Africa emits the least amount of CO2 while being the one that will suffer the adverse effects of global warming. Contemporary African artists are particularly devoted to the fate of their continent, this creative generation has a more than important commitment to make on the continent.
It is with this in mind that the Ariane 5 launcher, a new meteorological satellite that plans to observe environmental changes on the continent, took off on its last trip into space with a masterpiece signed by three African artists: Michel Ekeba, Jean David Nkot and Geraldine Tobé on its fairing.
This project, led by Matthias and Gervanne Leridon, is part of a long Afro-European cooperation supported by the endowment fund African Artists for Development, the European satellite organization Eumetsat, Arianespace, and especially thanks to Alain Ratier and Stéphane Israël.
Marking the last voyage of the Ariane 5 launcher, which will place in space the first meteorological satellite dedicated to Africa, with a collective African work is a standard to confirm the conviction of a typical future for Africa and Europe.
Africa is a singular continent. Assuming that Africa is today the smallest producer of CO2 on the planet, it is also the land that is most severely affected by global environmental change, and it is only at the beginning of the difficulties that these major changes will bring.
Therefore, weather information is fundamental to its future. It is essential for predicting factors as diverse as agriculture, human flows, and the security of the biosphere, with expectations that influence all of them.
As South Africa and Morocco are currently participating in the space experiment, African Space Art Project (ASAP) has been envisioned to anchor the experiment that anticipates Africa in space with serious strengths for Africa.
Sending a masterpiece many miles from Earth: the idea may sound fascinating. However, it mirrors the evolution of Africa, which seems at every step to outwit the numbers we wish to relegate to it.
Just as it has consistently thwarted predictions, Africa is unlikely to enter the space experience like many others, whose first steps into space have been marked by ideological, mechanical and sometimes military trials. The African Space Art Project (ASAP) is an image of the sideways step that Africa forces us to take in our biased models.
A masterpiece for three contemporary African artists
Following a call for applications from more than fifty files received by the artistic committee composed of Jean-Philippe AKA, Gaël Faye, Keziah Jones and Melissa Goba, three winning artists were chosen: Michel Ekeba from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean David Nkot from Cameroon and Géraldine Tobé from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who presented their project in Paris.
Michel Ekeba, from the Democratic Republic of Congo
Born in Kinshasa where he lives and works, Michel Ekeba immediately conceived an imaginary universe called “Kongo Astronauts“. A mutable artist, he mixes painting, sculpture, photography and music and takes us into the African space universe.
He also increases performances in his Kongo Astronauts outfits, a consequence of a creative and industrial recycling. His works question the idea of exile and make us dream of different worlds.
Jean-David Nkot, from Cameroon
Born in Douala where he lives and works, Jean-David Nkot is today an important painter on the world scene. His work challenges the idea of borders. His works place the individual at the heart of migration issues.
Painter of the human condition, Jean-David Nkot investigates the territories. His movements shake up and address the small immobile voices.
Géraldine Tobé, from the Democratic Republic of Congo
Originally from Kinshasa, Géraldine Tobé is a deeply devoted artist. She does not conceive her creative methodology without social intercession and supports a responsibility of global resident. An avant-garde artist, Géraldine Tobé uses fire as a brush: her range is made of smoke. Her works evoke the changes imposed by progress and their irreversible damage on nature.
A new work for the planet that starts in Ouidah
African Space Art Project (ASAP) required a curation process commensurate with the project’s desire. Instead of awarding a solitary winner, the jury recommended three artists who conceived “Memory of today, Memory of the future“, a work that is both remarkable and global, mirroring the dynamism of contemporary African creation.
The work “Memory of today, Memory of the future“, based on a satellite view, approaches a silhouette of a woman standing, as if to confront the difficulties of the female condition, of Africa and of society in the 21st century. Each of its elements has a strong symbolic dimension.
On the female figure, one can see bird heads that recall the voodoo practices of the Ouidah region where the work was conceived. The base of the work is a lattice that evokes the six climatic locations of the African continent, but it can also highlight the fluid way in which Michel Ekeba’s “Kongo astronaut” travelers move. A few white signs appear on this lattice and evoke the cosmogony of the Dogon nation, which has always deciphered the future by scanning the sky and the stars.
The work “Memory of today, Memory of the future“, was created by Michel Ekeba, Jean David Nkot and Geraldine Tobé during a residency in the city of Ouidah in Benin, thanks to the help of the Beninese government and its Minister of Culture and Arts, Jean-Michel Abimbola.
Choosing this city, which was one of the departure points for slaves in the colonial exchange, as the initial stage of the spatial desire of the African continent, is again a symbolic decision that denotes the desire for another equality and a co-imaginative connection between African and European lands.
The artists’ dialogue within this residency was joined by that of Ivorian Jean-Philippe Aka, Nigerian Azubuike Nwagbogu and Frenchman Jean-Michel Champault. Their curatorial approach considered a true joint work between various social universes from Africa and Europe, whose experience is at the heart of this enterprise.
The unveiling of this work took place at the Pavillon Élysée as part of the 10th anniversary of the leading contemporary African art fair 1-54 and was preceded by a panel discussion, led by Touria El Glaoui, organizer of the fair, on the theme « Space, a new frontier for African creation? »
For quite some time, the original work has been presented in a few countries such as France, Tanzania, Belgium, Benin, Germany, Morocco and it will continue with its “African Space Art Project Tour“, in South Africa and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Finally, it will be officially proposed to the African Space Agency by the African Union as a statement to the space history of the continent.