Pending the reopening of museums in France, the exhibition “Ex Africa” currently on the cover of the Musée du Quai Branly has been highlighted through a digital preview broadcast exclusively on a channel dedicated to this event, Culturebox and on Francetv, since February 21, 2021.
A relationship between ancient African art and contemporary art
Philippe Dagen, art critic, professor of art history and curator of the exhibition “Ex Africa”, presents this event to “rewrite history” between current art and ancient arts of Africa. An ephemeral channel is dedicated to this purpose and made available to lovers of art and culture, on the historical journey of the evolution of African art, from ancient times to today. Ex Africa brings together several exhibitions, including that of the MoMa in New York (1984), where several artists have drawn on the forms of African art. However, it is often considered primitive or tribal and is reduced to exotic decorative forms without essence and without any real research on its symbolism and real meaning. Over time, African art has evolved quite dramatically. This historical evolution will lead to a reappropriation of identity marked by contemporary artistic creativity. This harmonizes ancient art and contemporary art.
A panorama of 150 works through time
Each of the 34 artists present, through the 150 exhibited works, took turns giving their individual interpretation in a collective space. Various languages were used with the common point of highlighting the contribution of Africa through its multiple artistic creations. These invite us to rethink our relationship to ancient and contemporary African art with today’s sensitive issues.
We find this form of denunciation of the colonial past in the work of the popular Congolese painter Chéri Samba. He points out the social ambiguities of the Congolese society which result from this period as well as the questioning of the place of African art in the current world. The artist promotes the African dialect in a self-portraiture with a colorful visual and written in French but also in Lingala.
The diversity of the creations is at the rendezvous, especially with the 4 African artists who received carte blanche for their works specially created for the exhibition. This is the case of the outstanding work: “No return” by the Beninese Romuald Hazoumé. It takes the form of a giant scaled snake made of more than 5,000 flip-flops recovered from the Beninese coast, and refers to the migrants who perish at sea by making the choice to advance in the journey of their lives. The author thus puts forward the perspective of our evolution which does not stop on a part of Africa but concerns the mutation of the world as a whole.
Myriam Mihindou, this French-Gabonese contemporary artist who enchants us with her work that reflects on the symbols and the development of ancient African art. Her installation is presented through a staging of canes that can be considered in the past as mystical and symbol of pacification of conflicts but today in relation to their market value.
The Cameroonian visual artist, Pascaline Marthine Tayou, combines in her piece “Eséka” the past and the present with glass dolls installed under a carpet of leaves and a bamboo construction with luminous slogans hanging from them that refer to words from everyday life.
As for Kader Attia, he puts the subject of the restitution of works of art back on the table through a video where many African personalities are invited to reveal their opinions on this theme with different but common issues for each nation concerned.
The exhibition “Ex Africa” also calls upon other contemporary artists from multiple horizons such as Annette Messager, ORLAN, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Alun Be, Théo Mercier, Léonce Raphael Agbodjelou or Emo de Medeiros who will, each in their own way, highlight the meaning they give to this new relationship to the ancient arts of Africa.
A new look at ancient art
The massive presence of works of art with masks and statues as their main theme is noteworthy. These take the form of frozen or metamorphosing relics, new expressions, a new look, a new emotion. As if these works draw all their inspiration from the past while looking at the present world and the future. This quote from Pliny: “there is always something new that comes to us from Africa” confirms it.