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Canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Akaa Fair, dedicated to the art of the African continent and its diaspora, returns to the Carreau du Temple, in Paris, with a more contracted edition of 35 exhibitors. If the essential dealers, such as the Parisians Magnin-A and Anne de Villepoix or the Brussels resident Didier Claes, are at the rendezvous, only six African galleries made the trip, against twenty in 2019. To alleviate the traffic restrictions, a a small handful of exhibitors from across the continent have opted to participate exclusively online. Other galleries, such as Loft, in Casablanca, have preferred the Paris Photo fair, which is being held simultaneously at the ephemeral Grand Palais.
Despite the pitfalls, “Relaunching the event went without saying, it was a question of responsibility”, says its founder, Victoria Mann. Because we must consolidate an ecosystem still under construction. But also to mark the ground facing the London Fair 1-54, which, taking advantage of a truce between two confinements, was held in January in the Parisian premises of Christie’s. “I’m not going to say that I jumped for joy, admits Victoria Mann. Because if competition is healthy, the market in France cannot yet absorb so many proposals. ”
However, this is the bet of the Art-z Gallery, which brought together a dozen structures within an alternative Afriques au Carré fair, organized on rue Perrée, a few meters from the Carreau du Temple. On the program, in particular, works by Algerian Dalila Dalléas, nominated for the SAM Prize, Malian King Massassy, noticed at the Bamako Meetings, and Senegalese Solly Cissé. “The third arrondissement does not belong to me, observes Victoria Mann. If this brings visibility to artists who are not in Akaa, so much the better. “
Here is a selection of favorites from World Africa at the Akaa Fair.
Ataa Oko, Magnin-A gallery
The work is brief, spread over barely ten years. But its graphic strength is striking. A carpenter by profession, the Ghanaian Ataa Oko, who died in 2012, has long made figurative coffins, in the funeral tradition of the Ga ethnic group, which have earned him a little notoriety in his country. It was at the age of 83, after his meeting in 2002 with the ethnologist Regula Tschumi, that the old man began to draw. To recompose the coffins he had made. But above all to tell his dreams populated by fantastic creatures. “A million miles from the attitude of the Western artist who often sees himself as an exceptional being, mastering and directing his work, Ataa Oko sees himself as a simple vector, a being through which pass energy and will. of God and of spirits ”, writes Lucienne Peiry, high priestess of Art Brut, in a thick book published for the occasion by Clandestin editions. Some compositions are simple, representing one or two chimerical beings, half-human, half-animal. Others are more elaborate, fruit less of a work of memory than of imagination.
Ymane Chabi Gara, gallery By Lara Sedbon
Winner of the Sisley Prize, spotted in the exhibition of the Révélation Emerige scholarship which is held until November 14 in Paris, Ymane Chabi Gara recognizes it, her relationship to Africa is more than distant. “I only went once to Benin, where my parents are from, confides the young graduate of the Beaux-Arts de Paris. It makes me weird to be hung up on something that I’m not familiar with. “ All the more bizarre as her imagination is anchored rather in Japan, a country that has fascinated her for a long time. In this series of paintings, started in 2019, Ymane Chabi Gara stages herself in confined spaces, literally slipping into the shoes of hikikomori. These young Japanese who refuse any social life, shut themselves up for months, even years at home, with their computer for any contact with the outside world. Paintings which, since the pandemic, take an even more intimate turn.
Gosette Lubondo, gallery Angalia
Gosette Lubondo works on both space and time. The young Congolese, who exhibits simultaneously at Akaa and on the Ruinart stand in Paris Photo, has a habit of doing long scouting before attacking a series. She must feel the genius of the place, imagine her former users. “What interests me is the mark left by the people who came before me in a space, but also how to animate it by giving it a second life”, explains the young photographer. At her beginnings, in 2016, Gosette Lubondo discovered an abandoned wagon in the central station of Kinshasa, the Congolese capital. She makes it the scene of scenes first interpreted by her friends. Before inviting herself into ghostly compositions, playing on the effects of transparency.
Kelani Abass, 31 Project
Passionate about the making of images and memories, the Nigerian born in 1979 has made the archive his medium and collage his signature. His first paintings were about the old typewriter that his mother had acquired when the family printing company started up in Lagos, the megalopolis of Nigeria. In the three small-format paintings exhibited at the Akaa Fair, Kelani Abass builds around metal bars from the machines of the father’s printing press stories from anonymous photographs, from paintings he himself makes from photos, of stamps and typographical elements recomposing words in Yoruba. Way of crossing mediums, temporalities and stories.
Atsoupé, Anne de Villepoix
It is a melancholy face, full of water and tears, which stares at us and seems to question us. A head all sutured too, stitched with red ribbon. “When I have finished a drawing, in a burst of nervousness I punch a hole in it before stitching it up”, details Atsoupé, 35 years old. It is in her biography that the young graduate of the Beaux-Arts de Paris finds the key to this process of destruction-reconstruction. As a child, she traveled with her Togolese parents in half a dozen African countries, particularly in areas ravaged by conflict, in Burundi and Guinea. “I have the pain of the beloved landscapes of my childhood which no longer exist”, she continues. Art like a quest for a lost paradise.
Delano Dunn, Montague Contemporary
Delano Dunn was 13 years old in 1992, during the riots in Los Angeles, triggered by the acquittal of the four police officers who beat up a young African-American named Rodney King. He remembers the fights, the shooting and the looting. And even more of the nasty reflections suffered after at school, because he was black, because he was suspicious. The wound of this stigma haunts his work today, acclaimed in 2019 by the New York Times. Trapping photos, prints and shoe wax under layers of resin, his latest paintings deconstruct the caricatures of blacks in America. As a counterpoint to imagery from Uncle Tom’s Cabin and degrading advertisements, Delano Dunn reactivates a black cowboy character from Golden Legacy, a comic book from the 1960s, but also prominent figures such as the black abolitionist Frederik Douglass or the French writer Alexandre Dumas, grandson of a slave.
Fair Akaa, November 12-14, 2021 www.akaafair.com
Afriques au Carré, November 11-14, 2021 www.afriquesaucarre.com