Claudine Ikenazene, the traveling actress, from TPG to the Antipodes

In the early 1980s, theater fans rubbed their eyes when they boarded the number 7 bus to Lignon or the 6 to Vernier in the canton of Geneva. Wasn’t that woman behind the wheel the one you’d seen recording at the Caveau the day before? Play Strindberg, the play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt? “It’s me,” she confirmed. Actress by night, driver by day. Because when the scene feeds the soul, it doesn’t fill the plate. “You have to eat well and stay healthy,” she told users.

It was more than a grocery job for Claudine Ikenazene, as she drove for the Geneva public transport company for ten years. The first time he had to pass his truck driver’s license, the second time he had to assume that being the first woman sat where a man usually sat; the resentment was great. “I didn’t care because the passengers found my ride smoother than the men’s,” she smiles.

Plan the road…

A kind of adventure, these kilometers covered on the Geneva asphalt, with encounters, everyday or picturesque scenes of everyday life, friendships even with regulars. She later traveled the world by boat many times. That constant desire to chart the course, be it cantonal or oceanic. We’ll come back to that.

Claudine Ikenazene was born in North Africa during the colonial period. Kabyle father, Czech mother. “She was bathing on a beach in Algiers, he saw her graceful and aquatic, he dived, joined her.” That’s how love is born, and then a child. Short luck. The mermaid dies of a flash of paratyphoid. Little Claudine is 7 years old. “My mother fled the rise of National Socialism and died of an illness at such a young age,” she recalls. Childhood is still beautiful, on the shores of the Mediterranean. The father remarried, but when in 1959, before independence, the streets were littered with corpses, the family retreated to Paris.

Claudine discovers the Louvre, strolls through the Jardin du Luxembourg. She dreams of becoming a geologist, surgeon and then a midwife “to give birth to the wives and daughters of the nomads in the Algerian Sahara”. But Paris is bohemian, bright and dreamy. She took acting lessons, which she paid for by night-time waitressing at the Colisée, the grand brasserie of the time a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysées. She serves Bourvil, Francis Blanche, Maurice Chevalier, Omar Sharif, Georges Guétary or Yul Brynner, whose jacket she stains with fresh cream.

A man is there, on the same moleskin bench as she serves in the dining room. A dandy, a nobleman, in his fifties, fascinated by the beauty of the young girl. “Do you like horses? Come to Switzerland, you will climb every day,” he invites. She is 20 years old, the age of all possibilities. “At that time I was discreet, very quiet, shy. This man woke me up. Too She tells her father that she will be an au pair there, but she is a lover In fact, an instructor from the Cadre Noir de Saumur introduced him to horseback riding and vaulting.

But it’s still a while. She gets tired. Is the Geneva Beach model of a photographer who will be her first husband and the father of her daughter. “It was a very peace and love, Fairs and parties, our gang was called the Draggers,” recalls Claudine Ikenazene. Many trips, to India, Morocco, Afghanistan, her daughter accompanies her everywhere. She brings her luggage back from India tanpura, stringed instrument with throbbing airs that give the melodic drone. In Geneva she gives concerts with other musicians who are also specialists in Indian music.

She’s had 36 jobs, from sales clerk to model (she was slim, 5’7″, a rare height for a woman at the time) to, of course, bus driver. All this to live his passion: comedy. She plays at the Théâtre de Carouge, also plays for television. 1984 met Christophe Buholzer, who later became her second husband. He is an adventurer of the seas and oddly resembles Corto Maltese. She leaves the photographer and embarks in her long-distance sailing ship. He’s 30 years old, she’s 50, but doesn’t make them.

On the world seas

Christophe is a ship carpenter and schooner builder. He’s working on repairing one Baltic trader which he converts for wealthy Americans. Christophe delivers the boats himself across the seas and oceans. Claudine sails months and years. With long stopovers: eight years in New Zealand, five in Turkey, six in California. While her husband combed the docks and carved ship hulls in San Francisco, she entered the legendary Indian music school Ali Akbar Khan. She gets to know the tabla, a kind of drum that reminds her of the Algerian darbouka of her childhood. Two tablas are on display in the couple’s home in Chambésy.

Both have been docked since 2017. This remains provisional. “We have plans to go,” she says. She’s memorizing it now fables de La Fontaine “to keep my memory alive because I would like to do television again”.


1938 Born in Algiers.

[1945[1945 death of his mother.

1959 Arrived in Paris.

1980 First female bus driver in Geneva.

1984 Meet Christophe the sailor.

Find all the Portraits of “Time”.

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