Overcoming Intercultural Boundaries: Alliance Francaise

May 23, 2022 | Yosua Ng

Being the World’s largest cultural associations network, with over 800 centres located in more than 130 countries, Alliance Française continues to fulfil its mission of promoting the French language and francophone cultures, along with facilitating deeper exchanges between the French speakers and the local communities. Centrally located at Sarkies Rd, Alliance Française de Singapour which was founded in 1949, served the community for more than 70 years, developing mutual understanding through the French language education and cultural arts. The iconic brightly-coloured-facade building is equipped with an in-house indoor theatre (le théâtre), classrooms, library (la médiathèque), café (Le Café) and an art gallery (la galerie).

Overcoming Intercultural Boundaries: Alliance Francaise

To promote the francophone cultures, the in-house indoor theatre (le théâtre) hosts the regular screening of french films that are not usually shown in mainstream cinemas. The 236-seats theatre is also professionally equipped to host plays, concerts, and musicals to promote the francophone cultures through performance arts.

The library (la médiathèque) is the only resource centre open to the public that offers an extensive collection of French reading materials and resources. One may browse and have access to more than 17,000 books and over 800 digital resources through their online catalogue and online library. To further promote the French language through education, the library often hosts conversation club, storytelling, and meet-the-author sessions to engage both French and local students.

The art gallery (la galerie) regularly hosts exhibitions, not only for the promotion of francophone cultures but also for the building of local communities. The most recent exhibition in April 2022, Mise En Scéne, showcased fascinating works by the Level 2 BA(Hons) Fine Art students of LASALLE College of the Arts. This work-in-progress show honours the discomfort of the in-between, emphasising the importance of the process of making rather than just the final product. It celebrates integrity in experimentation, research, rehearsals and exploring the realms of possibilities.

Alliance Française most recently unveiled a spectacular exhibition named (RE)BIRTHS, which pays tribute to the construction and successive restorations of the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris, three years after the fire that partially ravaged the Cathedrale. The exhibition, which runs from 15 April to 15 June, consists of a series of talks, film screenings, workshops and musicals which encourage the public to engage in deeper conversations to understand the legacy of this French monument.

To capture the intricate details of the Cathedral’s construction and restoration, the main exhibition showcases the history of Notre-Dame in 3D models, virtual reality (VR), videos, photographs and computer-generated images. Initially developed by French video game company Ubisoft for the game Assassin’s Creed: Unity (2014), the company now released a unique VR experience, backed by 5,000 hours of graphic work and research, with guidance from historians. The VR experience now offers viewpoints from different angles, including some which may be inaccessible physically to the public such as the flying buttresses and the roof.

Paying tribute to the Notre-Dame, there are several companion exhibitions which include The Security Site in Comics and the Eternal Notre-Dame. The former features the works of renowned French-speaking cartoonists that retrospected the primary operations of the cathedral security site. At the same time, the latter showcases a fine art photo exhibition by famous French photographer Michel Setboun, depicting the changing representations of the cathedral.

The exhibition (RE)BIRTHS is a perfect example of how Alliance Française de Singapour continues to promote cross-cultural understanding, going beyond intercultural boundaries through the discovery of languages (education) and cultures (arts). In the words of Fabian Forni, Executive Director of Alliance Française de Singapour, “We are truly honoured to present this important exhibition that addresses the rebirth of Notre-Dame. With the cathedral being such a significant monument in French architecture, culture, literature, and the arts, we are excited to have this exhibition be a part of our French Excellence programming, which facilitates cross-cultural understanding through French expertise and cultural heritage”.