Celebrating an epic journey, 400 years later

| April 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

Officials gathered at the French Embassy in January for the kickoff of Champlain 2013. From left, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Gatineau councillor Patrice Martin, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Chief Gilbert Whiteduck, French Ambassador Philippe Zeller, NCC CEO Jean-Francois Trépanier and Algonquin Chief Kirby Whiteduck.

If you know more about Samuel de Champlain come September, you can thank the French Embassy.
The embassy has been a key player in developing programs commemorating the 400th anniversary of the journey French explorer Samuel de Champlain undertook up the Ottawa River. The embassy wanted to breathe new life into this moment in history and decided to launch a series of cultural- and community-oriented events in Ottawa and Gatineau. To do so, it’s cooperating with 23 community and governmental organizations.
“We are co-ordinating with the national capital commission and we wanted to get as many partners as possible in the national capital region,” said Thomas Michelon, cultural counsellor at the embassy of France.
In addition to hosting the big kickoff for the celebrations, most of which will take place in September, the embassy is working on several projects. The first is an art installation to take place at the Samuel de Champlain statue on Nepean Point. Similar to the sound and light show on Parliament Hill, it will be an interactive light installation that people will be able to see from Sept. 19 to 29.
“It’s a 4-5 minute show and the public will be able to interact with it,” Mr. Michelon said. “For example, they will have to say words in English, French and Algonquin, words such as Champlain and Nouvelle France, and those words will activate sound and light. I think everyone in Ottawa will see it because the lights are so strong, they’ll reach the sky.”
The second project is a seminar in partnership with the University of Ottawa, Carleton University and Université du Québec en Outaouais. Mr. Michelon said it will look at the latest research on Champlain and Nouvelle France and the embassy is providing funding to bring in Champlain experts from France.
There will also be an event at the Museum of Civilization and another at Carleton that will answer questions about the significance of Champlain today and how to teach this history. The latter will involve school boards from across the region.
The embassy is co-organizing all events and co-producing the art installation. Other events planned for the celebration include the launching of 100 canoes up the Ottawa River, a series of cultural and heritage activities on Petrie Island and a variety of exhibitions at the Museum of Civilization, the Centre d’interprétation du patrimoine de Plaisance and the National Gallery of Canada.
“We’re involved in every step,” Michelon said. “We want to promote French art, French creativity and the digital tools it uses. It has to be popular, creative and it has to show off French talent.”

See www.champlain2013.ca for more information.

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