• The Château des Milandes is the most complete museum on the life of Joséphine Baker, believes one of the sons of the American artist.

  • The current owner of the castle has worked to enrich the collections and restore the gardens to the look they had when the famous singer lived there.

  • His children keep a link with the Milandes and one of them even returns to live in the area from the beginning of next year.

This Friday, the artist Joséphine Baker will return to the Pantheon, becoming the first black woman to join the Republican temple. To learn about the extraordinary life of this woman who was resistant during the Second World War and very active in the fight against racism, a visit to her “temple”, the Château des Milandes, is a must. The cenotaph (empty coffin) which will make its entry into the Pantheon will also contain soil from places that were of particular importance to Joséphine Baker, including that of the Milandes where she lived for 30 years.

"This is Joséphine Baker's museum in France, there is another in Saint-Louis, in her hometown, but it is less richly endowed and smaller", estimates Brian Bouillon Baker, one of the twelve adopted children. by the American singer.

He spent twelve years in this 15th century castle in Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, in the Dordogne.

"This is the place where we learn the most things about her, we can get an idea of ​​her artistic career, her commitments and the" mom "side also with photos, it is very complete, ”he says.

The owner, a "worshiper" of Joséphine Baker

It must be said that the current owner of the castle, Angélique de Saint-Exupéry, described as a “worshiper” of Joséphine Baker by Brian Bouillon Baker, has worked to complete the collections since 2006, when she took over the management of the site after her parents who had bought the Milandes in 2001. "We lent her items, including medals, military costumes and stage dresses, but she discovered lots of other items at auction," said Joséphine's son Baker.

She has even reproduced almost identically the French gardens as they existed at the time when Joséphine Baker lived there.

The artist rented the castle from 1937 to 1947, before buying it and residing there until 1969. She was forced to part with it for financial reasons.

"Angélique de Saint-Exupéry is rewarded because each year she has more and more visitors and there now, with the pantheonization, this will obviously have repercussions on the visits", comments Brian Bouillon Baker.

A link between the rainbow siblings and the Périgord

If he lives in Paris today, he returns once or twice a year to Les Milandes. He was the first in 1981 to return there, some like his sister Marianne found it difficult to return to this place reluctantly left. “As and when some followed my approach and even Marianne came back in the 1990s. Besides, her daughter got married in the Milandes park,” he says.

The singer's eldest son, Akio Bouillon Baker, will be leaving Paris to settle near Les Milandes, from January.

The “rainbow” siblings still keep some contact with locals, in Castelnau and Sarlat for example.

Ten years ago, Brian Bouillon Baker even participated with three other of his brothers in a meeting of the Belvès high school alumni.

“I remember people admiring my mother's trajectory and the positive image conveyed by our united family,” he concludes.

Culture

Documentaries, comics, exhibitions… It's time to discover Joséphine Baker before entering the Panthéon

World

United States: On the eve of its entry into the Pantheon, the Empire State Building lights up for Josephine Baker

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