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“La quenelle” is a gesture popularized by French/Cameroon comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala in his shows.
The gesture consists of having one arm pointing down while the opposite hand is held at the shoulder of the arm pointing down. The meaning of this movement is ambiguous, and many have tried to give it their definition, in fact, the former creator and user, Dieudonné, define it as a symbol of opposition against the systems established in the power, as an act of civil disobedience.
Since few month, both the gesture and the humorist has been the center of a huge political, mediatic debate.
The first time that Dieudonné made the gesture was in 2005 in his show “1905”. During one the sketches, he talks about how the mammals are observing the humans and that dolphins are mocking us. He does the gesture to show how deeps the dolphins will screw us with their fins.
For many years, people in the French speaking community have been taking pictures of themselves with the quenelle at famous places or next to celebrities.
The trick is that the one besides the quenelle master (“Maître Quenellier” as said by Dieudonné) is the one who receive the quenelle, the target can be anything (a person, a system, an entity).
During the year 2013 the numbers of pictures with people doing the quenelle increased fast. Even celebrities (football players, politics,…) has been photographied doing the gesture, some with Dieudonné himself, (many of them have denied or have demonstrated apologies for those photographies).
The humorist opened a Youtube account, which count today more than 800 000 subscriber, in those, he continue is political fight using this sarcastic/satyric tone of his own.
The general population has been aware of this phenomenon recently as Manuel Valls, the French Minister of Interior, by the use of a huge media assault and legal proceedings, has recently started a “war against the comedian” and is trying to ban his current show Le Mur. This has begun in France a debate about what Manuel Valls is doing and if it’s against the liberty of expression or not.
In the end of the 2013 and the early 2014, the debate has taken an unexpected scale, the government himself and the president of many association, for example, The LICRA, The CRIF, has engaged procedure against the humorist and those who support him, many people lost their jobs, for doing the gesture at work, the apparition of some band attacking the spectators after the end of few shows.
Manuel Walls did managed to make forbid, after few months of legal complications, Dieudonné’s show, for risk of disorder the Law and Order. This act make a more and more bigger part of the french people asking if their government and the people in charge with it are still following the principle of their Republic.
Dieudonné M’bala M’bala was born on the eleventh of February 1966 at Fontenay-aux-Roses. He gained notoriety in the 90’s when he was in a comical duo with Elie Semoun. Their partnership ended in 1997 and they both pursued a solo career.
He is the manager of the theatre La Main d’Or in Paris where he performs most of the time. Since his beginnings with Elie Semoun to this day he has written and performed in 18 shows.
At first a popular spokesperson against racism, he has himself been accused of racism since 2003 when he performed a sketch on a television show On ne peut pas plaire à tout le monde where he played as a Israeli settler.
Since this TV performance, his personality is at the centre of many debates. He is considered by some to be anti-semetic and persona non grata while others believe that he is victim of a system run by Zionist Lobbies.