Josephine Baker’s life becomes a graphic novel to bring her character closer to the younger ones

When the honor of burial was granted in the Pantheon [en 2021] There was no controversy. No one objected. Neither the right nor the left. There was consensus about his involvement in the World War and his commitment against apartheid. As a symbolic act, we put on the tombstone the date of November 30, 1938, which is obviously not his date of birth but when he was granted French citizenship and even the Empire State Building was lit up in the colors of the French flag,” he recalls. Jean-Claude Bouillon-Becker, The son of the French-African-American artist who passed through Madrid a few days ago to present it Josephine BakerA graphic novel of more than five hundred pages written and illustrated Joseph Louis Bouquet s Cattell Muller.

“I wanted to find A medium that would be fun when you round the character of Josephine Baker from the smallest The graphic novel seemed to be a good idea. In addition, it was clear from the first moment that it was a story that could not have a reductive form, but needed a long and wide narration, ”comments Bouillon Becker, who found in Bouquet and Muller the perfect allies for the implementation of this project. “We met about ten years ago Years. When they asked me who I was and I told them Josephine Baker’s son, their eyes lit up because they liked it so much. Taking advantage of their good manners, I told them about my idea of ​​making a graphic novel about my mother. Although they liked the idea, they just finished kikiabout Kiki de Montparnasse, and since her life takes place at the same time as Josephine, they do not accept.”

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Everything changed a few years later, during the wedding of Bouquet and Muller, which Jean-Claude, already a friend of the couple, attended as a guest. said Jean-Claude who advised the authors over three years on his mother’s life. “My primary role was to accompany them to all the places where Josephine lived and to guide them on some issues, especially everything related to the family home in Melends and the question of adoption,” explains Jean-Claude, A member of the Rainbow Tribe, a name that Josephine Baker herself created to refer to her twelve adopted children. They come from different countries, cultures, races, and religious beliefs

An icon of the twentieth century

Josephine Baker was born in Saint Louiscondition Missouriin 1906. The daughter of two vaudeville artists, the family’s economic hardships, plus the separation of her parents, meant that, from a young age, she worked as a maid or waitress in a bar.

With a special talent for dancing and a personal and pioneering style that appeared in a completely intuitive and self-taught manner, Josephine tried to make a living as an artist with many difficulties. In addition to not having a legal age for her to be hired by stage directors, the racism prevalent in American society meant that, no matter how talented she was, she was always considered an artist and a second-class citizen. “It was the Statue of Liberty that greeted immigrants who came to the United States in search of a better life. In the case of Josephine, when I said goodbye to the statue, and went to France, when I got that better life,” Jean reflects. – Claude.

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Josephine Baker arrived in Paris when she was only 19 years old, when the French capital was the center of the world. “People came from all over Europe, from the Urals to Spain. There he met such personalities as simonAnd the cocktailAnd the PicabiaAnd the artistAnd the legerAnd the Le CorbusierAnd the Adolf Los… Perhaps in another age, with a less cultural movement, Josephine would not have had the same effect, At that time, as there was also a special affinity for primitivism and more specifically to black primitivism, it became a symbolsays his son.

I knew they called her “the wild beast of Paris,” and took the opportunity to act as freely as one of those wild beasts.”

Finally freed from the racism she had suffered in her country, Josephine Baker decided that she would not accept the limitations that women in Parisian society suffered at the time either, and decided to take charge of her career, to be the decision maker in which projects she was. wanted to participate in. “It was not typical for women at the time to have so much freedom and independence in their careers. She knew they called her the “Wild Beast of Paris,” and took the opportunity to act as freely as one of those wild beasts. In any case, it is also worth noting that Josephine knew how to surround herself with very competent people, such as Bebeto Apatinoher first love and businessman who marketed several products bearing Josephine’s name and likeness, or Henry Varnathe manager of the Paris casino, who taught him to go down the stairs like a star, and gave him Chiquita, the leopard who was wandering in Paris, who was the author of the lyrics J’ai deux amoursOne of his greatest songs.

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political settlement

In addition to her face as an artist, Josephine Baker has developed a Important work as a defender of civil rights and liberties. During World War II and as a member of the French Resistance, Baker used his frequent travels around the world to convey messages to spies and the Allied military. After the war, Josephine continued her political struggle in civil rights groups and participated in March in Washington summoned by Martin Luther KingWearing a French army uniform and He wears the medals his counterpart received in his fight against the Nazis.

Deep down, Josephine suffered a double wound that reopened when she returned to the United States to act in 1936. There she found that although she was considered a star by Americans, she was a black star. She felt this differentiation as if Jean-Claude says: “It was It can be marked with a hot iron and it hurts a lot.” Although the artist returned to the United States on several occasions, mostly for work reasons, Becker settled permanently in France, the country where she died in April 1975, and was always grateful to be welcomed and allowed By staying. Free. The artist used to say: “France made me, and France can do with me whatever it wants.” Now, France unanimously and gratefully made her entry pantheon.

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