Simon Njami, October 2009
Since time I travel to Africa, I began to despair a bit of artplace inventory. Wherever I cherished the hope that a vigorous and beautiful flower would bloom, an ill wind brought the weed and destroyed the sand castles too quickly constructed, too quickly acclaimed probably also. The pillars represented by the few historic biennial of African continent, with contradictory policies, are themselves in difficult situations when they are not outright dead, as ephemeral Johannesburg Biennale. What to discuss for active Afro-pessemistes.
However, since few years, fresh and strong initiatives have flourished while smiling ones who had decided only waiting for nothing. There are the classics. These met twenty years ago, as the team Doual'Art (Marilyn Douala Bell et Didier Schaub) in Cameroon who, despite all odds, continue to shake the art world of their country. They have evolved, matured, expanded. And in a world where cultural initiatives only during the time of a breath, it is a real pleasure to see them align ambitious projects. More recently, in Lagos, the Centre for Contemporary Art of Bissi Silva has enriched the Nigerian artlandscape of an critical area by the strength and boldness of his choice, now helping to redefine the contemporary art in the country. In Cairo, the artist Moataz Nasr opens the Darb, a renovated space in the old town, and wants to contest the truth of the official art. The examples are numerous. Jimmy Ogonga in Kenya intends to enter the East Africa in art debate which this region of Africa has long been discarded.
Things are moving. Africans are aware of their responsibilities and deal with spirit and talent. For a long time we say : Contemporary African Art, if it has any sense, will not open outside the continent. Debates, commitments, breaks must come from the same areas where these artists have raised and where they derive their legitimacy. Before being "international", one must first be anchored somewhere. Not in a ridiculous essentialism confine in nationalism, but in clear and articulated claim of a standpoint, of a sensitivity and a ways of doing things that do not necessarily need to emulate existing models.
Next year, two triennial we deliver their new edition. One in December in Douala, Cameroon, and the other in fall in Luanda, led by Sindika Dokolo Foundation and Fernando Alvim. Moments to be included in red on all agendas, because they show the activity and the commitment of Africans in Africa for artists from the continent. Even if they are guests in all the world. They can, the time of a coming home, be inspired to the sources of energy needed to confront the existing globalization.
Cairo walk © Moataz Nasr/courtesy Galleria Continua