Since the beginning of the year, the planet has been living at the pace of a pandemic whose effects are being felt in one way or another in all sectors of activity. The artistic and cultural world is unfortunately no exception; worse, it is suffering the full impact of unprecedented measures taken by States, which are known as social distancing, confinement, barrier gestures and others. But on the African continent, far from giving up and risking losing the gains of recent years, we are getting organized. Since the beginning of the crisis, initiatives and good ideas are multiplying to continue to make African visual arts accessible to the general public and allow professionals to continue to exist. Ingenuity and originality are at the rendezvous …

martin-sanchez-Tzoe6VCvQYg-unsplash-2-1024x683 African visual arts at the time of Covid-19
© Martin Sanchez –

New technologies at the service of African visual art

Since the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis, many African artists have had to submit to the containment requirements imposed in several countries. Rather than endure this situation, many of these creative people are taking the opportunity to let their creativity express itself, but also to explore new ways to make their art known. Social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, have become the new playground for African creators who were not very active on these media 2.0 until now. This is the case, for example, of the Cameroonian visual artist Jean-David Nkot, who now shares his work much more online, from his studio in Douala.

At the Galerie Magnin in Paris, we go a little further. Indeed, after a long preparation, the team has set up its very first exhibition exclusively online. Named What dreams are made of, it presents the works of African artists of diverse origins and horizons: Pierre Bodo from Congo, Joseph Obanuni from Nigeria, Abu Bakarr Mansaray from Sierra Leone or Rodrigues Armando Mabunda from Mozambique. Thus, while the gallery is physically closed to the public, it remains virtually accessible on the Internet.

For this project to become a reality, Philippe Boutté had to call upon Artsy, an online platform specialized in the promotion of online art. For the director of the Parisian gallery, it was the perfect opportunity to explore new things and enter the e-marketplace of art.

The same goes for Afrikaris, which offers, from March 28 to April 27, a virtual exhibition entitled “Dialogues, mixed techniques on paper”. It brings together a selection of works on paper by 5 artists from the continent: Hyacinthe Ouattara, Onvis Martin, Saïdou Dicko, Bruce Clarke and Salifou Lindou.

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The ancestral role of African visual arts at the heart of reflections

African art has always had a moral, educational and caricatured dimension which, in the current context where the emphasis is on the prevention of Covid-19, finds a particular resonance with artists and the creative world. In Dakar, it is through a rather “modern” visual art that it expresses itself: graffiti. Gathered within the collective RBS (Radikl Bomb Shot) Crew, several young artists paint prevention messages directly on the stone of large buildings such as the wall of the Cheikh Anta Diop University and the Fann Hospital. The watchword is clear: raise awareness to counter the spread of the virus.

Motivated by the positive reception offered to the initiative, the RBS Crew collective has painted other frescoes in the city. A gigantic fresco entitled Covid-19 representing a white mask on the face, accompanied by health recommendations, is notably visible in a popular district of the Senegalese capital. The initiative, taken in photos and widely relayed on social networks is also being emulated in several other countries where the collective is spreading its wings: Mali, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Uganda, the United States …

The Covid-19 or the opportunity to reinvent yourself

“The corona forces us to think, to take the time. For us, it’s a good exercise to reinvent ourselves. It’s time to have different ideas,” says Florian Azzopardi, who films and edits videos in his Parisian apartment. “It takes us out of a routine and gives us time to do all the things we don’t have time to do during the year. We have to take this chance to do it and update our tools that we will use later, that’s the positive side,” says Philippe Boutté.

“It’s a real in-depth, long-term reflection. We may have to restart differently. We do a lot of fairs. I have galleries in Africa, I move thousands of tons of works. It’s a progressive awareness. I’m 36 years old… I’m thinking, at my level, about an approach that takes into account travel, the kilos transported, the carbon footprint. The Venice Biennale, for example, generates hallucinating pollution,” says Cécile Fakhoury.

This period of containment due to the virus allows us to take the time to reflect on the model of contemporary art fair as it exists in our society today by encouraging us to think about more ecological and collaborative solutions, in particular,” says Touria El Glaoui. We had already begun to explore ways to reduce the environmental impact that such an international event implies and we will continue to focus on these issues. »

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Thus, far from being seen purely as a situation of mass destruction, the Covid-19 pushes us to question ourselves, gives rise to new ideas, makes us think of more environmentally friendly habits in order to better apprehend the post-Covid-19 era.

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