Wednesday, May 10, 2006

May 10th--Why not celebrate with a "Tete de Negre" and some Banania?

Starting this year, the memory of slavery will be honored in France every May 10.

President Jacques Chirac’s announcement of the new national holiday comes in the wake of a bitter national debate over France’s colonial history.

After a year of painful confrontations with its past, France — in the voice of the President of the Republic — admitted its responsibility in the "tragedy" that was the slave trade (read & watch the speech. It's in French. duh.) In January 2006 Chirac named May 10 as a national "Day for the Memory of Slavery."

( Above: President Jacques Chirac salutes MP from Guyana Christiane Taubira at a reception in honor of the Committee for the Memory of Slavery, January 30, 2006 at the Elysée Palace in Paris.)

Recently, the President called for the modification of a new law dealing with French history: he called for the removal of a paragraph proposing that school history books recognize the positive role played by France in its colonies. In the same speech, Chirac announced plans for the creation of a research center devoted to the history of slavery, which will be directed by the writer from Martinique Edouard Glissant.

Why this date? On May 10 2001, the French Senate unanimously adopted a law recognizing slavery as a crime against humanity — the first such law in the world.

So why not celebrate with a "Tete de Negre"?

A Tete-de-negre is the French name for a type of pastry covered with dark chocolate. "Tete" means "head"; and "negre" is a pejorative usage for the word "Negro".

"Yum! Nigger heads!"

Just as it has become, since the late 1960s, no longer acceptable to use the term 'nigger' or 'negro' in the U.S., tete-de-negre, the once common dessert on menus in restaurants and cafes in Switzerland and in France is no longer served under that name... except that it is.

And after you've gobbled down your tete de negre you can wash it down with some Banania. (My husband's favorite breakfast cereal/drink by the way.)

Banania man is a Senegalese “tirailleur,” an honorable rifleman who fought for France during the first and second World War. His image has been traditionally used to sell a delicious drink made from banana flour, ground cereal, cacao and sugar.

As a stereotype, he is always happy and speaks incorrect French; this is represented by the ever present phrase underneath his picture:
"Y' a bon!" Which I think means" "Damn massa, dis be some good cereal!"

(Oh how it all reminds me of the French expression: “parler petit nègre" -"to speak a little nigger", which means not speaking proper French.)

Anywhoo, for awhile, Banania man disappeared from modern advertising and he was replaced by an equally offensive cartoon character. Then a few years ago, a French company named Nutrimaine decided to bring back this beloved French Black icon. He reappeared a bit younger, and with big red lips and strikingly white teefs!

The Atillean community became outraged and one group, Collectif DOM immediately tried to put an end to the advertisements. Eventually the group reached an agreement with the company in which the company would refrain from using the “Y a bon” phrase in its advertisements. Now this is a rather idiotic agreement since the company never used “y'a bon” in its advertisements in the first place!

Personally I prefer the original Banania man from 1915. He's so handsome! He should call Aunt Jemima up for a date....I mean... if she's not too busy makin' dem pancakes.

Ah! The French!


Jul said...

Those Tete de Negres look yummy. Much yummier than the popular German treat Negerkussen (I'll give you a hint... kussen = kisses).

buzzgirl said...


First of all, Uncle Ben might have something to say if M. Banania came sniffing around...

I actually brought back a box of Banania, because I didn't think my friends would believe me. I saw posters and ads all over Paris - even (oddly enough) in the restroom of a fancy restaurant. I was going to steal it, but I was on a date, and kind of drunk, and didn't think I could pull it off.

I've never heard the expression "parler petit nègre" - that little colloquialism somehow escaped me.

Damn. That sh*t is messed up.

Trina said...

Now the German "Negerküsse" ("negro kisses") most often get called "Schoko Küsse" ("chocolate kisses"), though I'm sure a lot of folks don't understand what the "fuss" is all about....

Btw: The kisses are a round wafer heaped with a marshmellow-type mass and dipped in chocolate. In the meantime, you can also get them in dark, light and white chocolate. I HATE them....

On the other hand: There are also flat circular yeast pastries with a thin swipe of vanilla icing on them called "Amerikaner". I get p.o.'d if they ONLY have vanilla (=white) icing on them. If you are in places where the American military are stationed, you often see a selection of "Amerikaner" with vanilla OR chocolate icing.

Aaaah, sweet equality!