Ayo Adewunmi and Frank Ugiomoh
The Pan African Circle of Artists (PACA) made its fourth appearance at the Dak’Art Biennale with the Exhibition and Roundtable under the theme “Africa before Our Very Eyes”. The exhibition which took place at the Boribana Museum, 109 Ngor Road, Dakar, Senegal from the May 3 to 17, was opened by the Minister for Culture and Communications, Mr Magnick Ndiaye who attended the event in company of the Minister of Culture, Cote d ‘Ivoire. 19 artists from 6 countries participated at the PACA Dak’Art Off 2016. Mr Ndiaye declaring the exhibition open, on the May 7immediately after the roundtable, commended PACA for its effort at bringing African artists together.
The curator of Boribana Museum, Mme Hawa Mara, remarked that she was happy with the collaboration. She thanked all the sponsors of the exhibition and praised the efforts of Mor Faye in curating the exhibition. Mor Faye, the Senegalese artist, who curated the exhibition commented that PACA Dak’Art Off which began in 2010 at Leopold Sedar Senghor’ Cultural Centre, Pikine has witnessed steady growth in number of participating countries and also in the quality of exhibition. He commended PACA’s determination in promoting and propagating African art and artists, he added that PACA has always used the opportunity of its Dak’Art Off to hold roundtable on crucial issues bordering on the development of Africa.
In 2012, PACA held its exhibition and roundtable with the theme “Africa and the Politics of Postcoloniality at the Monument of the African Renaissance”. The 2014 theme was “Africa: Plurality In Uniqueness. The exhibition and roundtable took place at the Blaise Senghor’s Regional Cultural Centre. Commenting on the exhibition, the Secretary General of Dak’Art Biennale Mr Rassoul Seydy congratulated PACA for its 4thDak’artOff exhibition and commended participating artists from other countries for sponsoring themselves to Dakar.
Nigerian artists who participated in PACA Dak’Art Off include Kent Onah, Dr. Krydz Ikwuemesi, Prof. Cliff Nwanna, Ayo Adewunmi, Izuchukwu Muoneme, Mbadimma Chinemelum Nduoma, Okechukwu Eze, Sir Joseph Ejiamike and Emeka Egwuibe. According to the Secretary of PACA-Nigeria, Kent Onah, having participants from six countries is symbolic and indicative of the fruits of PACA’s Overcoming Maps (the PACA Study Tour of Africa) which took PACA on road tours of 11 African countries between 2001 and 2010.
He noted that the last tour in 2010 was in Gambia and Senegal, and that the same year PACA had its first Dak’Art Off. Dr. Ikwuemesi states in his introductory text in the exhibition catalogue “that the present exhibition is located at the crossroads of Africa’s history, where the will for development is wrestled by the reality of underdevelopment. In vivid colours and clear elegant forms, the collection captures our place as captives of history and politics on that crossroads. The works then become totems of hope and tend to renew our faith in a fateful but seemingly failing journey of a people who should have so much to offer the modern world”.
The Pan-African Circle of Artists’ roundtable held at the Boribana Museum on May 7 of was directed by Frank Ugiomoh, the Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Professor of Fine Art and Design and Professor of history of Art and theory, University of Port Harcourt, who also gave a lead presentation on the theme, “Africa Before Our Very Eyes: Globalisation And Change”. The theme of the 2016 biennial “Re-enchantments” informed the topic and trajectory of the roundtable. Re-enchantment as a theme by the biennial curator calls for an African gaze, the way other cultures have come to embrace global cultural politics arising from the Enlightenment ideology, which has impacted on the way other cultures engage cultural production as well as the definition of their art world require reconsideration.
Africa before our eyes began by recognising the cartographic boundary of Africa and all that is contained in it as the focal point of discourse. The position foreclosed earlier efforts to culturally balkanise the continent and its people. The continent, no doubt presents a heterogeneity in its cultural definitions. However, such occurrence is the norm and not the exception. Within the framework of contemporary globalisation and hiked intercultural dialogue and negotiations should be nothing other than change. Referencing the truth encapsulated in the words of the African philosopher and sage, the late President Leopold Sedar Senghor that we are all products of “cultural half castes,” Professor Ugiomoh emphasised the need to embrace on-going realities of cultural change. He made allusion to the depth of civilisation in Africa put conservatively at 70,000 BC, and asked rhetorically if anyone living today had the privilege of knowing that past. By implication, then, for those who mourn changes in culture can they reconstruct the past they were never part and of which knowledge they lacked. In other words, our cultural trappings were never the same since 70,000 years ago definitely. That reality informed President Senghor’s thoughts that we are all cultural half castes.
Art in Senghor’s thoughts was one of the great agents of change monitoring. In this direction, Professor Ugiomoh referenced the German philosopher Gadamer who talks of the effectiveness of art as a change element. Art according to him always excites play and festivity. It does this by the nature of metaphor’ familiarity with the human being. No individual person plays or engages festival alone. Such activities are never exclusive hence they are occasions that foster change. Because the work of art is about the beautiful, beauty enchants as it continuously re-enchants.
General responses and reflections on the topic of discussion acknowledged that change is not anything to hold in disdain, since to live after all is to change. Various contributors to the debate all harped on the value of positive change. They noted that change like ideology occurs not by sitting on a roundtable. Rather change creeps into culture through non-negotiated agreement within every age.
Guests at the roundtable included,Dr. Massamba Gueye Cultural Adviser to the President of Senegal, Mr. Magueye Toure, the Director of Francophony, Mr. Root Senghor, the Administrator of the Monument of the African Renaissance, Mr. Abdoulaye Koundoul Arts Director, Alioune Badara Beye, President of the Association of Writers of Senegal, students and art enthusiasts.
– Adewunmi and Prof Ugiomoh are reputable art lecturers