Saturday 19 November 2011


At Dak'Art, work on forestation wins laurel
By Tajudeen Sowole
(First published Sep 14, 2008)

WHOEVER, among the artists, won a prize at the ongoing international biennial art event, Dak'Art 2008 must have passed through a keenly contested art exhibition and competition of the continent's biggest art fiesta.
However, the host country produced the two leading artists who carted away the top  award of Leopold Sedar Senghor Great Award.
 Senegalese sculptor, Ndary Lo, deservedly won the top prize, The Leopold Sedar Senghor Great Award. The award sponsored by the President of the Republic of Senegal carries the prize of 1,250 000 F CFA. Also winning in the same award was another Senegalese, El Hadji Mansour Ciss.
   From the four artists representing South Africa emerged Nkosikhona Ngcobo who won the award offered by the Ministry of Culture and classified "Historic Heritage". It has a prize of 1000,000 F CFA.
   The award of the International Organization of the Francophonie went to Jems Robert Kokobi of C
ete d'Ivoire, the only artist representing his country, as the award offered by Culture France, Department of  Africa and Caribbean in Creation was given to Guy Bertrand Wouete Lotchouang of Cameroon.
   Awards offered by Thamgidi Studio was won by Sa
edou Dicko of Burkina Faso; Ibrahima Niang, Senegal; Mourad Gharrach, Tunisia; Angele Etoundi Essamba Cameroon; Pelagie Gbaguidi, Benin; Grace Ndiritu Diaspora, Grande-Bretagne.
  Works on display at the main exhibition centers across Dakar, Senegal revealed a very high creative input from the artists who have been selected across Africa and the Diaspora.
  Except for the OFF exhibitions' awards which come after the event,
traditionally, Dak'Art gives out its awards for the main art exhibition
while the exhibition is on, having concluded selections of awardees from the finalists.
  From conceptuality to aesthetic and content, most of the artists presented works that touched on the various challenges facing the continent just as diverse medium added a greater mileage to the one month long event.
 With a central theme, Africa: Mirror?, Dak'Art 2008, according to its organizers, looks at the multifaceted realities and the crucial issues facing Africans, home and in the Diaspora. Exhibiting artists were therefore expected to reflect the theme in their works.
   Few days after the opening ceremony of the event, awards were given to the deserving artists. Sculpture, Osaretin Ighile, the only Nigerian among the 35 artists, unfortunately did not win in any of the prizes at stake.
  Some of the artists represented about 10 countries in Africa were P
Gbaguidi from Republic of Benin; Sa
edou Dicko and Justin Kabre from Burkina Faso; while Cameroon presented Blaise Bang, Angele Etoundi Essamba, Achille Komguem, Samuel Nja Kwa and Guy Bertrand Wouet Lotchouang.

Ndary Lo's La Muraille verte (installation, 100 x 300 x 400 cm)
   Other artists from the Diaspora included Grace Ndiritu, UK; Gabriel Pacheco, US; and Roberto Rico, France.
The exhibition was spread across three venues in Dakar. These centres included Theodore Monod Museum, Place Soweto, close to the nation's National Assembly, the National Art Gallery, Hassan II (former Albert Sarraut avenue), Kermel Market and Galerie Le Man?ge, Rue Parchappe.
  But Ndary Lo, truly deserved the top prize for his installation classic, La Muraile Verte, 100 x 300 x 400 cm of sculptures depicting deforestation. Each piece of the over 100 replica of different specie of trees was presented with branches in human figural as the root of each tree was erected on a glass basement
 sprinkled with sands.
   Ndary's work was so captivating that one could not but requested to meet the artist.
   The concept, Ndary explained to The Guardian was as a result of an inspiration from two African leaders. "Your president, Obasanjo had the idea of Africa making more forest," he started with his incoherent English. Noting that deforestation is a major problem to the development of the continent, the artist commended the former president Obasanjo for the initiative. He added: "I like Obasanjo for his idea. And our president, Abdoulaye Wade gave the idea
another name, 'Green Green World'. These motivated me to do the
work," Ndary, a graduate of Nationale des Arts du Senegal said.
   Senegal's National Art Gallery was about five minutes walk from the Sofitel Hotel, Teranga, venue of one of the OFF events, Naija, An Exhibition of Contemporary Nigerian Art. About seven artists' works were featured at the centre in such medium as photography, painting to sculpture and video art installations.
   Safe water as one of the challenges facing Africa forms the thrust of the video installation of one of the awardees, Burkinabe artist, Dicko as the work portrayed a queue of buckets and basins on sand leading to the video screen. And on the screen, came images of rural dwellers squeezing waters out of mud.
  Close to this installation was the Nigerian born and US based sculptor, Ighile's bust of Mayor, in the likeness of Mayor Bloomberg of Brooklyn on a stogie.
  The work, once presented in the US by the artist as a protest art to call the attention of the authority there to the payment of what the artist called "unwarranted" sanitation and parking tickets.
  Egyptian painter, Hassan Fathi's monochrome and abstract work of imposing sizes held one's attention longer, in spite of the limited
 communication prospect of the chosen inscriptions which forms part of the contents.
  For the Nigerian artists who were part of the official presentation of the NGA exhibition, which was one of the OFF exhibitions, there could be some prizes to be won at the end of the event.
    One of the awards to be given at the end of the event is the award of the public offered by the European Union for the OFF event. According to the organisers: "Three laureates, among the exhibiting artists of Dak'Art OFF, will be chosen by the public after a vote on ballot cards. Visitors will indicate on it their preferred artists once discovered the numerous exhibitions proposed by Dak'Art OFF 2008."
  Though it was commendable that Nigeria had an official exhibition outside the main exhibition of Dak'Art 2008, the works presented, it was observed, could be better.
   While some of the works reflected the vibrancy of the nation's art scene, others, perhaps, would not have made the event if the criteria for selection were made open.
  Not a few Nigerians presented at the exhibition shared the view that some of the works should not have made the exhibition. One of such observations came from the President of Society of Nigerian Artists, SNA, Kolade Oshinowo. During a chat at the exhibition ground, he said: "The works here are not the true representation of what Nigeria can produce. We can do better. Perhaps as a
result of the time constraint to put the show together, NGA was compelled to come up with this selection. It's alright just to present something. But my worry is that it could be taken as the true representation of the country's
   But the curator of the show, Uwa Usen had a response on the selection of works that made the event. He said: "We should not forget that this is a government agency, and federal character
 has to reflect in the selection of artists in an event like this. This is exactly what we have done."

Ndary Lo

   He argued further that the known schools of arts in the country, Ahmadu Bello Univesrsity, ABU, Zaria; University of Nigeria, Nzukka; Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos; University of Benin; Auchi Polytechnic and University of Uyo were represented to give credibility to the event.
   Artists whose works made the exhibition at the Conference Hall of Sofitel Terenga, Dakar were Kolade Oshinowo, Jacob Jari, Jerry Buhari, Kaltume Gana, Funmi Abiodun, Chizoba Pilaku, Ike Francis, and Ufuoma Evuarrche.
   Others were Uchenna Mbefele, Chris Obadan, Helen Uhunnuagbo, Uwa Usen, Frank Enahoro, and Umah Udosen.
   At the 2006 edition of the biennial, Nigeria did not have an elaborate event though it supported an art exhibition A Glimpse Into Nigerian Art: Heraldic Exhibition of the Project 20th Century Art: A
 Story From Nigeria, an initiative of some Nigerian artists.

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