Spotlight on France

Podcast: exploring Sudan's pyramids, philanthropy 'à la française', Sophie the giraffe

Audio 30:40
Spotlight on France, episode 55
Spotlight on France, episode 55 © RFI

How France is helping Sudan unearth its ancient kingdoms; the changing face of philanthropy in France; and Sophie la girafe, the iconic rubber teething companion, turns 60.

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For more than 50 years now, French archaeologists have been working with the Sudanese antiquities division to help excavate and preserve remarkable sites like the city of Meroe: the capital of one of the earliest and most developed states on the African continent. As in ancient Egypt, the Merotic kings and queens were buried in pyramids and more than 200 of them remain, some in ruins. Laura Angela Bagnetto recently visited the pyramids and met the head of the French section Marc Maillot. He talks about the latest fascinating dig in Meroe and France's role in helping keep Sudanese patrimony alive. (Listen @2'59'')

When Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris went up in flames in 2019, more than €800 million in donations were pledged in just a few days; hundreds of millions from a handful of super-rich French magnates. Unlike the US, France is unaccustomed to such obvious displays of personal wealth and many people were surprised, even shocked. Anne Monier, researcher at the ESSEC Philanthropy Chair, talks about how philanthropy is indeed developing in France but in a different way from the US. Americans meanwhile are providing considerable donations to France in return for 'social capital' which for the happy few can mean a Legion of Honour. (Listen @17'43'')

The first 'Sophie la girafe' rubber toy came out of the mould on 25 May 1961. 60 years later, she continues to be made the same artisanal way, and is coveted in France and abroad. (Listen @12'15'')

This episode was mixed by Cecile Pompeani.

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Google podcasts (link here), Spotify (link here), or your favourite podcast app.

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