Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Monument de la Renaissance Africaine Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal. by craniv boyd.

Monument de la Renaissance Africaine Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal. by craniv boyd. 

Three colossal figures pose on a windblown cliff facing the Atlantic ocean. They are poised, to quit their rocky knoll. A strong man with a cap, placing hailing baby boy first, himself second and pulling waif after him, with his left arm, over: away from a kraplack arid bluff. Who are these big people? Where are they going from, and eventually to?

For answers, one might ask the Romanian socialist realist artist, who designed this very big sculpture, or the North Korean construction firm who assembled it: the Monument de la Renaissance Africaine, one of the most prominent recent public art works, visible in  Dakar, the capital of Senegal, on  the Cape Vert peninsula where the city is. 

the Monument de la Renaissance Africaine is a museum with pan-African  aspirations. A monument to an African renaissance. It, is a copper statue formed to look like a nuclear African family. A hat wearing man of heroic proportions: ( think of a certain governor of California in his rôle of Terminator). Then a golden baby boy who points with a singular digit, west towards the Americas, seated in the crook of strong arm of the man. Like wise the toddler has similar head wear as the grown man in the family. In the back of the grouping of three, is a woman. From her pose she looks limp. She does not stand on her bare feet. Her head, with braided hair is tilted back and her mode of dress leaves little to the imagination. She is not nude, she has loincloths on but her ample bosom verges to spill out from her dress. Circling around the back end of the monument provides a glance up at her barely existing skirt. 

The statue addresses a formative passage in the history of the modern world, that for many people remains both dark and simple. Perhaps this statue is an attempt to make a representative image for a great deal of African families, and peoples who were forcibly transported oversees; for centuries in the hulls of slaving crafts, and sold as lots in various auctions. A task so herculean no singular colossi could brand, or seer into public memory. 

The Monument itself contains a museum, with on the ground level, an undulating double faced poster. On one face all of the current national flags of African nation states, and under these standards, story book representations of bitter history. on the opposite face of the same waved form, visual representations of pan-Africanists. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, is presented on this poster a black and white photograph, Dr. King in profile right arm raised, set against a backdrop of a protest audience, a  rectangular speech bubble of sorts is on this photograph it reads: "I HAVE A DREAM !" and is placed at a 45° angle from the mouth of Dr. King. 

Along with the representations of black history on the entry level of the museum , are a bevy of flat-screen displays mounted on a mirrored wall. The flat screens show loops of the construction and the assembly of the monument, and what is curious about this slide show is that no clear representations of construction workers, who built the big metal African family are given. What is however, visually emphasized is the monument it self. The undulating poster at the entrance features images of the monument to the African renaissance, so as to demonstrate that the monument is part of pan-Africanism. Low resolution poor quality photographs of the Monument are on the entry ticket, three dimensional rendering printed on canvass and on flat screen displays already mentioned. Inside the museum of the monument de la renaissance Africane, visitors are in a version of African history wont to be told. Then subjected to  idealized pictures of the monument itself.

One can take an elevator to the top level of the monument, and look out from the cap of the African man. There are windows that offer a panoramic view over Dakar, and more over towards the Atlantic ocean. by craniv boyd. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Christian Tudula International exhibition IFAN at Dak'art 10th biennale of contemporary African art. 11 May - 10 June, 2012, Place Soweto, Dakar Senegal. by craniv boyd.

Christian Tudula International exhibition IFAN at  Dak'art 10th biennale of contemporary African art.  11 May - 10 June, 2012, Place Soweto, Dakar Senegal.  by craniv boyd.

Enter a dimly lit room, with red carpeting, walls painted white and a corner of that room has two flat screen video displays, one per each wall, and a between them, placed blatantly he media console that houses and plays back the digital media for both screens, and the audio tracks for both displays. Studio quality Head sets rest  casually on the floor beneath, their lines leading back up to each of the video displays. The content on the screens is moving images, it is footage filmed from two stationary angles. Each screen presents footage from one angle only, the camera is positioned from out side a grey wall with a distressed surface, both the concrete walls, have rectangular openings, that offer an interior view that is cloying because of the indeterminate character of it. There is no furniture so the settings do not have the appearance of domestic environs. The size of the structure and the opening of the wall seem to small to be heavy industry, light industry perhaps.  The wall opening establishes the space of where in the image plane to look. Young women, dressed in the latest current urban fashions amble into the room and gyrate and dance to ever-present music that is the audio track for these two videos. They enter an leave the room, without any explanation dancing only, and their movements could be seen as explanation enough. 


Christian Tundula, an artist from the Democratic Republic of Congo, is the author of a celebratory series of photographs and videos entitled "Kin Kiese" or (Happiness Kinshasa).  Christian Tundula, selected Ngwaka, a part of Kinshasa, personally dear to him, to film in, to photograph in. Part of his series "Kin Kiese", was presented at the international exhibition of the 10th edition of the Dak'art Biennial, in Dakar, Senegal. It was to be seen there as, diptych of high resolution videos. Which displayed footage recorded during the preparations and the rehearsals of young women from Ngwaka,  who are accompany musicians and recording artists in Kinshasa. These women are referred to as Fioti Fioti or Kadogo. This series, or rather the two video instances of it which I saw, was an odd blend of components. The static distressed urban environment of Kinshasa, framing women on the move, dancing young women who are hopeful in their early career choice to accompany musicians of Kinshasa. The immobility of the camera, and the acute selectness's of where and who to film, contrasted with the loop of the videos themselves which seemed to be minimally edited, and as a result had the appearance of being free flowing, or non-selective.  This art work offers a view of some people in Ngwaka, Kinshasa from an artist who knows Ngwaka, Kinshasa. by craniv boyd. 

Serge Alain Nitegeka, 11 May- 30 June Galerie Le Manège Rue Parchappe Dakar, Sénégal. by craniv boyd

Serge Alain Nitegeka, 11 May- 30 June Galerie Le Manège Rue Parchappe Dakar, Sénégal. by craniv boyd

There is an art installation on view in the plateaux district of Dakar, Senegal, on the occasion of the, Off programming of the 10th edition of the Dak'art Biennial. The installation is located at the Galerie Le Manège, of the Institute francaise in Dakar, in participation with Stevenson Gallery of Cape Town, South Africa. This is a review of an impressive lone person exhibition, of a work titled Structural Response 1, of an Burundian Artist participating in that exhibition. Serge Alain Nitegeka.

Imagine, just for yourself, if there were a shoe-box, with popsicle sticks, painted black thrown in it haphazardly, with the top ends of the sticks resting on the open edges of the box, and the bottom ends of the sticks resting in the middle, then you would have a crude provisional example, a rough scale model of what this installation might have looked like, albeit overly simplified. However seeing that the rectangle in question was roughly 50 meters by 30 meters by 5 meters, and all of the sticks in this instance were impressive and cumbersome laths, this installation by Serge Alain Nitegeka, was no small feat, and all of the beams were set at great care. 

Personally I found this work of art to be most striking because it featured black wood, in black africa. The installation was difficult to enter and many of the long black boards wooden boards obstructed entry and passage into the installation. Once inside the work, viewers of this part of the exhibition could move about in a restricted hemmed in way, that was proscribed by Serge Alain Nitegeka. The art installation was a enter at your own risk scenario, and the large five meters high gallery space was filled with these black wooden planks set at various angles. 

Structural Response 1, was not figurative in the least. It had clear formalist concerns in its placement of many units of same black wooden beam all over the space. Hence, Structural Response 1, functioned as a barricade for contemplation. Inside it viewers could observe other viewers moving within and observing the same artwork. The artwork called for some minor athleticism in order to move about it freely, because there were few paths, mostly in the centre of the work, where the planks were not. It was in some ways trap like, and Serge Alain Nitegeka ensnared viewers for some moments in his stark treatment of the volume inside Galerie Le Manège, of Institute francaise.  by craniv boyd.

Katrine Helmerson, Jardin Musée Thédore Monod, 11 May- 17 May Place Soweto, Dakar, Senegal. by craniv boyd

Katrine Helmerson, Jardin Musée Thédore Monod,  11 May- 17 May Place Soweto, Dakar, Senegal. by craniv boyd 

Tucked, in a corner behind the university museum for African Art, facing the museums garden, on the Plateaux district in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, for the occasion of the 10th edition of the Dak'art Biennial for Contemporary African Art; and hanging from black woven cords, at regular intervals, pleated round black paper circles, that were the components of an installation by Stockholm based Swedish artist Katherine Helmerson. Her artwork, Sombres Courants; was located close to the In programming of the Dak'art Biennial, it was across from the 1920s era museum building in impeccable condition, in an indeterminate space, a room with high ceilings that could have been undergoing renovation, or simply slow tropical deterioration.   

The dangling forms of round hand made black paper made in Nepal, shaped gently, and  the rope, of the same color that supported each unit of round paper were trussed up to crossbeams of the ceiling. inside the room, there was a field of hanging black paper circles, none of the supportive lines touched the ground and the hanging works were able to sway in which ever wind or breeze that might set them in motion. The black paper was of a deep, rich pigment, it was very dark and the fibers and texture of the paper was burly. The stocky paper had a matt sheen to it, absorbing light, retaining warmth, preserving heat. The paper bodies, were unique, each on the rope was differently pleated, in a similar fashion, the appearance of uniformity, or monotony was given. This sameness of unique paper figures, beaded, threaded on woven black bun-gees, provides friction, between individual paper units; and collective beaded units; and total additive members of: cords plus discreet folded black paper discs, with solitary chains bearing several of such paper discs together with the room that housed the hanging artwork, and in turn provided a framing for the work. This tension rests throughout the completed art installation, back down to the strings loaded with many units, which can be partitioned into the singular paper items and the cords. A serial artwork made with light materials. by craniv boyd.  

Zero at Reinja Beatrix International Airport. Oranjestaad Aruba. by craniv boyd.

Zero at Reinja Beatrix International Airport. Oranjestaad Aruba. by craniv boyd.

Inside a posh tropical international airport, on the Island of Aruba on the lesser Antilles are small interventions, that contribute to the experience of the Airport by artists from Aruba. Besides purchasing an I <3 Aruba, shirt or some of the worlds finest Aloe before your direct flight to Houston, Caracas or Amsterdam, you might consider, as I did for some moments, just what is it about the design of the airport, that makes Rejna Beatrix international, so smooth. 

One thing:  the light fixtures. 


These are sculpted by, Zero, an Aruban artist and the ensconcements are evocative of the natural forms, and the beauty which makes Aruba, dushi terra (Papiamento for sweet earth.) These light fixtures are symmetrical bronze forms, with flat teardrop shaped joints,(narrow end pointing down). The joints are units of the larger limbs that bow out and up wards. The digits and the teardrop like joints are set irregularly thus having the outward initial appearance of being grown, rather than made by an artist.  These forms that house lights, are set on many, of the columns of the shopping and dining concourse, at the terminal. In passing what seems simplistic is very complex, provoking academic questions of are the sculptures that Zero has made for the airport culled form cactus or coral? One could turn to the context of previous and larger works by the same artist, Zero. He is   represented by a larger artwork, in brushed aluminum, in another prominent public-space in the Marriott  near  Eagle Beach. It also ha the form evocative of coral, it gives primacy to the local ecology, and is a delineated homage to such fragile tropical aquatic life. 

Beyond that there is presence and repetition, of the metallic forms, Aruba specific, locally made, yet what cumulative, additive ambient affect do these understated light forms have on the passengers in transit? A good one I would hope, for the inclusion of art works in public spaces in civil societies is seldom a bad thing, even if the art may be hideous, or precipitate public outcry. In the prominent public space of the airport, art before air time is fun, and in the case of Zero, it is a graceful addendum to the airport. by craniv boyd.

Elviz López at Ateliers '89 Dominicanessen Straat 34, Oranjestaad Aruba. a review by craniv boyd.

Elviz López at Ateliers '89 Dominicanessen Straat 34, Oranjestaad Aruba. a review by craniv boyd.

Brown and grey lizards scuttle to and fro, over white coral sand, and red tiles, crossing between overgrown wild grass. Hundred year old Mangroves and divi divi trees, shelter nesting tropical birds, are toilets for stray hounds and cover what few places of shade to be found on a desert cactus strewn island.  

This above may sound like settings for tales from the bush; but rather is a humble listing of some of the prominent things to be found other than North and South American tourists, in  Oranjestaad, the capital of Aruba, a tropical island, on the lesser Antilles. Orajestaad  is home to, Ateliers '89 a centre for contemporary art, founded by, Elvis López, a contemporary Aruba Artist who is based in Aruba. Locations for a multi use, Artist in residence / art education center / exhibition hall, could not be more ideal for Ateliers '89 is centrally located, in a former school complex build originally in the 1920s, 15 minutes from an international airport, on  a desert island, with long barrier reefs, with year round sunshine, out side of the hurricane belt. That Ateliers '89 is a remarkable grassroots community institution which is committed to supporting, both the making of current art by international young artists, and the development and education of people living in Aruba.  Ateliers '89  encourages an exchange via workshops, between respective young artists and designers who conduct the workshops, and the Arubans who register, out of interest for  the workshops, and a proven success rate, and excellent publicity for the courses.  Workshops held recently included the disciplines of  fashion design workshop, along with ceramics, performance, Video-photography and painting. In general the workshops, culminate with an exhibition of the work that was fabricated during the lessons. 

Ateliers '89 the brainchild and initiative of Elvis López, an Aruban artist, a participant in the Sao Paulo Biennial, who studied, and then taught at the acclaimed Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Elvis López is an accomplished artist from the Caribbean, who's far reaching artwork inclusive of installations, drawings, videos, as such needs to be studied. Two art installations by Elvis López which I saw and found to be of exceptional interest were;


A blue painted field a surface of ultramarine, green and yellow hues and longhand letter-forms above, written up side down from left to right. on the surface of the blue field, two protrusions, bandaged in white gauze, evocative of mummies or lepers, the dead or the infirm. Underneath the white bandages like fibers, is the color yellow, porous, sponge like and plush. These forms look anthropomorphic and in their soft edges,lumpy and globular are strange. One wants to reconcile and locate, is it human, beast or mineral that is wrapped up and affixed to the blue wall, but to no avail. Looking for the meaning behind the lower case letters, if one takes the time to read them up side down -e-nó-ta-di -a-ta-a offers little in the way of aid, or relief. What could this be? two, shrouded forms soft, emerging or would it be receding in a field of moody blue, words in roman script, flipped in a way to hamper but not completely impinge on their legibility, words that in their separation at and with each syllable seem to short to be words indeed. It is an artwork with the title of E no ta di e ta a. Like much of the high quality art of Elvis López , E no ta di e ta a, both reveals and veils an iconography of specific to the lesser Antilles. It could be seen as part of a system of image making that is materials intensive.  E no ta di e ta a  is an artwork authored by a visual intelligence which is well versed in both symbols of current art and image making practice in the broadest sense. Moreover it remains a large format artwork created by an artists hand, one with technical finesse and true mastery of sculptural form.       


A upturned rectangular table, covered in white lace, with a large elliptical sterling platter collides with the surface of the upturned table. The table is resting on its narrow end. A silver platter, that collides with the surface of the table at an 30° incline, is engraved with words: Ami ta wordo carga de teblachi plata. These words are etched, and trace the basin of the oval platter, the ridge of the platter is ribboned.  These are elements of an installation constructed with a proverb in Papiamento, one of the official languages of Aruba. The installation features the saying engraved in Papiamento, on a fine piece of silver ware, and the title of the artwork is  Ami ta wordo carga de teblachi plata, (as the comers to the family are always at first Carried in a silver tray until....) The table itself is covered with fine white belgian lace table cloths that were, the epitome of good taste for entertaining in Aruba. The saying along with the visual components encode, a possible proverbial story specific to Aruba and the Caribbean, a proverb concerning frustrated expectations; of a family laying out their finest and best silver, in an effort to impress the beaux of their daughter, thinking him to be well heeled. When realizing that their daughters choice is not what they had in mind, the silver starts to fly. this instillation is on instance and there are many engraved plates with proverbs in Papiamento which Elvis López has created. Modes of narration are sealed in the artwork of Elvis López , many levels to his stacked installations. the Local cultural specific, the current installation art methods, the visual associations that people from the Caribbean and foreigners might have, when looking at Belgian lace and silver serving platters are definitively charged.  by caniv boyd.