Street art explosion in the heart of French National Park of the Cévennes in the small village of Bessèges!13 August 2023
Going off in search of street art in the Cévennes seems like a rather far-fetched idea… When you think of the Cévennes, you think of the coolness of the national park where thousands of city-dwellers go to cool off in the summer, of swimming in the rivers and also of the sixty-eighters who invaded the Lozère to breed biquettes! To be honest, I didn’t really believe in spray-paint cans and urban artists in the Cévennes! But then I heard about this amazing project and decided to take a closer look. It seems that monumental works of art are springing up all over the place in the village of Bessèges, which has a population of 2,800. It’s a small village tucked away in the valleys, separated by a pretty river, the Cèze. A village marked by its mining past, where abandoned industrial buildings stand side by side with pretty little houses and a few low-rent apartment blocks. This astonishing project is the brainchild of Matthéa & Bruno Jacomet, who have worked in the art world for years and have a real passion for urban art. They call it MI.A.O.U en Cévennes!
MI.A.O.U en Cévennes, what’s that all about?
The MI.A.O.U in the Cévennes already features more than 30 works of Street Art in the village of Bessèges alone. It’s a project that Matthéa & Bruno Jacomet have been running for more than 4 years, with the aim of revitalising a village that’s been somewhat dormant, as well as offering Street Art activities in Bessèges and the surrounding villages. Its charming little name actually stands for Musée Intercommunal d’Art Ouvert et Urbain (Inter-municipal Museum of Open & Urban Art)… So it’s clear that the project is set to spread across several communes. Before giving you a little debriefing of my Sunday in Bessèges under a blazing sun, I decided to select ten works that appealed to me for different reasons: emotionally, technically or simply because finding them here in Bessèges seemed so unlikely that I wanted to share them with you!
Zeklo Volio welcomes us to Bessèges with a gentle work of art
As I rounded a bend in the road on my way to Bessèges, this work was the first to come to me… I was quite surprised to see such a gentle, almost nostalgic work. There’s something bucolic about this representation… This woman, these flowers, the choice of colours. So when I learn that this work by Zeklo Volio is called “Ancient histories” and that this artist is a child of the village, I’m not surprised. Even less so when I read that these flowers are those of potatoes, the motifs of which used to decorate old Cévennes plates.
Nubian‘s boat, an absolute heartthrob!
Incredible… The moss on the boat, its state of disrepair and these little flying fish coming out of nowhere but so discreet! Honestly, it looks like an oil painting from another time with a touch of modern poetry… and yet Nubian is a young artist from Montpellier with a very unique dreamlike universe. I’m sorry that my photo doesn’t do justice to the show I was able to enjoy… but please follow this artist, he’ll give you some great sensations!
Kashink, a double ray of sunshine for Bessèges
Whether in Pantin, La Butte aux Cailles or Sète, I’ll never stop introducing you to Kashink when I see one of her works in front of my lens! This woman artist has opened the doors to a whole new generation of young women who are now bombarding the streets… Kashink is POP, she is ROCK, she questions with her flamboyant frescoes and her multicoloured faces with their double looks. With one spray, or many, she sweeps away intolerance and celebrates diversity! BIG UP!
Tito & Mulk, a creative explosion
Tito & Mulk are a slightly mad duo, with a comics slant and, above all, a great sense of humour! They’re illustrators, cartoonists and creators of punchlines like “Creativity is intelligence having fun”. This duo brings such a unique style to the French street art scene that I couldn’t resist selecting their explosive work done in Bessèges. I urge you to zoom in on the image to understand the different levels of detail in this mind-boggling work.
Le Long and its majestic tigers
When I posted this photo on Instagram, the artist Le Long commented that he had made the work with “a photo he had taken nearby”… And it’s true that you could just imagine these magnificent tigers quenching their thirst by the river on the edge of the woods. I loved the note of humour, except that it hides a sad truth; a warning about endangered species. Bears, tigers, black panthers, servals… Le Long makes us aware of the devastating effect of man on the animal world…
The eye of the golden eagle K.YOÔ watches over Bessèges
At this stage of my walk, you’re going to think that Street Art in the Cévennes is all about animals 😉 Nothing could be more normal, however, than the presence of the eagle in a national park like this, which boasts a large number of them. The eagle has been used by many civilisations as a totem, a symbol of strength, loyalty and foresight, with a strong spiritual dimension. The artist K.YOÔ erected it facing the river so that it would protect with benevolence and serenity.
FOA & Grumo a step forward in the world of illustration
I chose this work for two reasons. The first was my meeting with the young people in the area, who told me it was their favourite work… And of course I asked them why? Because it looks like a comic strip, because it’s exactly what’s happening in Bessèges, the town is being repainted, because there’s the miners’ lantern and they all have one at the house they inherited. The second reason is simply the very special world of Grumo and FOA, who joined him for the fresco on the left. I love presenting different styles to show you the diversity of works and techniques that can be found on city walls. And I must confess that I had promised these young people that I would include a photo of their favourite wall 😉
Tribute to Guinean women by Bella Bah
This portrait of a woman is flamboyant, the colours are shimmering and the magnificent headdress takes us straight back to Africa, where dress is much happier than it is here. This is the 1st major fresco by Guinean artist Bella Bah, and he has painted it from the heart, representing his mother back home. I invite you to discover his colourful and positive world, this artist with a big heart should soon be the talk of the town!
Ted Nomad : A human perspective
I first came across Ted Nomad‘s stencils at Street Art City a few years ago and was immediately struck by the realism of his portraits! He manages to convey emotion through his eyes… Behind these faces you can immediately imagine the life that goes with them! Here in Bessèges, I want to read tenderness and kindness. Others will read something else… His work is called “The joy of simple things” and it’s quite simply monumental!
The highly graphic Whale from L’Insecte with a graffiti touch!
You were right to think that street art in the Cévennes was very animal-oriented! I don’t know whether it’s the national park that has inspired the artists, as here with the magnificent whale created by l’Insecte. This artist from the Gard region created his work with magnificent details, including palm trees, boats, flowers and even a few bubble letters, much to my delight. Of course, the shadow of death looms over this beautiful whale!
Is Street Art in the Cévennes at Bessèges worth the trip?
Quite frankly, I find the work done by Mathhéa & Bruno Jacomet truly impressive! In just 4 and a half years, they’ve managed to mobilise a host of talented artists, most of them from the region, to create more than 30 monumental works of art. Not to mention all the smaller works along the way, which you can find on my Instagram. And of course, if you’re ever in the Cévennes region, I’d urge you to go along – it’s well worth the diversions!
Will this initiative alone be enough to wake up this sleepy former mining town? I’m not so sure, because at 35 degrees in the shade it was impossible for me to find a café open on a Sunday afternoon, or even a small mini-market to buy a bottle of water… In the main street, a lot of shops are going out of business, but I did notice a little revitalisation with an excellent bakery, Au bon pain nourricier, which makes brioches to die for, and an ultra-hyped and very versatile tattoo parlour called La Sauce B16, which young and old are crazy about! I chatted to some elderly ladies who were fanning themselves in the shade of a chestnut tree, and to young people who love their new, more colourful environment, but who don’t seem to have grasped that it could attract new tourists. Tourism that needs to quench its thirst and eat too, because the walk takes between 3 and 3 and a half hours! If you’re tempted by the idea, here’s a link to the interactive map of the works.
The street art in the Cévennes really made me think of Port de Bouc. Two sleepy towns just waiting to wake up thanks to this impressive movement that is urban art! I sincerely hope that the local people will get behind the MI.A.O.U project in the Cévennes, because I’m sure that the Jacomet duo have no intention of stopping there 😉 To be continued.
As I left the village to go and quench my thirst in Saint Ambroix, I spotted another work by Kashink, which tells me that the artists must have had a field day in this little village of Bessèges.
I’m leaving the Cévennes and heading off for new Street Art adventures! See you soon