The offering at the altar of the Dak’Art 2014 is awe-inspiring. Since 2002, the Biennale has been running the IN and OFF programmes that has enabled many other stakeholders to participate in the program’s primary and complimentary roles.
The International Exhibition of African and African Diaspora artists is the main event (the IN) and the work is exhibited at the Biennale Village that is about two and half kilometers from the city centre. The International Exhibition was curated by Elise Atangana who selected the works from the diaspora, Abdelkader Damani for North Africa and Smooth Ugochukwu Nzewi for sub-Saharan Africa. They trio did a fantastic job.
You will probably see everything that is on display but if you want to savour it well, one visit will not be enough. Trust me I had to go back again and it was a whole new feeling. It was like falling in love all over again. I noticed many new things. I had the opportunity to meet some of the artists and have a chat with them and to understand their work even better.
However, when you are done with the Biennale Village, take time to sample the other great works of art on offer at other venues. The National Gallery has a tribute show of the Moustapha Dimé that has been curated by the great Ivorian Curator Yacouba Konaté.
It is a great show and Yacouba has paid homage to the late Moustapha Dimé in many ways. He has captured many elements that speak of the late artist and made him proud. There installations, paintings, pictures and even video without a doubt give you a glimpse of the late Dimé’s life. The curator recreated the shores of the ocean when he worked and you will also be able to pick his other interests—religions, women, traditions etc.
When you are done with the National Gallery, take time to visit the Exhibition of Contemporary art at the Musee IFAN dubbed Diversite Culturelle and curated by Massamba Mbaye. This is an exquisite show of selected invited artists from around Africa and abroad. Kenya’s painter and sculptor Joseph Bertiers’ of the invited artists. The themes are varied and each work of art striking in its own unique way and credence goes to the Curator Massamba and his team.
They worked so hard and delivered a show that has numerous conversations going on. Momar Seck’s piece Embouteillage, 2013 looks at the Senegalese community through the streets and it is as colorful as it is insightful. Sex and Sexuality is also featured but is prominent in the eye catching installation depicting many erect penis.
I expected to see Kenya’s Joseph Bertiers’ piece but like several artists here, their work is either still with customs or has not yet arrived. This is an organizational nightmare but perhaps also shows the contradictions that often characterize the Biennale.
For an event that takes place every two years, yet some things are being done at the very last minute, is not encouraging. Some of the hitches being experienced like Joseph Bertiers being around for the opening of his show yet his work is lying in some custom warehouse awaiting clearance, is unfortunate.
Some places were still being constructed or repaired a few hours to the opening of the show and one clear instance that captured the frustration was the banging and sawing off that kept interrupting the speakers at the Art Critic seminar. The construction was to get the Biennale Village ready for the official opening of the International Exhibition but the frustrations of some of the key speakers was palpable.
These are painful experiences for the organisers that are perhaps atoned by the gorgeous works of art that are exhibited but they are also valuable lessons. The Biennale has grown in stature and the OFF segment alone is attracting a huge following. The international exhibition continues to amaze and full of surprises.
The organisations and coordination needs to get better. If you make it the Biennale, don’t let this dampen you. The offering at the altar of the Dak’Art 2014 is awe-inspiring. They are plenty.