Beside the Belleville Metro station is a creation by the Belgian artist Bonom. Although I didn't know who he was at the time, Bonom is someone who has already inspired me in Paris. Nicknamed the Belgian Banksy (mostly for his desire to remain anonymous), he creates monumental figures of animals, skeletons and fossils, pictures that often climb 15-20 metres up the bare stone sides of an apartment building. Here in Belleville, they are a tangle of snakes, resembling the hair of Medusa or simply a mapwork of cracks in an ancient wall.
What particular caught my eye here is the fact that they seem to spring from a trace of the past, a name carved into the wall of a neighbouring building. "Aux Quatre Arrondissements" is a reference to the fact that Belleville stands at the crossroads of four different arrondissements (10th, 11th, 19th and 20th), but what was this name promoting? From what I have been able to discover, it was the name of a large shop dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, a store belonging to a group known as the "Grands Magasins de Nouveautés".
Over 100 years later, the unifying nature of this position seems more important than ever. Today a Chinese supermarket occupies the space beneath this sign, but the crossroads shelters a multitude of nationalities and religions. Jewish patisseriess sit next to Vietnamese restaurants and Halal butchers, whilst Bangladeshis sell roasted chestnuts from supermarket trolleys alongside Africans with baskets of steamed sweetcorn. How suitable it seems therefore to find a cutting edge street artist here next to a footprint of the area's past.