Dak’Art 2008

ColinHumphrey: www.colinhumphrey.co.uk, culture, exhibition, international, biennale, senegal, dak'art, 2008ColinHumphrey: www.colinhumphrey.co.uk, culture, exhibition, international, biennale, senegal, dak'art, 2008

Dak’Art, “Mirror”, 2008, Senegal, Africa

The Mirror

The dialogue of the DAK’ART biennale 2008 is framed around the theme Mirror. This conceptual device is employed as a premise by which the curators exact a discursive framework in order to question old historical tenets of what African art is and perchance of what it is to be a contemporary African.

On view

The countries participating include South Africa, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Mali, Morocco and Nigeria to name a few. The diversity of the art is typified in the rich collections on display comprised of a great many contemporary African practitioners among them: Nandipha Mntambo, Sonya Rademeyer, Pelagie Gbaguidi, Blaise Bang, Achille Komguem (Achillek), Osaretin Ighile, Samba Fall and Grace Ndiritu. The work on show consists of installation, sculpture, audio visual art, painting and drawing. The standard of work is testimony to an astute conceptual, aesthetic and rigorous approach to art practice.

Curatorial framework

The heavily loaded curatorial strategy could arguably be scorned as too daunting for some who just crave art for art divested of any overly socio-cultural indebtedness, and that maybe true. But this event faces down the paradox in a concerted effort to turn around an inherently entrenched point of view. Can it do this by one biennale event? And will all future editions follow a similar theme? This could be quite boring and also prone to antagonise the art community rather than effectively challenging established perceptions. However it seems the old outmoded views are giving way to a new reception of African art and Artists: ‘Africa Remix’ – Hayward Gallery, and ‘Back to Black’ – Whitechapel, both part of ‘Africa 05’ an event which took place in the UK during 2005 is proof of this.

African art?

A valid question to ask would be, is this really contemporary African art? The work is so aware of the notions, traits, twists and turns present in the global contemporary canon and Western/European paradigms that its hard to tell where the one continent ends and the other begins. And so we get to the heart of the matter, that it is not the mediation or style of the art work that furnishes it with its designation, essentially it is the subject matter and the executors of the work which announce from where it was derived. One can go further still, art and the artist should not care about background, culture, or geography in the creative act, let this be a concern for history and theorists.

Rereading African art

The proverbial white elephant on whose back – the often misapplied – primitivism, shamanism, artisanship and the fetish objects of Africa slowly ride begins looking rather weary. These old suppositions were arguably true at a point in time but have long ceased to occupy a firm credibility in the present and yet have managed to be loosely descriptive of African art in general for some time. The old traditions in African still live on but so too does an established collection of African artists in the contemporary domain living and making exceptionally compelling work.

Rounded up

A rich and inspiring event challenging perceptions of just what exactly contemporary African identity and art are through a wide variety of the audio and visual arts.


written by: Colin Humphrey

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