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The 13th Edition of Dak’Art Bienniale

by Eva Rose Tesfaye on June 8, 2018

One of the most important contemporary art events in Africa, Dak’Art, concluded its run last Saturday, June 2nd. The month-long bienniale event started on May 3rd and featured hundreds of exhibitions and works, which were showcased all over Dakar and its neighboring islands.

This was 13th edition of Dak’Art. This year over 500 million CFA francs were committed to event. Last year the theme was “The City in the Blue Day” referencing a poem by Léopold Sédar Senghor. This year the theme was “The Red Hour” an expression from the father of Negritude, Aimé Césaire’s play And the Dogs were Silent

The phrase has connotations of freedom, emancipation and liberty. It is in essence, “a decisive moment, the crossroads between the past and the future that we call the present,” Simon Njami, returning artistic director, told OkayAfrica.

The Red Hour is, as Njami puts it, “the transformation and emancipation of the individual. The hour of fulfillment opens the way to a new era where the individual rethinks his relationship with others and how to re-articulate his presence to the world.”

Creatives from all over the world helped Njami curate the event: Moroccan director of the IFA Gallery in Berlin, Alya Sebti, Cameroonian artistic director of the art center SAVVY Contemporary Berlin, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, Mexican author, Marisol Rodriguez, Cosmin Costinas, executive director of Para Site in Hong Kong, and Sweden’s Marianne Hultman, artistic director of Oslo Kunstforening (OK) in Norway.

Each person curated a collective show with 3-5 selected artist.s

Some of the questions that are posted by the show were, according to Njanji: “How do you formulate a thought that is exported in the field of contemporary art? How do artists articulate theory within their works? How do artists theoretically rethink the notions of aesthetics, violence, homogeneity and localism? What are the practices of the collection and strategies for the empowerment of cultural policies? How do you establish a vibrant art market on the continent?”

The event aims to showcase the diversity as well as the universality of art by Africans, from the continent and the diaspora.

Since 2002 the event has been divided into two sections, an “IN” edition and an “OFF” edition. IN includes the exhibits that take place in official museums, theatre, galleries, and other places around the city.

The OFF edition includes about 250 independent artistic events that will run all over the capital and its neighboring islands. The OFF edition is a private initiative that shows how truly integrated art is into the city and the daily life of its inhabitants. Art in the OFF edition is displayed in the streets, hotels, homes, courtyards, and restaurants.

The Dakar Biennale was originally conceived in 1989 and the idea was that it would alternate between literature and art. The first edition in 1990 was focused on literature and the second in 1992 was focused on visual art. However, after those two, it was decided that event should focus exclusively on visual arts and design, with a small exhibition in textiles and tapestry. In 1993 it became specifically devoted to contemporary African art. Digital art was eventually included as well, whereas tapestry and textiles is no longer a part of the show.

The Dak’Art functions with the supervision of the Senegalese state and the submissions of local artists, who, according to the Dak’Art website, “since the seventies, have been organizing regular annual art exhibitions which bring to light the different shapes of the evolution of contemporary art creation.”

More photos of exhibitions from the event can be found on its Facebook page.

Featured Image via Flickr/flowcomm

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Eva Rose Tesfaye
Eva Tesfaye has traveled around the world her whole life but thinks of Africa as home. She loves reading novels and watching plays (especially ones with people of color in them). She has a love-hate relationship with her big curly hair.