Thursday, September 27, 2012

Le Comptoir Général

Behind the wall at 80, quai de Jemmapes in Paris’ 10th arrondissement lies an unusual space operated by a completely unique organization called Le Comptoir Général.

Mural at 80, quai de Jemmapes
 © Discover Paris!
Entrance to Le Comptoir Général
 © Discover Paris!
The space is provided by an organization called C-Développement, whose mission is to support a number of socially active and responsible groups by providing real estate that fits their needs and budget. From Monday to Thursday, it is available for rent by businesses, charities, NGOs and other organizations devoted to the environment, solidarity, social innovation and cultural diversity. From Friday to Sunday, it functions as a cultural center, complete with museum, bar, cinema, and restaurant.

Artistic direction for Le Comptoir Général is provided by Secousse, a design and research office dedicated to "poor" culture and "ghetto" art. This organization is also socially conscious, reinvesting 100% of its profits to fund new projects.

Two huge rooms on the ground floor (including a large bar and lounge area in what is called the “ballroom”), a garden for smokers, and a mezzanine comprise the establishment.

Le Comptoir Général "ballroom"
© Discover Paris!

Le Comptoir Général garden
© Discover Paris!

On weekends, there is a regular line-up of activities:
  • Film projections every Sunday from 6:30pm to 11:30pm
  • Sunday brunch from 11:30 am to 4 pm and Sunday evening buffet from 7:30 pm (no reservations required)
  • Musical storytelling for children at 3 :30 pm on Sundays, with an introduction to Congolese music and toy collection for poor children
  • Farmers’ market (La Ruche) featuring products from the Saint-Remy-Les-Chevreuses region every second and fourth Saturday from 11 am to 1 pm (must subscribe to participate)

There are also three shops that sell second-hand items on weekends:
  • A bookstore on the upper level that sells and collects books for Oxfam

  • Library and bookstore
    © Discover Paris!

  • A record store that sells CDs, DVDs and vinyl records

  • Radio area and record store
    © Discover Paris!

  • A second- hand clothing shop on the upper level that operates in partnership with the Red Cross.

  • La Friperie
    © Discover Paris!

Additional attractions include a room displaying items used in sorcery, a classroom, and a lost-and-found.

The most fascinating attraction for me is the Petit Musée de la Françafrique (the Little France-Africa museum), founded by two record labels: Secousse and Celluloid. The museum’s mission is to expose the plight of France’s former central African colonies in the post-colonial period. Its Web site describes the museum as
A shrine, a mausoleum, a memorial designed to freeze once and for all the sordid reputation of Africa and its hideous political past relationship with France; to bring peace to the miserable souls of all the guilty presidents, from both sides of the ocean.
Photo of Ahmed Sékou Touré - Guinea
© Discover Paris!

Paraphernalia from Françafrique Museum
© Discover Paris!

The recording companies were inspired to create the museum by a song called “Tout Restera Ici-Bas” by Congolese singer Papa Kourand. Kourand is honored in the entrance hallway where the museum is located.

Papa Kourand wall at Le Comptoir Général
© Discover Paris!

Le Comptoir Général is listed as one of the 100 Best Bars in Paris by Time Out. It is quite popular and the waiting time for entry can be quite long if you arrive at 8 PM or afterward. The bar opens at 6 PM on weeknights and at 11 AM on weekends. Closing time is 2 AM on Saturday and Sunday mornings and 1 AM during the rest of the week.

Le Comptoir Général
80 quai de Jemmapes
75010 Paris
Metro: République, Goncourt, or Jacques Bonsergent


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