Senegal street festival displays artwork focusing on human dignity
The much-anticipated Dakar Biennale of Contemporary African Art opens on Thursday and displays artwork inspired by the pain of migrants and their families.
A huge yellow dog and an intriguing pyramid appeared on the Senegalese capital's seafront, in enormous exhibits of the much-anticipated Dakar Biennale of Contemporary African Art, which opens on Thursday and is expected to "break down" gallery walls by bringing modern art to the streets of Senegal.
A new idea for the 14th Biennale is introduced while organizers are about to challenge art's "elitist image".
According to the organizers, the exhibition is about moving "the artist's studio to the street," a "plea for art to be more present in public spaces."
Two pyramid-shaped mausoleums are displayed, where dozens of earthen faces appear in piles inside and outside the walls; some faces are eye-closed, and others are screaming.
A line of shoes leads toward the cliff edge of Dakar's corniche, as though they are falling into the sea.
Yakhya Ba, a Senegalese artist, displays powerful work that shapes the agony migrants and their families face.
Others take pictures with the massive dog sculpture by Egyptian artist Khaled Zaki. His work aimed to make children happy and highlight the problem of stray canines in the Senegalese capital.
Africa at the crossroads
More than 2,500 artists from 85 countries will show their art in this year's exhibition, in around 300 exhibits in the capital and nearby islands of Goree and Ngor and around 100 in other towns and countries of the diaspora.
Due to Covid in 2020, the exhibition was delayed till this year, but the event attracted almost 250,000 visitors, including 50,000 from abroad in 2018.
This year, artistic director El Hadji Malick Ndiaye requested 17 artists to create monumental works to interact with locations along the coast, such as universities, fishing villages, and prisons.
"Ndaffa", the forge in Wolof, is this year's theme, and "the construction of new models" is required.
"This Bienniale is symbolically strong because it's after the Covid-19 crisis that shook and tested African countries," Ndiaye told AFP.
"Africa is at the crossroads of several changes. There are movements for a new appropriation of African heritage, questions about the CFA franc and the autonomy of African countries, unrest in several countries, and the emergence of new citizen consciousness..."
He said the artists taking part had been invited "to have their own points of view on all this" and "forge new ways of thinking".
Artwork focusing more on human dignity
The Biennale's international exhibition, hosted by a former courthouse, shows the work of 59 artists from 28 countries: 16 countries in Africa and 12 countries of the diaspora.
Senegalese artist Ousmane Dia displays sculptures of a "forest" of 343 armless sculptures, a ferocious critic of discrimination urging a new order "that focuses more on human dignity."
A seminar organized by Senegalese writer Felwine Sarr on the restitution of African heritage will also take place.