A couple of weeks ago our advisor Simon Njami has been nominated the new artistic director of Dak’Art 2016, the most important biennale of contemporary art on the African continent. As friends and “camarades” we are both proud and happy. The challenge will be enormous, but if anyone can stand up to it and bring Dak’Art to a new level of consciousness and quality, it is definitely Simon Njami.
As a point of departure for Dak’Art 2016 titled La Cité dans le jour bleu, (The city in the blue day) Simon has chosen the extract of Léopold Sédar Senghor’s poem: “ Your voice cries out for the Republic -let us raise up that city in a blue day/Of equality for brotherly peoples. So we sing in our hearts. “We are here, Guélowar!”
“The city in the blue day” is a reference Simon has been carrying with him for a while. In his 2012 essay of the homonymous title he wrote: “It is impossible to speak of Africa. It is impossible to speak of Africa in conventional terms of the art world or the Academy. Because Africa, since the dawn of times is fantasy. A fantastic vessel within which everyone deposits his or her own neuroses, angst, fear, or anger. How then may we tell the tale of this contradictory space, how can we speak of its history and geography without re-examining its past and questioning what we thought we understood? It’s crucial to unlearn Africa. To rebuild it with new tools. And these tools depend upon contemporaneity.”
The Dak’Art 2016 call for artists proposals that is addressed to all the art practitioners of the continent and the diaspora perfectly carries on Simon’s vision. We share every single word of the below statement and wanted to share it with you. Since it is not simply an artist call we are talking about, but a philosophy of what it means to be “African” today and how we can start talking and understanding this “Africa” that is recently on everyone’s lips.
“Those who answer to the call will be those who, without shame and modesty, dare to call themselves Africans to all the world, ignoring all prejudice and preconceived notions about the continent. They move forward by evoking the hurt, errors and experimentation, surging forward to assert the ingenuity of their land, overlooking the mocking of professional sceptics. For, at the risk of appearing scandalous, I assert that one is not born African, one becomes African. “Becoming” is birth and discovering oneself in the world. It is implementing existential choices to determine the direction our lives will take. The only way to appreciate this Africa, whose definition everyone seems familiar with, is by assembling the scattered pieces of this puzzle over and over. Becoming boils down to expressing one’s point of view to the world. And there is no expression without language. Understanding so-called African artists means being capable of decoding the original language in which each in his/her own manner claims his/her place in the world. For belonging to a territory and attempting to define contours should never cause us to lose sight of the fact that each territory is first a metaphor.”
Good luck to Simon and to Dak’Art 2016. We can’t wait to see the results. Book your tickets. This May Dakar will be the place to be.