Hindu God of Justice, was always a busy person and rumours spread that he had a bigger disdain for prostitutes than the society we lived in. We never saw him, he had become a myth, a legend, that would help us fall asleep but he never showed up. The police, the ‘protectors of justice’, turned out to be regular customers. So, as quickly as we had thought of Yama, he had given up on us and we were once again alone and still whores.

After all these years, it is very easy to vouch that a life of a prostitute in India can never truly escape the experiences of physical and mental displacement, feeling unrooted, and unlearning and relearning their identities. A prostitute can never forget staring at another sex worker’s eyes because the lifelessness of her eyes mirrors hers. One learns the truly understands society when one works in an industry that feeds on exploitation. Even when you have escaped the label, the profession, you can never forget the language and its meaning. Society and taboo, both do not believe in a fair trial. A name is enough.

This letter is in no means for sympathy but serves as a reflection on Indian society. The pride that we hold so close to us about the balance of the ancient and the modern is nothing more than a nicely wrapped fallacy. Oppression has not been moderated but has merely transformed into other forms, just as bad as its predecessor. We live in our own cocoons that keeps us ignorant to the grave injustice, millions face right outside our doors. We turn our heads away from taboos because of the blasphemous and licentious stamp stuck to it. Taboo is blasphemy and all the greatest truths start as blasphemy.

If you want to learn more about the lives of sex workers in Kolkata, you can give this short video by the Youtube channel Ross Kemp Extreme World.


Edited by Pailey Wang, Philippe Bédos and Maya Shenoy

The Le Hood Chronicles: Oh Lord, Not the Board

I was free. The crisp, fresh air of Normandy nipped at my face and rushed along my thick down coat as I sped along the boardwalk of Le Havre. Locals tried not to stare as they saw such a big boy show such mastery of a skateboard so small, but I’d gotten used to the fame by now. It didn’t phase me anymore. Last time I’d been this far, I fell down by the hair salon I now visit twice a month to keep my hair just long enough to cover my eyes without blinding me completely. Now, I raced down that street without blinking once, confident as I rode over the very spot I fell on months ago. I was a tank moving over the rubble of my failure, crushing every piece of disappointment as I found my way back to my dignity. I gained more and more speed, my heart racing at the thought of falling with nothing but my $100 Canada Goose toque to protect my fragile head. Suddenly, I was whizzing past La Petit Rade. I’d never been this far before. I slowed down as kids skated by me on the new multicolored Pennyboards they had gotten for Christmas. That’s when I realized I wasn’t the only skater in this part of town. A boy of about 12 years of age raced by me, looking back to grin at the man twice his height lagging behind him. A deep sense of shame began to churn inside of me, but I wasn’t going to let it get me down. Not this January 4th. I continued along at my own pace, not faster than a jog, when, suddenly, it happened.

My back wheels got stuck in a crack but instead of the board stopping and throwing me to the ground again, it sacrificed itself and split in two!

It was a truly noble act which I may never be able to repay. Heartbroken, I picked up the two pieces of my board and set them next to me on the ledge looking out to sea as the sun set behind us. An elderly couple walked by and asked “mais qu’est que s’est passé” to which I replied “C’est triste, mais ça va”. But it wasn’t ça va. I grabbed my two pieces of plastic polymer and walked down the path that I had just gleefully skated down minutes before. People stared at me once again, but this time not in awe. As they watched the funeral procession of one, they looked at me with sorrowful eyes. Maybe they too were once skater bros like me and had lost their board to the fury of the natural world. Or maybe they saw the broken heart of the skater boy who lost his very identity in the simple snap of Chinese manufactured plastic. Either way, they wouldn’t understand. But when I got back home, I put the pieces of board on my table and smiled. Maybe the journey with my red-wheeled board was over, but my own journey as a skater boy wasn’t. So I sat down, got out my laptop, and ordered my first pair of checkered Vans. As soon as I confirmed my order, I felt the rush of rolling over concrete come back to me and I knew my life had found its path again. Once a skater boy, always a skater boy.

Leon is an enigma.


Romantisme rime avec rupture. Charles Maurras va jusqu’à inclure ce mouvement dans sa trilogie honnie : Réforme, Révolution, Romantisme pour stigmatiser la décadence française qui, à ses yeux, suivit l’apogée du classicisme, avec le déclin du catholicisme et la fin de l’absolutisme capétien. Ce courant marche de fait au pas du Siècle des Révolutions, démocratiques et nationales, il les accompagne, exalte la liberté de l’individu, le lyrisme de la communauté historique, le choix du spirituel face au la spirituel face au matérialisme des Lumières. Le cœur contre la raison ? Ce serait trop simple. Les artistes romantiques affirment certains primats : celui des sentiments, de la nature, du mystère, du désir d’infini, du spleen sur l’ordonnancement d’un monde balisé et domestiqué. Peintres, poètes ou bien musiciens, ils sont de grands voyageurs, visiteurs d’un Orient fantasmé, de contrées septentrionales, de régions méridiennes, navigateurs sur fond de rêves ou de cauchemars infinis. La nuit, la folie, la violence et la mort les aimantent. Ils vivent l’amour comme on subit une malédiction, la foi comme on affronte un châtiment. Connaissant le monde, ils s’en détournent avec un certain dédain pour chercher une réalité sublimée, un ailleurs, une contrée solitaire dont leur âme sait les chemins. Ils meurent souvent jeunes, comme si cette Icarie réclamait pour y accéder le sésame d’une vie aussi incandescente que brève.

Les peintres de la génération romantique rompent avec les sujets académiques ou, s’ils y consentent, les métamorphosent et les plient à leur inspiration. L’Histoire revisitée devient épique voire vénéneuse chez Delacroix, dantesque et cruelle chez Goya. Elle est dramatisée et prend des allures universelles lorsque le peintre espagnol transcrit les horreurs de la guerre et les souffrances des hommes. Un colosse, géant cerné de brouillard peint par Goya entre 1808 et 1810, suscite une terreur intense chez des hommes à taille de fourmis. L’imaginaire goyesque dépasse ici de loin la simple dénonciation d’une brutale campagne militaire. Cette panique renvoie aux racines antiques, renoue avec la peur primale. Chez Delacroix, Sardanapale, indifférent, repose sur des cousins en contemplant le chaos et ce carnage qu’il a ordonné. La violence sourd de cette œuvre peinte par Delacroix en 1827. Le peintre de la Liberté guidant le peuple interroge l’Histoire, celle de la Grèce luttant pour son indépendance, celle de Rome croulant sous sa propre grandeur. Il s’en dégage un pessimisme profond quant au progrès dont serait capable le genre humain. Delacroix consigne tour à tour les avancées et les reculs de l’humanité, sollicite Scott et Shakespeare, tend vers le mythe et va jusqu’à en créer certains, telle cette Marianne sur une barricade. Comme Chassériau, il rentre d’Orient ébloui par l’indolence des femmes et le contraste entre ombre et lumière. Comme Géricault, il saisit la tension et l’énergie brutes, les résume dans ces chevaux frémissants, cavales des fantasias marocaines ou encore étalon de Mazeppa. Derrière l’œuvre picturale romantique se lit en filigrane un message qui dépasse le pittoresque ou l’anecdote. « C’est la grande armée, c’est le soldat, ou plutôt c’est l’homme ; c’est la misère humaine toute seule, sous un ciel brumeux, sur un sol de glace, sans guide, sans chef, sans distinction. C’est le désespoir dans le désert. » Ainsi s’exprime Alfred de Musset, au sujet d’Épisode de la campagne de Russie de Charlet, une œuvre présentée au Salon de 1836.

Le paysage se transforme également, devient un miroir qui révèle moins la nature que l’état d’esprit de l’artiste. Turner entremêle les volutes humides et les vagues pour donner à voir les éléments déchainés. L’angoisse étreint le cœur devant ses rafales de vent aux tons fondus. A force d’empâtements, les tourbillons soulevés par Turner au couteau trahissent à l’extrême la fragilité humaine. Pour sa part, Friedrich capture la mélancolie des soleils du nord, des brumes qui enveloppent les ruines d’abbayes et s’enrubannent autour d’arbres décharnés. Chacun de ses tableaux propose une énigme, un chiasme autour des âges de la vie ou une troublante allégorie de la condition humaine. Le poète allemand Novalis résumait en 1798 cet élan qui tend à voir au de-là de l’apparence : « Quand je donne aux choses communes un sens auguste, aux réalités habituelles un sens mystérieux, à ce qui est connu la dignité de l’inconnu, au fini un air, un reflet, un éclat d’infini : je les romantise » Cette démarche lui permet de retrouver le sens originel du monde qui demeure à jamais obscurci aux yeux des profanes. Le réalisme semble alors trivial et ne saurait rivaliser avec la fantasmagorie d’un Fuseli, d’un Blake ou l’idéal farouche, parfois morbide, qu’instille un Géricault à ses sujets. Lorsqu’il aborde les portraits d’aliénés, de 1818 à 1822, Géricault pousse à l’extrême une quête inaugurée avec l’observation de cadavres à la morgue pour son Radeau de la Méduse.

Alphonse de Lamartine composa une ode intitulée L’Homme, dédiée à Lord Byron, celui qui fut tout ensemble l’archange et le démon du romantisme anglais. Ce poème peut être lu comme un manifeste esthétique du romantisme, « Du nectar idéal sitôt qu’elle a goûté/ La nature répugne à la réalité / Dans le sein du possible en songe elle s’élance / Le réel est étroit, le possible est immense. » Spiritualiser le monde, voler le feu sacré aux Dieux, s’élever au-dessus du commun pour atteindre les cimes, ces ambitions reposent sur ce qu’énonçait déjà Swedenborg en affirmant que « le monde physique est purement le symbole du monde spirituel. » Le poète des Méditations utilise l’oxymore harmonie sauvage pour décrire le génie de Byron. Cette figure de style convient aussi aux convulsions puis à la sérénité d’un Liszt, aux flamboiements hallucinés de Delacroix, aux envolées lyriques de Pouchkine face à la mer. Mouvement européen, le Romantisme rassemble sous ses couleurs une génération fascinée par le sens et par les sens, par l’attractivité du néant, par la folie et la grâce, par le bien et le mal, les poisons et la mystique. La création est magnifiée, sublimée tandis que l’artiste hésite sur le fil, entre les tourments de Prométhée et les affres de Satan.

Un tableau réalisé par Friedrich en 1818 représente un voyageur, de dos, au sommet d’une montagne, surplombant une mer de nuages. Cette œuvre est devenue une icône du romantisme. De ce personnage, nous ne saurons rien, ni ses traits ni ses desseins. Il est suspendu pour l’éternité entre l’absolu et la finitude. Le ciel et l’abîme l’englobent, il devient le point focal du tableau qui concentre la grandeur tout autant que la solitude. Le voyage de la vie s’arrête au bord du gouffre. La ligne d’horizon et les crêtes ne sont qu’un lointain écho des montagnes bien réelles de l’Elbe, de même que la Mer de glace qui broie un navire dans Le naufrage est moins un rappel géographique qu’une poignante métaphore. Emu par cette toile, en 1834, David d’Angers évoquera à son propos la tragédie du paysage. Laissons donc Lamartine conclure : « Borné dans sa nature, infini dans ses vœux / L’homme est un dieu tombé qui se souvient des cieux. »

Sophie Rochefort-Guillouet is a professor at Sciences Po Paris Campus du Havre.