Street art to heal Paris streets, six months after the attacks

Street art to heal Paris streets, six months after the attacks
By Kirsten Ripper
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At Café LE CARILLON, customers sit smoking and drinking coffee on the terrace, sheltered from the few drops of rain by an awning.

One of them, among a group of mothers with children at a nearby school, is Diana Kami, a jewelry designer and goldsmith lives just a few metres away.

Six months ago, the scene was very different. As terrorist gunman emptied their automatic weapons into the cafe and its customers, Kami was safely at home. In fact, having no television, she was unaware of the situation outside until her brother called on the phone to check that she was OK. Only when he pointed out the sound of the fire department sirens in the background did she become conscious that this was not just another Friday night in the city.
The next morning, the square in front of the CARILLON was covered with sawdust to hide the blood of the dead. Many people were crying, laying flowers. When her eight-year old daughter asked Kami what was happening, she told her: “They are shooting a film.”

She couldn’t find any way to explain the truth. Everything seemed surreal.

After dropping off her daughter at school on Monday, Diana Kami began to paint the wall of Rue Alibert next door. Just like that, spontaneously, without thinking. She hadn’t painted for years, now she has been painting for weeks and months.

Together with other residents of the district she organiseed a crowdfunding “Dessine-moi un bouquet” ( “Draw me a bouquet”) to pay for materials. It is less about money than about local residents taking part in the project. Children from the school and street artists participate in the project “Mur de l’Amour – Love Wall”.

Diana Kami monitors everything, she wants only positive images. She paints especially trees, whose roots are firmly embedded in the sidewalk and a friend writes a sentence in Arabic. Many children paint flowers. Even the motto of Paris after the attacks: “Fluctuat nec mergitur” – ““Buffeted but not sunk” – the old motto of the French capital is written on the wall. Kami wants to proove that the multicultural district next to the Canal Saint-Martin will overcome the pressure caused by the attacks. “L’amour court les rues,” – “Love is in the streets”, is written on other places in Paris too – as a sign of defiance.

A very different sign that life goes on can be found just up the road. Only a few hundred meters away on the Place de la République now every night young and older people are protesting against government policies as part of the “Nuit Debout” movement (which means “Up all night”). In keeping with the protest movement of the “indignados” in Spain, they want to promote a better world. After the protests, the ATM and windows of surrounding banks are smashed regularly, riot police clear the square again and again using tear gas.

Meanwhile the artist paints another wall of an apartment block a few streets away. Bypassers chat with Diana Kami she welcomes the encouragement.

The investigations into the November attacks, don’t interest her. It’s not about blame, responsibility or even trying to understand why. Knowing more changes nothing anyway, Kami points out.

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