Enjoy all things French at the Voilah! festival

Enjoy all things French at the Voilah! festival
The Little Prince Art Collection exhibition at the Fullerton Hotel features handpainted figurines.

Fans of the 1940s children's classic The Little Prince may already be looking forward to the film adaptation of their beloved book, but ahead of that, there are two upcoming exhibitions to satisfy their Prince-related cravings.

The first is The Little Prince Art Collection, an exhibition at the Fullerton Hotel of handpainted fibreglass sculptures featuring characters from the book, such as the titular alien prince.

Also expect to see the Prince's wise friend, Fox, as well as his one true love from his home asteroid, Rose.

Based on French author Antoine de Saint- Exupery's original watercolour drawings, these sculptures were created by artist Arnaud Nazare-Aga from Thailand-based PAJ'Art Studio. The works were commissioned by the Antoine de Saint-Exupery Youth Foundation and visitors can view them from now till May 31.

One of the novella's iconic phrases is "One sees clearly only with the heart". Well, at the other Little Prince exhibition, visitors can try seeing with their hands.

In The Little Prince In The Dark exhibition, running till June 20 at the Alliance Francaise, visitors are plunged into the dark and have to make out the details of the same sculptures by touch.

A sensor detecting movement will then play audio clips narrating the corresponding parts of the book, either in English, French or Mandarin. Listen closely for the voice of the English narrator, who is American actor Richard Gere.

These activities are part of the Voilah! French festival in Singapore, which aims to promote French culture, arts, gastronomy and innovations in science and environmental issues here.

Other highlights include a food festival involving 65 food and beverage establishments selling and promoting French cuisine; a concert featuring French cabaret singer Edith Piaf's songs; and a concert that aims to transport its audience into a Renaissance-era celebration in the French royal courts.

Voilah!, which started on Monday and runs till June 21, is organised by the French Embassy and the Institut Francais Singapour, in partnership with the French Chamber of Commerce. There are more than 40 programmes over the seven weeks.

While Singapore celebrates its Golden Jubilee this year, Voilah! celebrates 50 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and France by making this year's festival its biggest edition yet.

Started in 2007, the festival was last held in 2012, but its organisers say they have plans to make it a yearly affair once again.

"This year marks a fresh start," says Mr Benjamin Dubertret, Ambassador of France to Singapore. "With the many partners in the French and Singaporean communities, the festival is a multi-institutional effort to be a meeting point for everyone who appreciates or wants to know more about the French way of life."

Voilah! is the largest foreign cultural festival in Singapore and, unlike other festivals here, does not focus just on the arts or a format such as film.

Instead, its focus is very diverse, with exhibitions about the environment held at Gardens by the Bay and the ArtScience Museum. There was even a conference about space exploration on Tuesday, presided by Claudie Haignere, the first European female astronaut in space.

But events promoting French arts and culture still comprise the bulk of the programming, with an animated film festival held at the end of this month and free music performances at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Mr Wee Jia Yi, 20, who is waiting to enlist for national service, has never been to Voilah! before, but will do so this year because of The Little Prince shows. He first read a Chinese version of the story in primary school.

He says: "The story is so simple yet exquisite - it transcends its category as children's literature. Seeing the sculptures would literally provide a threedimensional perspective of the story and the magnificent author."

nabilahs@sph.com.sg

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