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For a long time, Yinka Shonibare approached Africa only in the works of figures dressed in 18th-century costumes.e The wax figure shows relations with colonial Europe as well as concepts of class and privilege. If the question of origin lives on in his work, the artist born in London in 1962 has taken the time to reconnect with his Nigerian roots.
It was during a conference at the Lagos Center for Contemporary Art in 2011 that he suddenly took note of the cultural appetite of the country where he spent part of his childhood. “I found myself in front of a room full of young people who were very interested and wanted to talk about art but had little space to see it.”he says.
In the process, the star orders a field investigation. The situation is clear: the galleries that revitalize the market in Lagos are not platforms for discussion. As for the existing museums, they are mainly ethnographic or historical. Yinka Shonibare himself is thinking of creating a museum named after him. “It needs a lot of resources, a qualified team, curators, academics…”It details the artist who in early November inaugurated a residency and research space called the Guest Artists’ Space (GAS), about a hundred kilometers east of Nigeria’s economic capital, between Lagos and Ijebu.
The aim is to welcome artists, writers, musicians and scientists every year in the idea of sharing and exchanging knowledge. There is no way these creators could phosphorece in a vacuum. Yinka Shonibare wanted to double the residence with an organic farm to introduce communities to sustainable agriculture. Pineapples, plantains, cashews, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes will be harvested there every year.
In Ghana, Cameroon
“Access to affordable food should be at the core of every child’s education, as well as environmental issues”Says Yinka Shonibare, who is aware of the rampant malnutrition in Nigeria. “It’s a place to develop human-scale skills, learn not to waste and reuse, and replant the vital forest.”GAS Director Belinda Holden adds.
This two-headed project took time, almost a decade, energy and, above all, just over 2 million euros paid by Yinka Shonibare. ” But I hope for the future in the patrons and why not the French he speaks half jokingly and half seriously.
The artist is not the only one who uses his means to compensate for the lack of cultural structures in Africa. Ibrahim Mahama paid $2.5 million for three projects combining art and education in his hometown of Tamale, northern Ghana. “When I have no more moneyhe told us in the summer of 2021, I stop the build and restart the machine after a while. »
Cameroonian Barthélémy Toguo dedicated 80% of his income over ten years to the development of Bandjoun Station, an artistic project with an agricultural component in the highlands of the Western region. “Neither politicians nor wealthy businessmen invest in culture in AfricaHe regrets the artist who is divided between France and Cameroon. I can’t sit idle. What will I do with the money? I don’t need a Rolls-Royce. »
A center for the study of African arts
The Louis Vuitton Foundation, which recently published an incomplete list of initiatives launched by artists on the African continent, counts at least a hundred, including nine in Nigeria. Among the oldest projects is the Market Photo Workshop, an invaluable photography school founded in Johannesburg in 1989 by the late South African photographer David Goldblatt. “Artists are definitely more aware of the needs and wants of artists and want to offer the younger generation devices that they don’t have access to.”curator Ludovic Delalande, who made this map, analyzes it.
Each initiative responds to a specific. Tamale, where Ibrahim Mahama developed three dizzying locations, has benefited little from Ghana’s economic boom. The area of Bamileke, where Barthélémy Toguo opened Bandjoun Station, is isolated from the urban changes experienced by the capital Yaounde. But nothing is set in stone and artists are allowed to evolve their projects according to changing needs.
Barthélémy Toguo thus initiated the creation of a modern art museum in Yaoundé, in the heart of the presidential region. Christened Yakandi Art Center, this space is about 1000 m2Scheduled to open in 2025, the exhibition will feature part of the artist’s collection created through exchanges, exhibition spaces, artists’ studios and a library. And above all a center for the study of African art to host debates and conferences. “I want it to be an educational place as well”Barthélémy insisting that Toguo is the capital of Cameroon “serious lack of professional cultural spaces”.