Ivorian chief pledges donation to help rebuild France’s Notre Dame
In just 24 hours, a fund to restore the medieval Notre-Dame cathedral that was devastated by fire has hit over $1 billion, with donations still pouring in from around the world.
The Paris landmark was heavily damaged Monday night after a fire broke out during a Roman Catholic Mass and quickly spread to the roof and iconic church spire.
Firefighters managed to save the 850-year-old Gothic building’s main stone structure, including its two towers, but the spire and roof collapsed. There are also fears that an unknown number of artifacts and paintings have been lost.
News of the blaze sent shockwaves across the country. Donations and messages of support have since been flooding into France from across the world. Personalities, billionaires, companies, and institutions from around the globe have stepped in to help France rebuild its symbol of history and culture.
In Africa, several leaders have been sending in their condolences, but a chief from a traditional area in Ivory Coast has done more than that.
Amon N’Douffou V of Sanwi in southeastern Ivory Coast, on Tuesday, pledged financial support towards rebuilding the iconic structure in Paris.
“I am in full consultation with my elders – we are going to make a donation for the rebuilding of this monument,” the traditional ruler said of the structure which he claimed played a huge part in his kingdom’s history in the 17th century.
“I couldn’t get to sleep because I was so disturbed by the pictures” of the fire, he told the AFP.
“This cathedral represents a strong bond between my kingdom and France.”
Ivory Coast was a French protectorate in 1843, then a colony from 1893 to 1960. But King Amon’s strong bond claim has to do with events that occurred at the end of the 17th century, at the time of the Sun King, Louis XIV.
Aniaba, a prince of the kingdom was, in 1687, taken to France and then baptized in the cathedral. At the time, French traders had fully established themselves in the kingdom.
Aniaba, who was then 15, and a son of the chief of the Eotilé ethnic group and Princess Ba, was taken to Paris by the Chevalier d’Amon as a pledge of loyalty to Louis XIV. In Paris, he experienced a “mystical revelation” at the sight of the Notre Dame cathedral.
“The beginning of his stay is quite obscure. He lives in Paris, but we have no idea what is going on in the head of this teenager arriving in a country where everything is foreign to him: beliefs and social relations, as well as plants and animals. In fact, the story begins when Aniaba, walking in Paris, enters Notre-Dame, experiences what can be described as a mystical revelation and asks a certain Sieur Hyon, a pearl merchant of his condition, to present to the King. Still, in 1690, Aniaba is presented to Louis XIV, to whom he explains that he wants to be initiated into the Catholic religion ‘the only, good and true’,” writes the website of the Delegation of the Kingdom Sanwi in Europe.
Louis XIV became Aniaba’s godfather and protector. He was, after three years in France, baptized, adding the name of Louis to his own. Now Louis Aniaba, he joined the king’s cavalry regiment, becoming the first black officer of the French army. He learned to read and write, as well as, fencing and horse riding.
Aniaba received a huge pension and lived “like a gentleman of the time: with servants, horses, debts, women and children.”
“At the same time, no one seems to be as moved as a black man as a gentleman,” according to the website of the Delegation of the Kingdom Sanwi in Europe, adding that “The prejudice of color does not exist yet.”
In 1701, Aniaba returned to Ivory Coast following the death of his father to “take his succession.”
It is unclear what happened after his return. Some accounts cited by the AFP say that he was ignored by the new king and went to live in modern-day Togo where he became an advisor to the local monarch. Others state that he went back to France or became blind. — Face2Face