The Joséphine Baker exhibition “A life of commitments”, a dive into history that resonates in the present
His entry into Pantheon in 2021 immortalized his status as an icon of the Republic. Artist, resistance fighter, activist, Joséphine Baker is plural. In Toulouse, the Departmental Museum of Resistance and Deportation (Pont des Demoiselles) devotes a temporary and free exhibition to him. Through three rooms that retrace her career as a music hall star, her commitments – numerous, both in life and on the stage, especially against racism –, and the effervescence she still generated in the milieu today. artistic, the Toulouse exhibition pays homage to the one who never gave up and who remains, more than a symbol, a model.
“In the music hall, on stage, in a line of girls, I make a blank spot”* she said. As soon as we enter the exhibition, this first quote plunges us into the fascinating personality of Joséphine Baker. Black American, starting from nothing, she landed in France in 1925 at the age of 19, with only her art, her values and her intelligence. Singer, dancer, then film actress, she quickly became the star of all Paris. However, she remains above all a black woman, designated to keep this place in the colonialist world of the time.
An extraordinary destiny
But Joséphine Baker is the anti-woke; it draws its strength from discrimination and refuses to be a victim. Faced with racist clichés that want to submit it, it rises. It doesn’t matter if the roles imposed on her want to reduce her to her skin color. She takes them all. And manages the feat of turning them to his advantage to put his fights on the front of the stage.
After having had her uterus removed, she still thwarts fate by adopting twelve children from all over the world: her rainbow tribe, the living banner of her incessant fight against Nazism, anti-Semitism, segregation and racial hatred. For France, to which she has a boundless love, she distinguished herself above all as a member of the Resistance during the Second World War, using her notoriety to cross borders. The exhibition reveals his complicit relationship with General de Gaulle, marked by mutual respect and recognition.
Fights that echo
It takes about an hour to visit to discover or rediscover this extraordinary personality, artist with a thousand facets, mixed race, immigrant, Freemason, aviator… The museum will then lead us to understand its complexity through various objects, photographs, articles or even wigs, including many unpublished pieces.
Rather than a retrospective, the exhibition gives its full place to the timeless Joséphine Baker, the one who remains very much alive through her heritage and whose voice resonates more than ever in the light of the fractures of today’s society. Successful bet. From this coherent, motivated and inspiring highlighting, we emerge reassured and confident: if Josephine Baker did it, then it is still possible to believe in her dreams.
*Josephine BakerJacques Pessis, 2021