The interview. Chris Moumbounou: “Art saved lives at Ateliers Sahm”

Les Dépêches du Bassin du Congo (LDBC): Ateliers Sahm celebrates ten years. How do you evaluate this period?

Chris Moumbounou (CM): We have been moving for ten years! And let’s say from the love of art, but there is still a lot to do! Art in our country remains complex. We are constantly adjusting the situation.

Dynamic, effervescent, Les Ateliers Sahm has become a school that does not scream its name over time. Quiet! We are watching! Through poetry, voices, dance, the sound of the guitar, or full-on, moving images, we trace our way with Indian ink… Finally, to the rhythm of all these various modern artistic expressions that we both nationally defend. and international. Yes, we can say that the result is positive and we are very proud of our actions.

LDBC: What progress has been made in ten years?

CM: Progress remains human. To see young people devoting themselves to their passion for art and culture, building careers with this passion, making a living as best they can, developing their careers, traveling, helping their families, building strong social relationships, finding their way … is such progress. Nothing happens. Everything must be built permanently. Only work gives strong results. In addition to our weaknesses and shortcomings, over ten years we have offered or made available paints, brushes, computers, cameras, and musical instruments. For ten years we have housed artists in our buildings so they can find food, rest, inspiration and enjoyment in their families, sometimes despising the choice to be artists. Art saves. At Ateliers Sahm, art has saved many lives!

For ten years, we have organized the International Meeting of Contemporary Art (Riac), which brings together a hundred national and international artists every year. Over the course of ten years, we have given many artists the opportunity to leave their country, whether for the first time or not. In particular, participating in this great art event: the Dak’art Biennale, through our Aesthetics project in sharing beyond geographies, To undertake research and creative residencies in Africa or Europe. During these ten years, we have almost closed our doors several times due to lack of permanent financial support. This sad reality reminds us of uncertainty, misunderstanding and disrespect towards art in our country and society.

LDBC: Do you have an idea of ​​the number of artists trained by Les Ateliers Sahm to date?

CM: We accompany, encourage, advise men and women from Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Uganda… The list goes on. We don’t count anymore. Most of the young artists making their mark on the international scene today have a connection to Les Ateliers Sahm. It’s just beautiful.

LDBC: Can you tell us about the motivations and cultural goals behind the creation of Ateliers Sahm?

SM : Les Ateliers Sahm, founded by visual artist and writer Bill Kouélany, aims to provide young artists with infrastructure and working conditions that are suspiciously absent in the Congo: workspace, equipment, listening and careful observation of the latter himself, an internationally renowned multidisciplinary artist and a number of abroad honors winner. Desperate to break archetypes, Les Ateliers Sahm introduces contemporary art to the Congo, thereby debasing any form of traditional art and denying any form of academic learning. In Ateliers Sahm, new ideas, people of all ages are accepted, but also the promotion of female artistic experience, because the director has an active background in the face of the stereotypes of the macho society, which he had to fight against some of them. find a place. As the Congolese art scene is dominated by men, promoting women remains one of Ateliers Sahm’s main missions.

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