Institut Francais marks half a century of cultural exchange
AMMAN, Mar 03, 2013 (Jordan Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Half a century after it first opened its doors to Jordanians in Amman's Jabal Luweibdeh, Institut Francais is looking forward to another 50 years of cultural exchange by appealing to knowledge, thought and emotion, according to its director.
"We are convinced that to live together, we have to understand each other," Institut Francais Director Charles-Henri Gros told The Jordan Times in an interview, noting that understanding is based on knowledge, thought and emotion.
Invoking these three elements "is the only way to interact properly", Gros said.
"I think the three points... are based on our humanity."
Founded in Jordan in 1963, the institute is part of a large network of cultural institutes that promotes cultural exchange between France and countries around the world, Gros said.
Affiliated with the French foreign ministry, each Institut Francais is under the umbrella of the French embassy in the targeted country.
Around four branches are in Syria and five in Palestine, while Jordan is home to only one Institut Francais, which has always been in the same building on Jabal Luweibdeh's Kulliyet Sharia Street.
"There isn't just one heart in a country, there are several hearts [and] I think Luweibdeh is one of the hearts of Jordan, because there is a high concentration of people engrossed in knowledge, thought and emotion," Gros said.
"We are not at the heart of this development, but I would say that we [played] our part in it."
The institute, which provides French and Arabic courses, has around 3,500 registrations a year, with students enrolling for more than one course.
Counting the courses and in-house activities, such as lectures and film screenings, some 100,000 people visit the institute over the course of one year, Gros said.
"What our mission has been for me when I arrived [in September 2010] is to... enhance the visibility of the Institut Francais, to work with Jordanian partners and to create a space for people of different cultures to meet," the director noted.
With the decrease in funds after the global financial crisis, Gros said the cultural centre moved towards focusing on major annual activities, stressing that activities which extend outside the institute's premises and last for over a week attract more people and increase exposure.
The institute starts the year with the month-long Image Festival, which takes place every March.
"During one month, you can go on a tour in town to several places and discover several artists, some are French... but most of them are Jordanian," Gros said.
The third Image Festival, which opened on Friday, features some 15 photography exhibitions at several venues around Amman. It includes two competitions, one for amateurs and another for professional photographers.
The event is held in cooperation with Darat Al Tasweer and the Greater Amman Municipality, and this year has partnered with "one of the most important festivals in France, which is Les Rencontres d'Arles [Photographie]".
Gros said the partnership was in line with the goal to build bridges "for French people to come and discover Jordanian talents and invite them to come to France".
This year's festival is based on the theme "Macro & Me", tackling the relationship between the artist and what is "tremendously huge or tremendously small".
With the world connected to the Internet "everything in our mind is smaller but in fact it is still big, so people are lost... there is this paradox and it creates damage", Gros noted.
In April, the institute organises the French Gastronomy Week during which renowned French chefs serve their signature meals at various venues and train aspiring Jordanian chefs.
In June, the Franco-Arab Film Festival takes place, with screenings of various French and Arab films. It is the longest running event organised by the institute, set to reach its 19th year in 2013.
The first Franco-Arab Film Festival in France was held last year, and other similar festivals are now spreading to the institute's branches in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon and Oman.
"This means that this festival [has] reached a certain level of maturity," Gros noted.
The institute wraps up the year with the Animae Musica festival in December, which will be the third this year, featuring bands performing music inspired by faith from around the world.
The institute is also a member of the EU National Institute for Culture Cluster.
Despite the limited resources, Institut Francais reaches out to governorates by organising some of its outdoor activities outside Amman in cooperation with universities and other local organisations, Gros noted.
To increase its interaction with the residents of Jabal Luweibdeh, the institute is undergoing renovations to expand its facilities but maintain the identity of its old building.
"We focused on returning the building back into its original design," he said.
The expansion includes a cafe that nurtures a more casual and open space for cultural interaction. It is expected to be ready in March, he added.
Open six days a week, 12 hours a day, the institute is run by an administrative staff of less than 10 people, but they are all driven by a strong force, according to Gros.
"We love what we do."
___ (c)2013 the Jordan Times (Amman, Jordan) Visit the Jordan Times (Amman,
Jordan) at www.jordantimes.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]