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Paul Emmanuel's The Lost Men, France, as part of World War One Centennial

paul-emmanuelThe Lost Men, France is the third installation of South African artist Paul Emmanuel's ongoing memorial The Lost Men Project. The Lost Men project is a series of site-specific, temporary, outdoor installations which aim to engage with memory, memorials and public grief. Each selected site has a relevance steeped in its own histories as well as engaging the thematic content of Emmanuel's imagery. The first public exhibition of The Lost Men project took place in Grahamstown, South Africa in 2004 and was installed on Monument Hill. The second phase implemented in , Maputo Mozambique in 2007 , with the ephemeral artwork installed on the Catembe Ferry Jetty. Now in 2014 the third artwork of Emmanuel's public counter memorial project will be installed adjacent to the Thiepval Memorial on the extension of rue de l'Ancre Rue, in France. 

The installation is comprised of five, 5m x 5m silk banners. These banners will hang along rue de'l Ancre; a public road which runs from the Thiepval Memorial towards the Lonsdale Cemetery, where the crosses mark the graves of soldiers who died in WWI. The banners will be left in this landscape to the wind and the elements; possibly to disintegrate over time. The silk banners bear photographs of Emmanuel's body with the names of French, German, South African and Allied servicemen who fell on the Western Front. The names were pressed into Emmanuel's skin, without reference to rank, nationality or ethnicity. The Lost Men artwork also questions the exclusion of Black South African servicemen's names from the walls of the Thiepval Memorial. The installation is not a permanent construction; rather it portrays a marked male body as something fragile and vulnerable. It is a non-partisan, 'counter-memorial' that reflects on impermanence and forgetting. The Lost Men, France does not glorify war but poses questions about masculinity and vulnerability. It questions the exclusion of people in traditional memorials – in particular black South African servicemen.

The Lost Men, France launched on 1 July on this site where thousands of soldiers from England, France and their colonies, Germany, Russia to mention some of the countries involved and including South African servicemen died during the terrible battles of World War I (WWI). The 1st of July is a significant date not only in respect of Emmanuel's project but also to the town of Thiepval. It is the day that commemorates the commencement of the Battle of the Somme in 1916; one of the most significant battles of the Great War and also the date on which thousands of South African servicemen landed in France.

This contemporary art project is the artist's personal expression which he created for this specific arena. It is intended to stimulate conversations about memory and memorialisation.

Remembrance services will be held at the Thiepval Memorial to remember and commemorate the thousands of lives lost. French, British and other dignitaries are expected to attend the services.

The project has been selected by the Government of France as an official exhibit of the World War One Centennial. Emmanuel has also received support from Institut Francais, La Mission du Centenaire de la Premiere Guerre Mondiale, the French Institute and the National Arts Council, South Africa amongst others.

Paul Emmanuel states he is "..as many are, affected by these terrible historic battles. A was has a lasting psychological effects that are passed from generation to generation; we lose humanity, gentleness and vulnerability, feeling, empathy and sensitivity. We lose dignity, treasured relationships, potentiality, hope and the future. We become defined by ideologies that can confine and define our world view. As the Thiepval Memorial bears witness. It is a non-partisan artwork that aims to stimulate contemplation about all of this."

Walkabouts were conducted by the artist at the installation site on Tuesday 1 July 2014 at 11 am, Wednesday 2 July 2014 at 11 am, Thursday 3 July 2014 at 11 am, Friday 4 July 2014 at 11 am and Saturday 5 July 2014 at 11 am. 

www.the-lost-men.net

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