While highlighting innovation in the arts, business and science as it has done over the past decade, the France-Atlanta program this year takes a broadband look at African art featuring Francophone authors, photographers and vocal artists.
Kevin W. Tucker, the High Museum of Art’s chief curator, welcomed “Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design,” at an opening ceremony Oct. 25 at the High for this year’s entire France-Atlanta program.
The High Museum is the first host in the United States of the “Making of Africa” exhibition, which aims at providing a new vantage point on the continent by showcasing works of 120 artists including sculpture, prints, fashion, furniture, film, photography, apps, maps and digital comics.
The exhibition’s purpose is boldly projected at its entrance with a quote from “Black Skin, White Masks (Peau noire, masques blancs),” — “In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.”
The quote is from the 1952 book by Frantz Fanon, a psychiatrist from Martinique who presents a critique of the effects of racism and dehumanization inherent in colonialism, but who also offers a glimmer of hope for the continent’s future due to its creative potential.
The African continent “is certainly more than hunger, corruption, or a breath taking landscape,” says the exhibition’s introductory review material. The artists present the juxtaposed analysis of the continent as a hub of experimentation, optimism, rapid growth and cultural transformation.
For this reason, it seems highly appropriate that the works of Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru’s C-Stunners of wearable eyewear sculptures, which he creates by using castoff junk and trash he finds in his surroundings, greet the exhibition’s visitors. The sculptures’ subliminal message is that they may provide a glimpse of a new worldview
A similar statement is made by the map created by the German digital designer Kai Krause whose “The True Size of Africa,” veers sharply away from the Mercator projection map, which was created in the 16th century and copies of which hang in many school rooms.
His alternative map dramatizes the continent’s real size by including the areas occupied by China, India, the United States, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Eastern Europe, the Netherlands, Japan, Belgium, the United Kingdom, with some room left over for more.
The “Making of Africa” exhibition provides an overview of creative forces unleashed on the African continent, but the France-Atlanta program hardly ends there when featuring African creative energies.
On the evening of Oct. 27, Felicite, a film by the Franco-Senaglese director Alain Gomis was shown, also at the High, followed by a panel discussion attended by Mr. Gomis.
The son of a French mother and part-Senaglese and Guinean father, Mr. Gomis is frank in his admission that he feels like an immigrant wherever he is due to his mixed race.
This sensibility, however, hasn’t diminished his creative energy. Felicite is about a single mother living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who makes a living as a singer in a lively bar accompanied by the well-known Congolese band, the Kasai Allstars. Soon, however, her son is badly injured in a motorbike accident.
From there, the film recounts her trials in raising the funds for his operation and uses the plot to reveal the life of one of Africa’s largest cities and the character of a single mother struggling to provide for her family in Kinshasa, the capital and one of the largest cities on the continent.
Mr. Gomis has said that he was attracted to doing a film in Kinshasa because of the music of he Kasai Alstars, but also was inspired by the country’s folkloric traditions providing insights into the “visible and the invisible” worlds.
Marguerti Abouet, a French-Ivorian screenwriter and director, also participated in the panel at the High to discuss her critically acclaimed graphic novel series “Aya of Yop City,” in which she describes the lives of teenagers living in Abidjan, the capital of the Ivory Coast in the 1970s.
The series has been translated into 17 languages, and into a film, which will be shown at the High on the evening of Sunday, Nov. 12.
The Franco-Cuban twins Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Diaz, who grew up in Paris and sing in French, English and Yoruba, as the duo Ibeyi, performed at the Variety Playhouse on Monday, Oct. 30.
Their father is the well-known Cuban percussionist Anga Diaz and the Yoruba language is included in their performances because it is the language of their Nigerian ancestors who arrived in Cuba as slaves.
The “Making of Africa” exhibition is to be at the High into January of next year, and some of the photographs of Omar Victor Diop may be seen there.
The internationally acclaimed Senegalese photographer’s “Project Diaspora,” is composed of a series of self-portraits in which he poses as notable Africans from 15th to 19th century European paintings.
Several of the images from the project are on view at the exhibition, which raise questions about perception, culture and history at the heart of the “Making of Africa” exhibition.
Mr. Diop will deliver a lecture at the High on the evening of Friday, Nov. 3, on his work including costume design, styling and creative writing capturing the diversity of modern Africa.
To see all of the programs in this year France-Atlanta, click here.