I am just back from Senegal, where I visited the 12th Dakar Biennial.
My overwhelmingly fantastic trip was accompanied by two of my former Shadow Curators Pauline Burmann from Amsterdam and Tessa Jackson who is the Director of Iniva in London.
Pauline from Amsterdam did a fantastic job in assiting me in identifying the right artist for our art prize. The selection was not easy, but in the end the choice went to Nancy Mteki, a young photographer from Zimbabwe.
The prize was given by no one less then Senegals Premier Minister Macky Sall and the wonderful musician Youssou N’dour. (Youssou is a singer, percussionist, songwriter, composer, occasional actor and businessman. In 2004, the Rolling Stones described him as, “perhaps the most famous singer alive” in Africa. In April this year he became the Minister of Tourism and Culture of Senegal.)
The rest of the days were filled from early morning till late at night with scouting artists, visiting studios and organising a reception at the Zimbabwean Embassy for all the prize winners. Trudy Stevenson the Ambassador was a fantastic host who showed great spontaneity inviting a great range of other ambassadors from Mali, Rwanda, Cameroon and even the UK! It was a really great get together not the least for the eloquent albeit crowded discussion conducted by Pauline and Tessa.
Sadly on Sunday, Wanja Kimani’s work ‘You have not changed’ ( a dress she wore when she last met her father at age 8) disappeared. Once we got over the first shock of this, we stuck heads together and created another performance based artwork entitled ‘You have changed’. People brought new clothes and others are now actively encouraged to take it away.
Another highlight was the meeting of two other artists.
Mariam Koné is a singer from Mali, whom I met here. And I must say, I fell in love. She has the most wonderful voice which left me without choice. I needed to invite her to let the rest of Scotland appreciate this amazingly rhythmic music.
The other one was Peter Clarke. Peter is a South African artist and craftsman, born in 1929. A man whose stories weave through the last 80+ years of his country’s history, but his memoires yet unwritten. To be able to host him with us in Huntly for a while would be an incredible honour.
And at the expense of being accused once again as driven by exoticism, – I am fraid I can’t help just loving all the dresses.
The visit to the Isle de Goré, a beautiful island some 30k off Dakar harbour where in Africa’s past gruel history slaves were collected to be shipped to the Americas. A museum of slavery is its main attraction.
The incredible music all over the place on the streets and everywhere one goes. Thanks to Mariam for taking me to the ‘Just for you’ nightclub. An unforgettable experience that will accompany me for a long time.