Until August 29, 2021 at the Abattoirs de Toulouse, the exhibition « REVUE NOIRE, une histoire d’arts africains contemporains » allows to rediscover the inventiveness of artists from the African continent and its diaspora.
This exhibition also pays tribute to the magazine that has changed the way we look at Africa and its artists through the dissemination of its 34 distinguished issues of richness and imagination of contemporary African art in all its forms. It has made it possible to make known and to perceive on the world scene, the creation of Africa and its diaspora.
An exhibition that presents emblematic photographers
The exhibition « REVUE NOIRE, une histoire d’arts africains contemporains » gives a large place to photography and on the seven rooms, four are dedicated to this art.
Starting with Antoine Freitas, who became a photographer in 1935, who ventured into every corner of the immense territory of the Congo.
Cornelius Yao Augustt Azaglo, who settled in the north of the Ivory Coast in 1955 and travelled through the cities photographing the occupants and workers with a simple homemade camera box.
Rotimi Fani-Kayodé who left Nigeria with his family for England after the military overthrow in 1966. After studying in the United States, he returned to London in 1983. Homosexual, he works with his partner Alex Hirst artist photographer and together leads a reflection on the body and the link between suggestive fantasies and ancestral spiritual values.
The Togolese Philippe Koudjina, who made his vocation in Niger. In the 1960s, was an observer of the Yé-Yé wave and captured the dance clubs of Niamey, where youth and world stars had the chance to meet.
Bob Bobson of Indian origin, who lived in South Africa. Who until 1959 made painted representations, then in 1961 acquired a camera and set up his own studio in the Indian quarter of Durban and became the first photographer in the city to take color portraits.
David Damoison from Martinique, who after studying photography at the École Boulle in Paris became an assistant in the workshops of the American Center in Paris. He became an expert and published his work in various newspapers and magazines, including Libération, l’Evénement du jeudi, Le Nouvel Observateur, Télérama…
Abdourahmane Sakaly who has made his home in Bamako, Mali. Initiated to photography by Meïssa Gaye during his childhood in Senegal, he installed his camera on the exuberant Bagadadjhi square, among other photographers.
To finish on Alain Nzuzi Polo who with the collective Solidarity of Artists for Integral Development has been shelling out exhibitions in the working class neighborhoods of Kinshasa. Located in Paris since 2014, he mixes in his work, photography, drawing and establishment and has fun mixing style, music and execution comparable to cultures and identities LGBTQI+ … And many other photographic artists still.
The story of a particular contemporary magazine
Created in 1991 by four companions, Jean-Loup Pivin, Bruno Tilliette, Pascal Martin Saint Léon and Simon Njami, driven by the same desire to find the extravagance of contemporary African work and its countless artists.
The quarterly Revue Noire had to put forward the progress of identity, creation, feeling and artistic education that was taking place on the continent. Without any tongue in cheek or conventional discourse, it was about showing an avant-garde and metropolitan Africa that conceives and creates.
Much more than a magazine, Revue Noire was the revelation of a unique African culture in all creative expressions: architecture, plastic expressions, cinema, dance, writing, fashion and photography. Moreover, it is undoubtedly in this last field that the magazine has most exposed an African particularity.
The reflections, the memories of its four creators and about thirty different editors, embellished with an abundant iconography has made this magazine an enterprise, human and editorial out of the ordinary, conducted in the four corners of the continent.
Since the first issue of Revue Noire came out on May 1, 1991, where the cover featured the « Lutteurs Noubas » by Senegalese sculptor Ousmane Sow. In a large format, bilingual French-English for a worldwide distribution, it must be sumptuous and offer a contemporary African creation that must be found and looked at with deference, hence the choice of London as the main city to investigate. Political choice of an English-speaking nation to show that Revue Noire, certainly a French magazine, is not a magazine linked to the French-speaking world, but that it must break the barriers between universes linked by the colonial history.
African photography is at the heart of number 3 and number 15, which the initiators of the project thought would be the last one because the team was short of funds. This distribution was also a recognition for the Anglo-Nigerian artist-photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayodé, who died of AIDS and was one of the few outstanding photographers to have addressed homosexuality.
Due to European financial support, Simon Njami assumes responsibility for issue 6, which is committed to twelve Caribbean nations. 70 artists are featured, including works by the Cuban exile Humberto Castro, who outlines the cover.
The number 7 devoted to Dakar and its artists, assumes its part in the new event of contemporary art « Biennale de Dakar » renamed later « Dak’Art ». A work of the Senegalese painter El Hadji Sy, adorns the cover of this issue.
The cover of issue 13, devoted to Cameroon, features a work by Pascale Marthine Tayou. The following issue is a double issue entirely devoted to dance, and is quickly sold out. It will end up being a reference for African contemporary dance. The cover is highlighted by a photo of Bill T. Jones, a figure committed to societal issues such as AIDS.
Due to the lack of funding, three nations are brought together in issue 17, whose cover is given by the Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté. This issue includes a CD of the best Malian musicians. In the number 20, dedicated to Paris, there is also a CD, but this time, it is hip-hop that takes pride of place. Patrice Félix-Tchicaya, artist photographer, video maker is on the cover.
Issue 21 is dedicated to Kinshasa. The cover is about « La Maternité », a sculpture made by the Congolese artist Pume Bylex. Like issue 17, three nations are honored in issue 24: Djibouti, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Ethiopian artist Ermias Ekubé‘s cover work shows a different picture of African work, far from conventional generalizations.
A naked madman walks the streets of Abidjan, a photograph by artist Dorris Haron Kasco that appears on the cover of Issue 31 on African urban communities. This photograph shows the deceptions, the dysfunctions, the nastiness, the wealth, but also the metropolitan habitats like Abidjan, Lagos and Johannesburg, places where what is to come is created.
Issue 32 is devoted to two neighboring nations, one French-speaking, the other English-speaking, Togo and Ghana. A photograph by Willis E. Chime‘s photograph of the funeral ceremonies of the Ashanti of Ghana is featured on the cover.
If this Revue Noire editorial experiment, which revealed contemporary Africa, made a significant difference, it was because it was more than a magazine, but a fighting element that showed things we didn’t see, or wouldn’t want to see! These images were linked to instructive texts that resolved different issues: imaginative responses to media and the gaze, creating discussions about identity, the staging of the African body, metropolitan locations, or the rapidly changing elements between African stylistic qualities and Western impacts. In all cases, attention to contemporary African art is still important.