Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dak’Art Biennial of African Contemporary

If it can be viewed in football terms, the Dak’Art Biennial of African Contemporary Art held in Dakar- the home of the Lions of Teranga, is in the same league with the African Cup of Nations. It is the grandest gathering of visual artists from every corner of the continent and this year’s event that was also the 7th edition was filled with spectacular artworks.
The port city of Dakar was turned into one massive visual art exhibition space where artists were bold and blunt in their visually discussion and interrogation of Africa: Agreements, Allusions and Misunderstandings.
“The artworks gathered in this edition of the Dakar Biennial evoke themes as varied as urbanity and ecology, politics and globalization, spirituality and identity,” noted Yacouba Konate, the Dak’Art 2006 General Curator in an interview.
The biennial was dominated by installations and new media art that showed the artists’ ingenious ways to play around with objects to develop impressive pieces.

The Artwork

“My central subject in my various pieces is love,” Vita Emmanuel Eni, a lively Nigerian sculptor/painter pointed out in an interview with Kymsnet Features a few hours before flying back to his base in Germany. “However, the history of love has known a lot of turmoil where it has in some instances won and other times lost terribly. I have attempted to capture this in my work and the Israel/Palestine installation is just to magnify this conflict of hate and vengeance.”
At the opening of the 7th edition of the Biennale, Eni had captured everyone in Dakar including the Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who was the guest of honour, with his installation of bombs often used by the suicide bombers. He had a wonderful performance to accompany his installation and there was no doubt what he was saying about the Middle East.
The Israel/Palestine question has troubled the world for a long time and the current tension that came with the Hamas win of the last election has not helped matters. The tension is bound to continue growing and with it draw in more players far and near
“The conflict has drawn many players beyond the Middle East and the African continent has not been left behind,” Eni noted as he kept repeating the hate and vengeance mantra. “It keeps coming to you and you cannot fail to take notice. As an artist I have chosen to do an installation because I am afraid of the result of this conflict of hate and vengeance.”
He added: “The images that we keep on encountering in our television are stressful and these images even appear in my dreams.”
It is not just Eni, who looked at the question of war and peace. Bel Haj Taib from Tunisia had an eye-catching work or art. A fragile multi-media piece, Bel Haj’s sculpture/installation dubbed “Parading for Peace” composed of several tortoises made from soldiers helmets and in a symbolic and yet contradictory postures that leaves you with no doubt that it is a military parade hopefully for piece.
I was smitten by the various pieces by one of Nigeria’s most prolific veteran artist called Bruce Onobrakpeya. It is said that when the history of art in Nigeria is written, it would be incomplete if Bruce was not included and rightfully so. He fists came into the limelight in 1965 when the Duke of Edinburgh collected his work at the Commonwealth Exhibition of Art in Cardiff and London. Since then, his works have appeared in several collections notable amongst them are the Aso Rock in Abuja, the Vatican collection in Rome, the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington among other places.
He has been practicing for over 45-years and if the numerous pieces that he had selected for the Dak’Art are anything to go by, then there is no doubt that the old man like good wine is getting better with age.
The pieces were awesome and I was particularly head over heels in love with his piece called Ariel Landscape. Made from various computer CPU parts, the piece leaves you with no doubt as to what you may be looking. An aerial view of a well planned city and you can actually pick out where the industrial area is located, the residential estates, skyscrapers and others. A picture often seen when flying the pride of Africa.
Even our own Professor Wangari Maathai made a fine debut in Dakar courtesy of Ndory Lo, a gifted Senegalese artist who had an outstanding installation dubbed Rosa Park’s Refusal which had black and white passengers clad in various colours.
This bus was surrounded by portraits of leaders from both Africa and the Diaspora, who as Ndary Lo pointed out, “have helped to write the most beautiful pages in the history of the Black man’s struggle for his dignity.”

2 comments:

BM said...

It is great to have this review of a few of the works at Dak'Art 2006... and to have a discussion blog... please, please, give us more.

One of my favourite works on display in dakar was 'Referendum Girl' by Kenya's own Joseph Bertiers (Mbathia). Nearly two metres high, this vibrantly painted iron woman wears a bright red and yellow top, rolled up jeans and a beaded headband. She teeters on well-worn and unstable high-heeled shoes, only just managing to do a very Kenyan juggling act! With an orange balancing precariously on one finger of her right hand, and a banana balancing on a finger of the other hand, she somehow also supports a giant coca-cola bottle on a stick that she grips between her teeth. Such a clever, and hilarious, and yet serious, comment on election politics and the burden of multinational corporations.

The work deserves an honoured place in the Kenyan National Gallery... or perhaps even parliament building!

BM said...

Another big exhibition for Africa coming up at Venice in June 2007. Africa has a large, complete section in the central part of the biggest exhibition building.

check out:
http://universes-in-universe.de/car/venezia/eng/2007/tour/index.htm

Parading for Peace by Bel Haj Taib from Tunisia

Parading for Peace by Bel Haj Taib from Tunisia
An eye-catching work or art. A fragile multi-media piece, Bel Haj’s sculpture/installation dubbed “Parading for Peace” composed of several tortoises made from soldiers helmets and in a symbolic and yet contradictory postures that leaves you with no doubt that it is a military parade hopefully for piece.

The Market by Bertiers from Kenya

The Market by Bertiers from Kenya
It is always a beehive of activities and no one can aptly capture like an artists does. It is a deep, profound piece with various stories that have many related subthemes that make Bertiers such an outstanding artist of his generation.

Ariel Landscape by Bruce Onobrakpeya from Nigeria

Ariel Landscape by Bruce Onobrakpeya from Nigeria
Made from various computer CPU parts, the piece leaves you with no doubt as to what you may be looking. An aerial view of a well planned city and you can actually pick out where the industrial area is located, the residential estates, skyscrapers and others.