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SOTEGA 1971 Bongo/Pompidou State Visit Pagne | by Tomathon
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SOTEGA 1971 Bongo/Pompidou State Visit Pagne

See Tropenmuseum/Paul Faber catalog from 2010 "Long Live the President" plate 34. My example purchased from France, bought in Paris in unknown circumstances in 1970s. It is about three of what would have been originally sold as six yards of fabric. It was produced by Societe Industrielle Textile du Gabon (SOTEGA), founded in Libreville in 1969 to locally print and dye Chinese made cotton fabric [1] A small mark above the bottom selvage reads SOTEGA. The 1971 trip of French President Pompidou to Africa included a February visit to Gabon and a March visit to Senegal. It some ways it was the high water mark of Francafrique, with the notorious "Mr. Africa" Jacques Foccart organizing meetings on both sides, and demonstrating the continuity of the Neocolonial relationship following Pompidou's ascension to President in 1969 and Bongo's in 1967. Gabon, under Bongo in particular, is the very poster child for French neocolonialism, with the Gabonese elites entire penetrated by French capital, businesses, and advisors. Bongo was able, by the late 70s, to demonstrate that this interconnectedness included his own meddling in French affairs in a series of scandals over Gabonese capital 'investments' in politicians of the Metropole.

 

Ascetically, it is an amazing piece, very much on the 1970s, with the huge stylized tree with swirling leaves and roots in electric green and reddish brown. Coffee seeds form backgrounds, with grassy verges, brown waves, and a lone of heraldic emblems along the top. These are the state seals of France and Gabon, and the city seals of Libreville and Paris. The similarities of these are not accidental. The images of Bongo and Pompidou are linked with a scroll reading "Franco-Gabonese Friendship", a phrase often used by Bongo and President M'Ba before him. The smaller scroll gives the dates "9 February 1839" & "11 February 1971". The 1971 date is of the visit celebrated. This fabric was surely produced shortly before to be worn by citizens and organized celebrants on that date. The "9 Fevrier 1839" date is more interesting. It is the date of the first French colonial treaty in what later became Gabon, between a local ruler named Rapontchombo (later "King Denis") and Capitan Bouët, aboard the French ship Malouine. The "King Denis" treaty extended a French "Protectorate" over portions of Gabon, which before the end of the century was a particularly brutal colonial rule under private business "Concessions". It seems a double edged reference in the celebration French Gabonese relations.

 

Overall, it is one of my favorite pieces, combining as it does the FrancoAfrican postcolonial relationship, two of its defining leaders, and a really stunning design.

  

[1] See p.298 of Peter Robson (ed), Transnational corporations and regional economic integration. Volume 9 of International financial management. Taylor & Francis US, 1993 ISBN9780415085427

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Taken on April 24, 2011