Thursday, September 22, 2011

'African' Art, with a Twist

The exhibit "Pret-a-partager: A transcultural exchange in art, fashion and sports" has been making its way around the continent, and I was lucky to catch it here in Ghana last week.

Sponsored locally by the Goethe Institut, the exhibit contained artifacts and artworks from an artist's conference organized by the German international cultural exchange organization IFA in Dakkar, Senegal in 2008.

Walking through the exhibit rooms, it was quickly apparent that this group of artists had played hard with the sort of mediums - installation, street/performance art, found objects - and themes - race, cross-cultural identity, cityscapes, the juxtaposition of art with the everyday - that I often contemplate.

A series of photos by Zohra Opoku, for instance, combines fashion design with photography with the urgency of momentary performance in a fleetingly-captured cityscape.  Her photographs of white-clad dancers performing capoeira-inspired moves at sites around Dakkar are just the sort of thing I'd love to pull off in Accra.

Another piece I loved was what I laughingly called the "butt-calabash" - a part of a large gourd (in local culture named a calabash, traditionally used to carry liquids) sewn onto the seat of a pair of jeans.

A perfectly irreverent twist on fashion, tradition, and 'African' culture.  I wish I could have been the white guy wearing these jeans around Dakkar for a day.

My favorite piece was probably a video documenting a street performance inspired by the then-upcoming Muslim celebration of Eid.  Taking advantage of the city's street-side sheep markets and playing off the imminent household sheep-slaughter that is a prominent Eid ritual in Dakkar, artist Athi-Patra Ruga took over a small piece of sidewalk, enclosed himself within a table with only his head peeking out, then let the sheep eat fruit placed on the table around his head.  Brilliant nuttiness.

The Nubuke Foundation in Accra's East Legon suburb hosted Pret-a-partager.  Though the exhibit ended on September 17, I'm sure I'll be dropping in again soon to sample more of their creative offerings.

No comments: