“Dak’Art” 2022, total focus on Africa and the diaspora exibart.com

The Dakar Biennial 2022 has two parts: an IN, which consists of the official selection of 59 artists by the Senegalese artistic curator El Hadj Malick Ndiaye, who succeeds Simon Njiami as curator of the last Dak’Art in 2018. The locations of IN are the old Palace of Justice; Musée des civilizations noires, a new museum built with Chinese funds and inaugurated in December 2018; Musée Monod, which also includes exhibitions by other curators. The OFF section, on the other hand, is spread throughout the city of Dakar in galleries, associative spaces, hotels, foundations, embassies, in the new Italian Cultural Institute and in the open space of Corniche Ouest in the park facing the sea …; compared to the last edition of 2018, the Biennale has grown dramatically and counts up to 380 exhibitions. The Biennale OFF was founded 20 years ago by the Italian based in Dakar Mauro Petroniit is too large and for the outside visitor it is difficult to orientate oneself in the pulverization of the current exhibitions.

Dakar Biennial, Overview of the Palais de Justice, ph. Carmen Lorenzetti

What remains is that the Dakar OFF brochure is an excellent tool, which is lacking in IN, to orientate oneself in the great metropolis Dakar. A tiring city, full of traffic, without a bus line that can be defined as such, scattered and at the same time fascinating in the wealth of initiatives it offers during the Biennale, parties, meetings, concerts: a true international melting pot of cultures. In fact, the capital has now become the nerve center where one can look for – in the many proposals – new African talents and diaspora talents, in a moment of particular interest to institutions and the market for artistic production on the black continent.
The theme for the IN Biennale is ¥ Ndaffa, as in the Serere language, one of the African languages ​​spoken in Senegal, means forging. It is reminiscent of the ancient operation of forging glowing metal, building objects using fire, an ancient technique in which African civilizations proclaim themselves masters. The forging act also refers to shaping thoughts, building native narratives and new meanings based on African tradition and culture.

The work of Tegene Kunbi Senbeto, ph. Carmen Lorenzetti

Seven prizes were awarded to the best artists in IN. The grand prize Léopold Sédar Senghor from the President of the Republic was awarded to the Ethiopian Tegene Kunbi Senbeto (1980) the other six awards went to the French-Tunisian Férielle Dulain-Zouari (1992), in Senegalese style Caroline Gueyein Senegalese Mbaye Diop (1981), to the Senegalese Babakar Diouf And Arébénor Bassène (1974), in Senegalese Abdulaye Ka (1977) and finally ad Achille Adonon (Benin, 1987), the award for the best sculptor.
Tegene Kunbi lives in Berlin, where he stopped after completing a master’s degree at the Academy. He has won various stays in Africa and the Netherlands. He practices painting, research into light and color with manic and poetic attention, and constructs abstract paintings in which layered backgrounds of bright colors alternate with refined fabrics that come from specific contexts: Coptic decorations associated with religious ceremonial, striped fabrics from Ethiopia, Senegalese fabrics . His panels are the result of a process of painting that seeks the balance and order of shapes and colors. He works on four or five paintings at a time and draws a different character and personality from each painting. The starting points can be photographs of ruined cities, which he covers through the layered skin of the painting, whose processuality is visible at the edges.

The installation of Férielle Doulain-Zouari, ph. Carmen Lorenzetti

Férielle Doulain-Zouari is an artist who possesses a great dexterity and taste for materials: she weaves, cuts, collects objects from everyday life again, founds new, unpublished narratives with materiality and compositional skills. The title of the work Current water has an ecological significance, expressed with plastic pipes arranged to form a large blue curtain.
Caroline Gueye is an eclectic figure: daughter of art, she has a background in astrophysics and studied Chinese and sculpture in China. His works refer to science, which is translated into visual art: the content, laws and rules of astrophysics become installations, sculptures and photographs. The title of the work of the Biennale Quantum tunneling (2021) examines what happens in the infinitesimal quantum scale, where the status of body and wave of the quantums themselves are confused. The tunnel effect is a bizarre phenomenon that is expressed through plastic, foil and mirrors in an immersive installation that is impressive to the viewer. Caroline’s reflections touch on the realities of parallel universes, the different types of physics, black holes and the relative concept of time.

Installation of Abdulaye Ka, ph. Carmen Lorenzetti

Mbaye Diop, who lives in Switzerland, has built an atmospheric video installation and mural entitled De l’Arbre à palabre à l’Arbre numérique. The work deals with the gradual disappearance of trees in his hometown in the northern part of Senegal due to building speculation. The tree was at the center of the village’s knowledge because a healing elixir was made from the leaves of the various trees, which have been replaced by synthetic medicine. The culture of the ancestors was based on the existence of trees around which the community conversations took place. Today, however, relationships are based on technologies, on social networks, mobile phones and networks, and the artist has created a performance based on them: hidden by bushes while using a mobile phone. The performance took place on a real-time platform so audiences could comment on what they saw. The installation in Dakar includes the video of the performance, the interweaving of branches of the mural, the real branches and various mobile phones on which the comments roll.
Abdulaye Ka started as a figurative painter, now he alternates between abstraction and figuration. A few years ago, he found a central theme in barcodes, which he cuts out and with which he composes his collage paintings. The barcode bears an eerie resemblance to Wolof’s women’s clothing, which consists of stripes. For him, the barcode and its numerical identity are a way of talking about the uniqueness of identity, through a characterizing element that uniquely defines a singularity. The individual reference becomes plural in the cultural and senghoric recovery of the root of the tree, which then opens up to the world with the branches.

Installation of Achille Adonon, ph. Carmen Lorenzetti

Achille Adonon is an autodidact artist who uses her voracious curiosity about the world in an art that draws fantastic inspiration from everyday life. In fact, he started painting with laces, and in 2017, he started using shoes to make extremely modern sculptures. He has several homes for good in different African countries: Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Togo. His sculptures are called Enfants Soldats and represent children who need care and attention to have a harmonious life. With the shoes, he also composes masks that represent innocent children in war, the intimacy with fear, the anguish that the artist – through art – wants to make disappear with an act of love.
All of these award-winning artists are (with the exception of the aforementioned couple) in the old Palace of Justice and form a predominantly Senegalese geography, probably the dominant figure this year. At least three other works touching on themes related to memory, history and ecology deserve a mention: the intense video installation of the Cuban Javier Castro justified Dance of wrath (2022), the scenographic and post-apocalyptic installation of Fally Sene So., Rusty world (2022), based in Dakar, shows its Colobane neighborhood destroyed by pollution and global warming, and finally the complex installation of Yrneh Gabon BrownJamaican living in Los Angeles, A salty breakwho studies history and socio-political and economic issues related to the exploitation of salt in the United States and Africa.

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