RIGA - President Vaira Vike-Freiberga took part this week in the opening of a cultural festival 's "Amazing Latvia" 's that will take place in 14 major cities across France.
The festival will feature nearly 100 Latvian cultural events showcasing music, art and theater. It will run for roughly 50 days.
The idea of a Latvian-themed cultural fair in France originated during talks between the two country's presidents in 2001. "We have always been listened to in France. Our dialogue has been going on for several years, and we have corresponding opinions on all key issues," Vike-Freiberga said in Paris on Nov. 7.
During her visit, which lasts until Nov. 9, the Latvian president will give a speech at the National Library in France and attend the presentation of a book about her life at the Sorbonne University. The biography was written by the French-Latvian Nadine Vitols Dixon.
Culture Minister Helena Demakova joined the president in time to participate in the opening of a fashion presentation, and to discuss Latvia's National Library project, an endeavor the minister strongly supports.
A "singing stones" exhibit opened this week, reportedly to good reviews, the French Embassy in Latvia said. The exhibit features a group of mechanical stones, which include picture holograms and speakerphones. At night, the stones are lit and project Latvian music.
Ballet, art, film, literature and food will be featured during the festival.
"This has been a tradition in France for the last few years," Luc Levy, head of the French Cultural Center in Riga, said of the cultural festival.
Similar exhibitions have featured China, Algeria and Brazil, so the appearance of a country the size of Latvia is somewhat unusual.
Levy added that little is known about the Baltic states in France. The last Latvian cultural festival in France took place in the winter of 1939, shortly before Soviet forces entered the country.
Importantly, the festivities will not only be confined to Paris, but will travel to a host of other major cities such as Strasbourg, Lyon and Bordeaux. Organizers said it was crucial that the exhibition be available in other areas, where people are interested in learning more about Latvia.
"The idea of the event is to promote Latvia and fill the vacuum that has been formed during the 50 years when Latvia did not exist in the mind of France as a separate nation," Andrejs Pildegovics, an advisor to the Latvian president, told the Baltic News Service.
Vike-Freiberga's ability to speak French, which she learned during her childhood years in Morocco, was only an asset in securing the event.
"I think it helps. We, as French people, are always glad when we know people who speak our language," Levy said.
A French cultural festival may be held in Latvia sometime in 2007.