By John Owoo
(In Dakar – Senegal)
Following a two-year delay due to the ravages of Covid 19 – the 14th edition of Dak Art Biennial opened on Thursday May 19 with pomp and majesty – as Senegal proved that it is still the art capital of Africa and the diaspora.
Opened by President Macky Sall, the biennial, which remains the most important spot in Africa for artists, curators and collectors, is showcasing 59 artists and collectives from the continent and diaspora.
With Dr. El Hadji Malick Ndiaye as the artistic director, West Africa is represented by 14 artists, Southern Africa 12, North Africa 6 and East / Central Africa 6. The Indian Ocean is represented by a Seychellois artist and the diaspora by 19 artists.
Noticeable countries in the international selection with artistic creations, which are largely on display at the “Ancien Palais de Justice” are South Africa (8), Senegal (7), Cuba (5), France (4), United States (4), Benin (3), Cameroon (3), Kingdom of Morocco (2) and Tunisia (2).
Without doubt, this is a huge celebration of the visual arts in Africa – there is so much to see and too much to process for a single visit. Nevertheless, there was an overwhelming feeling even on the busy streets of Dakar, which is noted for its continuous sea breezes from the Atlantic Ocean.
Dubbed I NDAFFA, the 2022 Biennale rediscovers unknown powers, energies and sciences while exhuming riches and shaping archives. Furthermore, it draws on African sources and knowledge and negotiates diverse representations of the world in order to forge new cognitions.
Indeed, paintings, sculptures and installations on show at the “Ancien Palais de Justice” is an open banquet for visitors. Undeniably, the exhibits tend to call for new protocols with attention to creative work and curatorial activism.
Installation by France based artist Emmanuel Tussore, which comprise various species of tree stumps upended by steel stakes, which make subtle comments on identity, is inspired by the 16th century treatise “De Cruce de Libri Tres” by the famous Belgian philologist and humanist Justice Lipsius.
Gigantic works by Ethiopian artist Senbeto Tegene Kunbi, who won the highest prize of the Biennial (Léopold Sédar Senghor Grand Prize), are colorful and portray his homeland through rhythmic compositions layered with geometric shapes and blocks.
Large-scale eggs fabricated out of metal sheets by the Egyptian artist Karem Ibrahim has both theoretical and tangible meanings and relate to how issues are viewed and used as well as how items are priced, consumed and discarded.
Collage pieces by the Haitian-American artist Florine Demosthene portray dystopian characteristics, which consider the black female body as a myriad of collective experiences beyond immediate interpretations when based on sensuality.
Nigerian artist Ngozi Ezema’s huge tea cup, which was configured with thousands of tiny cups, saucers and tea pots, captures the moment of vulnerability when it comes to failure thereby highlighting rise and fall in various activities.
Paintings comprising transcriptions of ancestral rites by Cameroonian artist Gaston Hako adorn one of the walls. Undeniably, his frescoes abound with images that substitute the spoken word while exhibiting a real didactic function.
Cameroonian artist Jeanne Kamptchoung questioned the condition of humanity as regards to the place of the individual. He equally demands whether one shapes his life or is shaped by the society through an installation of items arranged in straight lines while lamenting on how culture, values, conflicts and traumas affect our lives.
Extremely huge works by Kenyan painter Dickson Kaloki Nyamai capture the history of his lineage through stories told by his grandmother while exploring the effects of colonization in contrast with the contemporary situation.
The Dakar Biennale of African Contemporary Art, which was founded in 1992, is a most influential contemporary art event in sub-Saharan Africa. It is scheduled to end on Tuesday June 21, 2022.