Contemporary art from Africa: solidarity in works and words

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Among the emblematic personalities involved in this event, there is, among others, the Senegalese Soly Cissé, the Togolese Barthélémy Toguo, the Moroccan Mohamed Melehi, unfortunately disappeared last month at the age of 84 as a result of the Covid, the Ivorian Joana Choumali, the South African William Kentridge and the Malian Abdoulaye Konate. Objective: to offer many lots for sale as a sign of solidarity with other artists that the Covid-19 crisis has literally put in difficulty.

What Soly Cissé and Abdoulaye Konaté say about artistic solidarity

“They don’t talk about it openly, but a lot of them are going through a particularly difficult time. It is natural to organize ourselves in order to help each other. From the start, I was up for it! »Says Soly Cissé. Child of Dakar, the painter and sculptor donated three pieces that reflect questions of identity and cultural heritage. Painting-poem, painting-cry, the works In the Forest I, In the Forest II and Exchange, presented for this online sale are crossed by the dazzling color.

With his extraordinary sculpted works, shaped with a thread of fabric inspired by memory and African tones, the Malian plastic artist Abdoulaye Konate wanted to participate with an emblematic work. “This is important, because we do not know how much the situation of culture is currently reduced to a skin of sorrow. This is an area that is not supported very much by African states, so we must show solidarity, because some artists are in real pain. We are appealing to collectors and patrons to promote African creation. And I would like to thank the great generosity of the late Mohamed Melehi who was a determining donor and an exceptional artist from Morocco and beyond ”, he confides. His proposed work: Position in blue gray at the moon. Of art and material, this work refers to the lunar star and its circular expression. This piece measuring 2 meters by 1.5 meters was put at a price of 29,000 euros in this online sale organized as part of the operation.

Appreciable for an outstanding artist, whose forty years of work on fabric and colors ensure a regular presence in museums and galleries around the world. So at Blain Southern, at the Primo Marella Gallery and at the Gallery 1957 as well as at the Zeitz Mocaa museum (contemporary art from Africa) in Cape Town, where he was last February, always faithful to his inclination for the human.

“Africa Unite! »: An idea, an organization

“Africa Unite Against Covid-19” was initiated by the Foundation for the Development of Contemporary African Culture (FDCCA) and the African Culture Fund (ACF). These entities are required to manage 50% of the income from this sale organized free of charge by the houses Cornette de Saint Cyr and La Marocaine des arts.

For Fihr Kettani, secretary general of the FDCCA, “ the global health crisis linked to Covid-19 has abruptly stopped the vast majority of cultural and artistic events on the African continent. These massive cancellations had negative consequences linked to the economic crises caused by the pandemic in our countries. These rhyme with the crisis in patronage and cultural and artistic sponsorship, ”he said.

« For the most part, African cultural associations and businesses have seen their sources of funding dry up suddenly, leaving their projects with little chance of survival and putting a majority of artists in a most precarious situation. She was not flourishing before the Covid, it has exacerbated already existing difficulties “, he added, before continuing:” For its part, the African Culture Fund, a Malian foundation, has created a solidarity fund for African artists named Sofaco. In fact, the mobilization and generosity of artists in response to this call for donations was extraordinary. ”

In the wake of “Lend me your dream”

Ambitious, pioneering, the “Lend me your dream” caravan, a traveling pan-African exhibition launched in Casablanca in June 2019 and having brought together illustrious artists in residence in Morocco such as the Congolese Freddy Tsimba, inaugurated its African stage in December in a setting unpublished: the Museum of Black Civilizations of Dakar (MCN). Located near the port of the Senegalese capital, built according to the traditional round hut, this monumental space of 14,000 square meters, hosted on its first anniversary, December 6, 2019, 33 works by contemporary African artists recognized internationally. , but whose art is unknown on the continent.

The Senegalese philosopher, Souleymane Bachir Diagne, who heads the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University in New York, present during the African stage of “Lend me your dream” in Dakar, indicated that ” the culture of exchange with artists, this essential pillar between the public and the works, has been reduced to nothing since this period of the coronavirus pandemic. However, artists give and receive in all reciprocity with the public, they create a community around their art. And to continue: “The initiative of this charity auction is part of an extraordinary continuity of the momentum carried by Lend me your dream, a highly anticipated event in Senegal. This caravan, which made a stop in African capitals, is to be greeted! I had the chance to attend the Museum of Black Civilizations, all audiences were there, including schoolchildren and students. The strong message was considerable: the struggle and the dream of the artists exhibited in their native land and the victory of African creativity were fully embodied there. ”

For now, the artistic caravan “Lend me your dream” is on display in Abidjan at the new Museum of Contemporary Cultures Adama Toungara. Stopped by the health crisis after its stopover in Côte d’Ivoire, it was unable to continue its momentum in Madagascar as planned. ” Like many African cultural associations, the foundation supporting the project has lost its sponsors and patrons, themselves affected by the crisis. The artists, aware of the difficulties engendered by the health crisis, have shown extraordinary mobilization and generosity, which has resulted in the constitution of this beautiful collection for this online sale, ”said Fihr Kettani.

Tribute to Mohamed Melehi and his major role

Among the donor artists, gathered in this “Africa Unite” sale, Fihr Kettani pays special tribute to the artist Mohamed Melehi, who died as a result of an infection linked to Covid-19. Lboth foundations have was able to benefit from “the legendary generosity of the artist”, confides the secretary general of the FDCCA. Among the highlights of this online sale is Calligraphy, work offered by the artist, with bright colors drawing the figure of the wave, emblematic of his art. A work estimated at 30,000 euros.

Ilias Selfati, Moroccan plastic artist trained at the School of Fine Arts in Tetouan as the late Mohamed Melehi, considers him a spiritual father. Sensitive to this outpouring of solidarity, Ilias Selfati has created a work with an original approach and exclusively intended for this online sale. The Forest in Full Orbit combines collage and drawing. “Today, Morocco is turned towards Africa, and no longer only towards Europe. Large-scale exhibitions bringing together artists from the continent have multiplied there for nearly ten years, contemporary African art is of rare richness. This charitable initiative must be emulated within the profession ”, he declared.

Wealth of looks for “Africa Unite! “

Multifaceted, unifying, Africa Unite Against Covid-19 is a crossroads of various perspectives that raise contemporary questions around societal themes. Illustration: highlighting the 8e art with Tiny, photograph signed by the Ivorian Joana Choumali, awarded the Pictet Prize in 2019 for It will be fine, project combining photography and embroidery following the terrorist attacks of Grand-Bassam in his country. “With this artist, the issue of identity and the construction of the African self is perfectly addressed. It pushes the art of photography into an unprecedented modernity by integrating embroidery techniques, thus inventing a new aesthetic ”, explained Bassam Chaitou, Senegalese collector of Lebanese origin.

As for Amina Benbouchta, Moroccan plastic artist who donated several works, the desire for mutual aid was instantaneous. Contacted at the height of the confinement last spring, the gradual isolation of some extremely vulnerable artists did not leave her insensitive. “The world of art is being roughed up, I totally support this charity sale! We need to unite more than ever. In Morocco, we often collaborate with our counterparts from West and East Africa. We are united by the same continent, ”she explained. As such, she donated the coins Oedipus king, Artemisia, which evoke the flow, the blood drive, the link to the mother figure.

These are all initiatives to be welcomed which illustrate a significant awareness of the need to think about the economic dimension of culture in general and contemporary art in particular. Together, the Foundation for the Development of Contemporary African Culture (FDCCA) and the African Culture Fund hope to support some 3,000 to 5,000 artists selected under the Africa Unite Against Covid-19. A healthy direction in more ways than one.


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