Contemporary Practices and Social Dynamics
10th Biennale of Contemporary African Art, 2012
11 May - 10 June 2012
Curators: Christine Eyene, Nadira Laggoune, Riason Naidoo
The 10th edition of Dak’Art: Biennale of Contemporary African art opened on May 10, 2012 at the newly completed Grand Theatre, a walking distance from La Gare, the official biennale village. Established in 1989, Dak’Art takes into account the Senegalese government’s desire to promote culture as crucial to its national development agenda, and the importance of creating a sustainable postcolonial pan-African cultural institution with a global frame of reference in Africa. With over 400 official and independent exhibitions in Dakar, its suburbs, and the city of Saint Louis, Dak’Art 2012 gives vent to exciting prospects in the field of contemporary African art. At the same time, it underscores the challenges facing the state of being of the 22 year old biennale.
Works in the recent edition of Dak’Art mirror the diffuse repertoire of media, artistic forms and concepts which constitute contemporary artistic practice such as photography, sound, video, performance, object installations, etc., as well as conventional paintings and sculptures. Under the curatorial direction of Christine Eyene, Nadira Aklouche-Laggoune, and Riason Naidoo, the official international exhibition at Theodore Monod Museum, Dak’Art’s traditional venue, drew artists from the five geographical regions of Africa, its archipelago and the Diaspora. The curators attempted to find the right balance of artists with name recognition, mostly those who have exhibited in previous iterations of the biennale, and emerging talents. They include Mounir Fatmi (Morocco/France) and Mamady Seydi (Senegal), and Chika Modum (Nigeria), Younes Baba-Ali (Morocco), Hervé Youmbi (Cameroon), and Lerato Shadi (South Africa) respectively.
Mounir Fatmi “Burn Baby Burn” (2011) explores popular culture and revolutionary ideology, specifically that of the legendary Black Panthers. The work consists of Burn Baby Burn boldly written on the wall with yellow and black paint, a readymade branded bottles of spicy sauce, arranged in a plexi-glass shelf, a light box and a photograph of the branded spicy sauce bottle, combines elements of Warholian pop culture and new media savoir-faire in Fatmi’s edgy and conceptual style. Mamady Seydi’s undated Celui qui ne sait pas où il va, doit retourner d’ où il vient? (The one that does not know where he goes, must return where he comes from) is an installation consisting of a gas pump and grotesque figures with animal heads and human torsos, numbering about 30, either riding bicycles or seated and kneeling in animal-drawn carriages and wheel barrows. The well-crafted figures are assembled in queue-like formation on a cloud of cotton wool placed on a green rug. Largely inspired by a fuel shortage crisis in Senegal in 2008 which resulted in endless queues at gas stations, the installation explores humanity’s animalistic instincts when dealing with existential struggle for survival. The installation appears to also engage the symbolism of archaic modes of transport to address contemporary fuel-dependent means of human transportation.