VIDEO. Pastel painting from the Pays de Cocagne is now on the list of French Intangible Heritage

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This regional know-how dating back to the Middle Ages has finally been recognized as part of France’s intangible cultural heritage. Good news for a sector that is constantly reinventing itself.

One of the historical and local treasures is now recognized by the Ministry of Culture. The knowledge related to pastel painting in the Pays de Cocagne has entered the French intangible cultural heritage. Good news for a sector rising from the ashes.

“A real recognition for our sector, pride that pastel is prominent in the age of chemical dyes”, enthuses Sandrine Banessy, co-founder of the Terre de Pastel – Bleu par nature group, with Jean-Jacques Germain, which includes 40 employees in the Toulouse region. She and her colleagues, especially in Gers, Tarn and Haute-Garonne, work with this plant whose leaves are used to dye all kinds of materials blue. Moreover, blue color does not exist in pastel sheets. It is the fermentation of these leaves that “breaks down” the sugars and thus releases the elements that combine to form this famous blue color.

Pastel was originally a medicinal plant.

Pastel was originally a medicinal plant.

This medieval know-how was the first great economic adventure in the region “long before the Airbus. Our work of excellence, like wine in Bordeaux for example, shines all over France and the world. This inscription proves that our rediscovery of pastel work, our return to knowledge of the past is worth it!”, continues the one who only eight years ago replanted the pastel leaves.

The famous pastel blue.

The famous pastel blue.

From jewelry to fans, the pastel industry is evolving and modernizing

If the first French flags were painted pastel blue, this medieval industry that made the region famous centuries ago ended up disappearing. Before he came back and reinvented himself for a few years. Today, you can no longer find only textiles, but beer, honey, cosmetics and even jewelry from this plant, which was a medicinal base. The possibilities are limitless. “With the return of good weather, I am printing pastel fans,” laughs Sandrine Banessy.

In the eyes of these experts, this recognition will enable the rediscovery of this local history, but above all a new development of this economy that responds to current environmental concerns.

“Unique tourist and cultural attraction”

In the region, this sector represents a total of 20 “pastel textile processing” companies and about 30 “textile finishing with natural dyes” companies (including Pastel), a community of master dyers, artisans and creative designers, researchers and scientists who work to optimize extraction processes and dyeing, an economic sector rooted in the local economy, issues of preservation and transfer, a unique tourist and cultural attraction,” greeted the Chamber of Crafts from the Occitanie region, which worked for a year and a half on this entry into the French intangible cultural heritage.

A sector that in any case sees life in pink and the future in blue from this recognition.

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