Last Tuesday evening I attended a presentation of the Salle de Mariages, located in the town hall of the nearby city of Bobigny. Designed by artist Hervé Di Rosa in 2006, the zany room contains a collection of colorful heart-shaped chairs; a great, red, heart-shaped table; a throne-like chair surmounted by a giant, elongated face; a bronze sculpture of an African figure with four eyes; wall panels displaying multicolored graffiti and framed portraits; and curio cases displaying knick-knacks and figurines.
The room, undoubtedly unique in its kind, is used to perform civil marriages. Designed to express the spirit of inclusiveness that pervades the Bobigny city government and its citizens—a town with a diverse population of over 100 ethnicities—the symbolism of the décor of the room requires some explanation!
The hearts that lovers carve into trees inspired Di Rosa to design the heart-shaped seats for the room. Di Rosa created larger chairs for the bride and groom, complete with men’s and women’s shoes for the legs and backs decorated with smiling faces. The top of the bride’s chair is crowned with a wire heart, representing the French expression coup de coeur; the groom’s chair is topped by lightning bolts, representing the French expression coup de foudre. Both expressions translate into English as “lovestruck.”
The most remarkable work in the room is Di Rosa’s sculpture of La Marianne. The image of a woman’s face has been used to represent the spirit of the French Republic since the late 18th century. Although she has traditionally been depicted as a white woman, Di Rosa chose to represent Marianne as an African woman, engaging masters of the lost wax-casting technique in the town of Foumban, Cameroon to create the sculpture.
Di Rosa gave the African figure two sets of eyes—one set that gazes down upon the happy couple at the moment of their marriage, the other that looks off into the distance, symbolizing eternity—the ideal length of the couple’s union.
Newlyweds will never forget their marriage in this room. After the ceremony, the bride and groom are presented a colorful signed and numbered serigraph to take home as a memento of their union.
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