Sunday, 21 November 2010

Maison Tropicale - Heritage

A lack of appreciation

Moving on from the ownership context of Maison Tropicale, when these prototypes were somewhat rediscovered for the world that would better appreciate them, they were literally derelict.

The building in Congo Brazzaville was like a castle with a moat of overgrown weeds and shrubs, occupied by a lady who returned home after the death of her father to an inheritance that had been usurped by his relations leaving her this structure that no one thought had value.

In Niamey, the building was not occupied but one of the neighbours reminisced saying the building was like a big sister and very good shelter from the rain. This was what she missed the most about the prototype.

What is heritage?

The appreciation of heritage grows from a sense of ownership and it was a revelation when one of the important interviewees said that heritage was an un-African thing bordering on taboo.

One can almost agree entirely with this assertion, there are many historical places in Africa that have failed to realise the level of conservation that exudes national pride at first before leading to tourist interest apart from the Egyptian world treasures.

If much care and attention had been paid to these structures in Africa, it would have been impossible or quite difficult to remove them from their locations in Africa to Europe and other parts of the world.

It is arguable that if the Egyptian pyramids could be transported they might well have found homes elsewhere, the Maison Tropicale prototypes were modular and easy to dismantle [1]; it just needed someone with the means and wherewithal to cart them away.

The pillage continues

Africa has consistently suffered the pillage of her treasures and the removal of these very large structures in broad daylight as late as the year 2000 is more an indictment of our sense of ownership and heritage than of the corrupt enterprise that allowed the action to take place.

It was interesting to see the activism that seemed to follow the removal of the buildings depicted in the film but given the appreciation and value these prototypes have now gained in Paris and New York, I doubt if those prototypes would ever return to Africa

We are left to view the foundations of the prototypes where domesticated livestock graze with the regret of what could have been.


[1] YouTube - Jean Prouvé – 3D Animation construction of La Maison Tropicale

La Maison Tropicale Series

Maison Tropicale film in Amsterdam

Deconstructing Maison Tropicale - Introduction

Maison Tropicale - Ownership

Maison Tropicale - Heritage

Maison Tropicale - Corrupt enterprise

Maison Tropicale - Grand Projects