DIPTYK 'African Lights: Advocacy for African radiance'



African Lights: Advocacy for African radiance

By Emmanuelle Outtier POSTED 17 April 2019

Translated from French using Google Translate


Initially set up in Paris during COP 21, the traveling exhibition "Lumières d'Afriques" visits Rabat to raise awareness of the energy challenges facing the African continent.


"How is it that this continent is in darkness while the sun is shining all the time? " The paradox raised by the Nigerian artist Emeka Okereke is at the heart of the exhibition" Africas Lights "which brings together around the issue  of access to energy, 54 artists, each representing a country on the continent. At the origin of this traveling exhibition initiated by the French NGO African Artists for Development (AAD), there is one observation: Africa has the lowest electrification rate in the world. Only 42% of its population has access to electricity, according to the 2016 World Bank report.


So, how to educate the international audience? With the COP 21 in Paris in 2015, the occasion was too good for Matthias and Gervanne Leridon, founders of AAD and also great fans of contemporary African art. The couple, whose personal collection includes more than 3,000 works, has made use of its network and its friendships made over the course of its acquisitions to convince young designers to lend themselves to the game of ordering and exhibition melting pot .


Leslie Lumeh, The Light Within, Liberia


Both are familiar with the continent and its artists. He discovered Burkina Faso as a teenager during a humanitarian trip, he then experienced "a decisive shock . For her, it is essentially after the exhibition "The Magicians of the Earth" that a sincere enthusiasm is born. "I come from a family that collected conceptual art ," she says. I was formatted by what we could see in Europe at that time, like Arte Povera or minimalism. All of a sudden, with the exhibition of Jean-Hubert Martin, it is a whole field of possibilities that opened "Since then, both have had an intimate passion for Africa, which has earned them the status of being Afro-optimistic, seasoned by their support, Afro-optimistic candid by their detractors.


Gastineau Massamba, 673 A, Republic of Congo


Like Leridon's convictions, "Enlightenment of Africa" ​​is an enthusiastic forum for the development and the influence of the continent whose artists are the spokesmen and representatives. The show is eclectic and uneven, and allows us to measure the diversity of practices - from Cyrus Kabiru's constructivist bicycle (see Diptyk 47) to Paul Sika's licked scenes. Besides, how would it be otherwise with 54 nationalities represented?



Malala Andrialavidrazana, Der südliche Himmel vs Planiglob der Antipoden, Madagascar


There are now familiar names - Malala Andrialavidrazana, Barreto N, Soly Cissé or Athi Patra Ruga - for whom "this exhibition, we often forget, was a springboard to international recognition , " says Gervanne Leridon. While some of the proposals are very literal, like the bulb-shaped coffin of the Ghanaian Paa Joe, others avoid with talent the stumbling block of the theme imposed by spinning the metaphor of light.


Under the objective of Teddy Mazina, the African energy is embodied in the revolt of this Burundian youth who fists raised against a corrupt government. The Tanzanian artist Rehema Chachage re-enchants the hackneyed art of the neon installation: the electoral slogan of the party in power in 2005, ARI, NGUVU, KASI (zeal, force, haste), lights and extinguishes intermittently, sometimes revealing the word A-NGU-KA (fall). One way to point out the lack of attention given to the water and electricity needs in his country. Further on, Namsa Leuba probably delivers the most astonishing work of this exhibition by photographing the reflection of the traditional South African paintings ndebele with a distorting mirror. This African art beautifully reinterprets its heritage in the light of its contemporaneity.


Mouna Jemal Siala, The transparent sphere, Tunisia


"Enlightenment of Africa" ​​also has its limits, like that of artificially creating a snapshot that sweeps all shades. Just think of this issue around the energy on which it builds its purpose and which differs depending on whether one lives in Cape Town or Ouagadougou - 84% of the South African population has access to electricity against 19% in Burkina Faso.


Nevertheless, this format has created emulators: the exhibition "Lend me your dream", supported by a Moroccan foundation, also relies on the double pan-African principle and itinerant. Similarly, it allows the Mohammed VI Museum to renew its ambition to make its spaces a showcase for contemporary African art, three years after "Africa en Capitale". And this is great news for the rbati audience, who relies on the fingers of their hands for the opportunity to see the art of the continent. As paradoxical as it may be.


Emmanuelle Outtier

"Lights of Africa", Mohammed VI Museum, Rabat, until August 15, 2019.


To read the original article please navigate to the DIPTYK website here

April 17, 2019
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