They create what exists inside their heads. If there is uniqueness to contemporary art in Africa, there is no unanimity between the painters of Kinshasa, Lagos, Maputo or Johannesburg, any more than that between sculptors of Porto Novo in Benin and Freetown in Sierra Leone, or even, that between a photographer from Dakar, from Kinshasa or from Bamako. Everyone has their own history, their culture, their style, their creative techniques, their fantasies, their way of looking at the world and inventing it…
Their artistic training is academic or handed down from traditions; their art also comes from dreams, from visions and often from the street, as proclaimed by the “popular” artists of Kinshasa. They create without any concern for historical patterns or global aesthetics. They travel their own path, they invent themselves, invent worlds. They have no inhibitions when it comes to colour, and colour is everywhere in the streets, on the walls, in the night, in Kinshasa, in Maputo, in Lagos or in Johannesburg. Artists experiment without constraint, all manner of subjects, stories, politics, beliefs or utopias. They tell us about themselves, about their neighbourhood, about their society, their reality. Africa boasts untold riches; their strength lies in their youth, their creativity and their unprecedented approach to the freedom they have granted themselves to create. Their works give us the contours of their real world but also universal realities, and their dreams. Many artists live there, work there, it is the tether they need to create. Little by little, Africa is building its model. Artists are in direct communication with the world. New technologies, social networks help considerably to spread and produce their works. Africa is opening up to the world and the world is discovering Africa, which has realised that it is a continent of the future. Artists want to play their part and some people pass on their desire to protest into art. It’s a growing realisation, a willingness to change. Art is a language, and access to languages ensures access to society, to the world.
In the 80s, exhibitions that gained iconic status awakened the art world. “Magiciens de la Terre” in Paris in 1989, “Africa Explores” in 1991 in NYC or “Africa Remix” in 2005 at the Centre Georges Pompidou, marked a real turning point. They generated passion and open collections dedicated to Africa. As of 1994, the Rencontres de Bamako, the Dakar Biennale, the Johannesburg Biennale and the Marrakech Biennale helped brought several generations of artists under the spotlight, exhibited thanks to private collections, in foundations in Europe and in Africa (Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain-Paris, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli-Turin, Fondation Louis Vuitton- Paris Fondation Blachère-Apt, Fondation Zinsou-Cotonou, Fondation Donwahi-Abidjan…) and in contemporary art museums from around the world (Guggenheim, Smithsonian Washington, Houston, Monaco, Geneva, Tate Modern London, New York, Kyoto…) Artists from Africa participate in the most prestigious artistic events such Documenta Kassel or the Venice Biennale. The 1:54 fairs (London, NYC and now Marrakech), AKAA, in Paris, have become meeting points for international collectors, arousing competition and favouring the emergence of a continental and international market.
AFRICAN PASSIONS came about from our meeting with Alexandra de Cadaval and Alain Weber, from sharing our passion for the music and art of this continent. This first “festival” on Portuguese soil, entirely dedicated to Africa, will be held at the Cadaval Palace, in Évora, which was at the crossroads of civilizations, crossing the oceans and land and marking the history of Europe and the world by creating bonds between peoples and cultures.
The exhibition features exceptional works by some of the most renowned artists from sub-Saharan Africa, taken from private collections compiled with passion, and offering a certain vision of the diversity of contemporary music and contemporary art of this continent.
AFRICAN PASSIONS, like a voyage in an ocean of sounds and images, compels us to watch, to listen, to see and understand what we may not know and to forget ourselves for a while to allow the polyphony of the world to enter in us….
Paris, February 2018