Dak'Art 08: A hazy Mirror?
This question of sustainability at home becomes paramount if we want to create a more balanced presence of artists and visual languages in the world today. It might be pertinent to remember that the Havana Biennial began in 1984 with the remit of providing an event for artists outside the European-US mainstream to exhibit their work. Creators from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia were selected by a team of Cuban curators who throughout the years acquired regional expertise and would follow developments of art production in those centres existing outside the radars of the 'official art world'.
Both in the official and the off venues of Dak'art, I was impressed by a handful of interesting works, among them Samba Fall's 'Consumania' video at the Galerie Nationale, Saidou Diko's multimedia interventions and 'Kanakassis’ works displayed at Ker Thiossane, which proposed the Deberlinisation of Africa through the symbolic creation of a Pan African currency. Also remarkable were Kan Si's video work 'Lu et Approuve' and Soly Cisse's site specific installation at the Maison des Esclaves in Goree island.
The display at the Galerie Atiss and the photographic exhibition 'Off Limits' are among the off biennial projects that were worth seeing. Another highlight of the opening days was the screening of Manthia Diawara's film 'La Maison Tropicale' which opened up a fruitful debate around ideas of cultural heritage and the misfortunes of Modernist utopias. It was just a pity that theoretical events and debates were not clearly advertised!
My conclusion is that Dak'art will enjoy longer life and success if the good intentions of Senegal's Ministry of Culture are matched in future editions with the plurality of curatorial talent that currently exists in the continent.Gabriela Salgado is Curator, Public Programmes at Tate Modern, London.