Toast to the French

2015-05-21 10:09

THE influence of the French in KwaZulu-Natal is being celebrated in style from May 24 to May 31.

Hosted by the Alliance Française, ­Pietermaritzburg and French Presence in KwaZulu-Natal, the celebrations get under way at Norwood in Oak Park at 3.30 pm on Sunday, May 24.

Speaking to The Witness, Glenn Flanagan, spokesperson for the event, said: “The Prince Imperial, Louis Napoléon, visited Norwood, the former hunting lodge of the Governor of Natal, during his brief stay in Pietermaritzburg in April 1879.

“So struck by the beautiful camellia bushes on the property was the prince, that he requested to be buried under one of them should he die in Zululand.

“He was not buried there, of course, but to respect this wish and to pay homage to the poor young prince, Mrs Eastwood, the owner of the property, had a wreathe of white camellias laid on his coffin as it lay in state overnight on June 8, 1879 in St Mary’s Chapel.”

Guests will enjoy a cheese and wine soiree at Norwood, 6 Margaret Mc Fie Place, hosted by the present owners, Tim and Sabine Featherby.

At 10.30 am on Monday, May 25, the Voortrekker/Msunduzi Museum in Langalibalele Street, Pietermaritzburg will be hosting a guided visit for Eastwood community members and anyone interested in seeing the Prince Imperial exhibition.

At 3 pm on Monday, in the Eastwood Community Hall, Irene’s Model Agency will host the French Flair fashion show.

For lovers of fine dining, Traffords is hosting a special lunch at noon on Tuesday, May 26. It will feature the French-styled wines, Empress Eugénie and The Prince Impérial, both of which were inspired by the Napoleonic legend and produced by Domaine des Dieux of the Himmel-en-Aarde Valley.

At 11 am on Wednesday, May 27, the ­Msunduzi Museum hosts A Taste of Africa: Celebrating Africa on Africa Day.

“Twenty-one countries on the African continent are Francophone [five in the Indian Ocean] and many of the refugees of these countries live and work in Pietermaritzburg,” says Flangan. “We celebrate a common culture with them.”

From 1 pm to 2 pm on Wednesday, May 27 at Project Gateway in Pietermaritzburg is “Allons enfants de la patrie …”, the annual Prince Imperial lunchtime concert featuring Team Zondi. There will be a collection at the door.

At 6 pm on May 27, Pizzology in Victoria Road will host the Soirée Franco-Italienne to commemorate the Prince Imperial’s father, Napoleon III’s participation in the 1831 uprising in the Papal States and his grandfather, Louis, Napoleon Bonaparte’s youngest brother who retired to Italy after Waterloo.

At 10.30 am on Thursday, May 28, the Old Prison at Project Gateway commemorates the Freedom Route and its French and St Helena connections through King Dinuzulu and the 25 Zulu chiefs sent to do hard labour on the island.

From 5.30 pm on Thursday, May 28, the Alan Paton Centre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal hosts a special presentation by Xavier Maillart, a descendant of Xavier Uhlmann, the personal valet to the Prince Imperial.

He will be talking about his ancestor and what happened to him after the death of the prince.

At 6 pm for 6.30 pm on Friday, May 29 at the Tatham Art Gallery, there will be a civic reception for the Consul of France, Raymond Quereilhac, and Maillart.

It will include a talk on French and South African links by Melanie Veness of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business, a performance by Team Zondi and the Mother Nature Couture Fashion Show.

The final event in the city will be the 15th annual requiem mass for the Prince Imperial at 9.30 pm on Saturday, May 30 in St Mary’s Chapel.

The celebrations then move to Dundee, along La Route du Prince Impérial, Louis Napoléon.

While in Northern KwaZulu-Natal ­participants will visit the French Augustinian Sisters, enjoy a French Soirée, organised by Elisabeth Durham, take part om the Prince Imperial fun run in the Umvunyane area and visit to Jojosinin Primary School and the Prince Imperial Monument.

• Contact Glenn Flanagan via e-mail at or call her at 082 677 9997 for more on these events.

LA Route du Prince Impérial, Louis Napoléon was launched on June 1, 1996, by the then chairperson of the Battlefields’ Route Association, Ray Heron, and Jenny Bustin, president of the French Teachers’ Association of KwaZulu-Natal.

The Uqweqwe community that lives next to the Prince Imperial monument has benefited substantially from this cultural tourism project since April 1995.

In 2011 the programme was extended to the eMaphayipini community, the Zamimpilo Drop In Centre and Crêche, France, and to the Eastwood community in Pietermaritzburg.

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