Paris (AFP)

"There is no more beautiful museum in the world," said Thursday AFP Emmanuel Kasarhérou, brand new Kanak president of the Quai Branly Museum Jacques Chirac, a unique place for "dialogue of cultures", which he wants to preserve originality while broadening its audience.

"It is a great honor" for "an atypical course like mine", he says simply, interviewed in the gardens of the museum closed for more than two months, when he is the first personality of New Caledonia to be find yourself at the head of a large Parisian museum.

A gesture of recognition for its Kanak culture? "This indicates that, when you are a tiny part of humanity, you also have things to say that can feed the rest of humanity!".

Emmanuel Kasarhérou, 60, who still has his mother, his brother, his paternal family there, receives a flood of emails "from people I have not seen for a very long time. Through me, it is also them who are recognized ".

One of his priorities, he assures, will be to "invent the necessary mediations" and "to mark out the way" so that the public "widens, because this museum refracts the heritage of the whole planet. the great Paris basin also refracts cultures that come from all over the world. "

- Advocacy for "co-construction" -

On the delicate question of the restitution of objects collected during colonization - while the Quai Branly gathers in France the major part of the objects of "first arts" coming from Africa, Asia and Oceania - the new patron of museum displays its "pragmatic" approach, because "there is not a single typology: each object is unique, each story unique".

Having directed the Tjibaou Cultural Center in Noumea, his hometown, he understands this sensitive question from the inside: "I had to know her (as) the director of a museum in the south addressing the major museums in the north" .

In the event of "objects for which the possession in a national museum can raise question, it belongs to us conservatives to investigate their situation", he admits.

And then, he adds, "it will be up to the nation to know if it wishes to return to the populations" the objects which had been taken from them "in situations of constraint". Or "because these objects would have a special meaning for certain peoples".

But, Mr. Kasarhérou, who has worked for nine years at the Quai Branly, judges that "one should not consider that museums are places of concealment. If there were situations of this kind, they remain in spite of everything . You have to treat them. And make sure that the rest of the collection can travel, be shared "with museums in the south.

"I believe very much in co-construction", underlines the new president of Quai Branly: the analysis "on collections, their legitimacy, we cannot do it unilaterally, but in dialogue with the museums of the countries of where the objects come from. "

A museum, he analyzes, "it is a place where a piece of the heritage of humanity is preserved, and this piece belongs to all, even if there is a nation which ensures its conservation by the costs that she hires. "

This great expert in the primitive arts considers it more than a utility or cultural object to take on another meaning in a museum, becoming a work of art: "a sculpture from New Caledonia in a museum, it is no longer sculpture that was in such sacred wood! The museum allows you to have a kind of distance with your own culture. And a broader look that allows a kind of transition from culture to culture, from object to object ".

For Emmanuel Kasarhérou, the history of this museum "is based on curiosity". And he would especially not want his originality "to fade by entering a form of routine".

"Its DNA is variety". "variety of history, variety of collection, conceptions of being in the world, of seeing the world. This is what we have to manage to preserve and share," he pleads with passion.

© 2020 AFP