One of the reasons I went to Dakar was to follow the “Symposium on building art institutions in Africa”, organized by Koyo Kouoh, the founder of Raw Material Company. Established in Dakar since 2008, Raw Material Company is “a center for art, knowledge and society.” With the self-confident claim that “The art scene in Africa is growing mainly on impetus of independent initiatives,” the symposium brought together some of Africa’s most important independent art spaces and initiatives as well as a series of exemplary projects from other continents. I learned a great deal about how the colonial past continues to provoke questions and polemics (while countries like China are buying up Africa’s agricultural land). It also became clear that a young generation of African curators, intellectuals, and artists are willing to change things and to build up meaningful projects while the ruling class and the politicians in power are envious, passive, or are attached to old concepts and privileges. Within the range of initiatives, I felt particularly drawn to artist-run projects like:
- Amadou Kane Sy’s community project Portes et Passages, set up in Mbodiène, and the affiliated project The Mart Community in Mart, Texas.
- Jimmy Ogonga’s Center of Contemporary Art East Africa in Nairobi.
- Meskerem Assegued’s Zoma Contemporary Art Center. In collaboration with artists and by using traditional and modern building methods, they build studios in the Ethiopian countryside.
- Fatou Kandé Senghor’s Waru Studio, a site for collaboration among video and film artists.