Mats Widbom: the new director at the Swedish Institute in Paris

Mats Widbom will have to shoulder two posts at the same time: both as director of the Swedish Institute and as cultural councillor at the Swedish Embassy, starting from April 2012. He doesn’t lack either cultural or international competence to lead Sweden’s only international Institute forward.


The tall, sporty looking Mats, smiles a warm smile when we meet for the first time in the Institute’s sunny courtyard this Parisian spring day. He has broad experience of being a director since the time when he was the art-director for national exhibitions, Museum director in Gothenburg and as cultural coucillor at the Embassy in W.D.C. as well as director of House of Sweden there. In Washington, Mats organized our five Nordic countries around a large cultural project that will take place in February 2013 in Kennedy Center. “It will show the very best from our Northern countries,” he says. “I’ll of course travel back to attend it.”

Lunch with the French Minister of Culture and Communication – Frédéric Mitterand

France’s minister has been a well-known figure long before he became minister. He is known as the former president François Mitterand’s nephew but also as a cultural leading personality who has starred cultural television shows, written several books and played an important role in film diffusions.

The day we met, was a sunny, warm spring day, the magnolia was starting to bloom in this ancient palace’s beautiful yard, as I walked into its gilded halls, behind the Louvre. Before meeting the Minister, I recognized his soft voice from his many television shows that I’ve seen. He had not changed much since then, his good humour and agreeable personality is the same despite his function as a minister.

President Sarkozy did a smart move when he named this popular man as his Minister of Culture in 2009. The media wrote that “it was Carla’s influence”. “Not at all,” the Minster assured me. “The President is quite independent and Carla much too smart to try to influence her husband in such decisions.” I tend to believe him because Sarkozy has had the intelligence of naming some of the best known and liked personalities – despite differing political views – to important functions. 

Mangas or “images for entertainment”

Japan was this year’s focus at the Paris bookfair. I decided to concentrate on their mangas. Comic strips are a French speciality so the French are naturally inclined towards the Japanese mangas. France is the country in the world that publish most mangas after Japan.

The world famous artist Hokusai

Hokusai travelled around Japan in 1812 och drew his impressions in his journal. They were published two years later. This journal became known as the “Hikusai’s mangas” – his drawings. The word “manga” then became famous. But the mangas as we know them didn’t pick up until the beginning of the 1900s when the Japanese comics invaded the daily newspapers. It was finally after the Second World War that this specific style became popular.

The fall of the Pharaoh but the emergence of Art


Champollion is the man that is commonly known as the Hieroglyphs’interpreter. Only a few know that it’s a Swedish name – Åkerbald – that’s ingraved in the Egyptian Museum’s façade.  It was him that started with the difficult task of trying to translate the Rosetta stone’s engravings. Pharaoh’s history has intrigued and interested all visitors since centuries. But now it seems that it’s swinging on a thin thread. Shall the land of the Pharaohs survive yet another chaotic period? And what do we discern through the emerging shadows after the euphoria of the last Revolution?

The French Feminists have become Feminine!

The scandal with the French Presidential candidate Strauss Kahn (DSK) brought along its path some positive changes: the French feminist movement reappeared after a slumbering existence, albeit in a somewhat different shape.


In France there are still tremendous differences between men’s and women’s salary for the same job – sometimes as much as 19%! Despite that and despite the violence perpetrated against women that continues in every social classe: one girl of two is murdered per day; one woman in three has experienced a violent act against her sometimes during her life; one woman out of ten men in parliament… The list goes on. But to say that you’re a femisnist today in France is considered “old-fashioned”. It was the foreign critique of the French after the DSK-scandal that led to a revival of the debate. But it took quite some time to blossom up. With the Presidential elections coming up soon however, the French start to talk about feminism again.