This April art is in the air: from The Divine Comedy to Nos Voyages Immobiles

After the Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main and the SCAD Museum of Art and Design, the exhibition The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists curated by Simon Njami continues its journey through the most important museums of the world. The third leg is quite exceptional: the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington DC.  Among the works on show we would like to highlight Ecriture Infinie / Infinite Writing, Book 9 by Bili Bidjocka: a celebration of a 3500 years old invention: handwriting.

Ecriture Infinie is a work in progress that represents a fil rouge of the author’s path, taking new shapes and triggering inspirations and ideas that accompany Bidjocka’s artistic and individual journey. This new version is born out of a collaboration with lettera27 and Moleskine, which support its participation in the traveling exhibition. Book 9 is a triptych, an ensemble of 3 large books that form one single book. Each book corresponds to a section of the exhibition and has the respective color code: white book for Paradise, red book for Purgatory, black book for Hell. The visitors are invited to copy particular passages from the Divine Comedy onto the pages, in his or her own handwriting, reflecting on the personal meaning of the chosen text.

The Smithsonian National Museum of Africa Art is founded in 1964 as a private educational institution that promotes intercultural understanding in the fields of social science and arts. In August 1979 the museum becomes part of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum and research complex dedicated to knowledge discovery and dissemination.

The Divine Comedy display is quite unusual for the museum: it will be the first one to take advantage of the entire museum space, including the pavilion and staircases, where works of art by more than 40 artists will be showcased. Among them, Maurice Pefura. A Parisian artist of Cameroonian origins and an adopted Milanese, Maurice is one of the latest additions tolettera27’s artist notebooks collection. The Washington exhibition is not the only US stop for Pefura this month. The New York Skoto Gallery presents his solo show Nos Voyages Immobiles from April 9th to May 16th 2015. Among the works that make up the exhibition’s journey between the body and the space, there is a precious artist notebook donated to lettera27, which also gives name to the entire show.

Pefura’s notebook is carved out as if it were his memory, extracting the places that he has encountered. Suffocating constructions, crammed houses and modules that are repeated without variation: all manifestations of uncontrolled urbanization, which does not take into account the needs of those who are going to live there. The buildings resemble those in any city, any suburb. They can be part of the memory of a person of French origin born in Paris as well as a person of Cameroonian origin born in the same city. If the places are part of everyone’s memory, becoming part of the personal, then the question arises: who is the stranger?  Pefura’s notebook, just as a suitcase, contains the necessary time for travel, the transformations that it has triggered, the spaces encountered and enclosed within it.

It’s April and art is in the air, as well as personal stories, the poetics, the dreams and visions of every human being behind the works of art. We keep on discovering them, experiencing them and accompanying them through their journey.