Lack of Education and Audiences Hobble African Arts Scene

Theo Eshetu was a resident artist in Burkina Faso as part of the Visionary Africa: Art at Work project

Published on 10 July 2011

Author(s): Capacity4Dev Magazine 31 May 2011

Type:  Video 4.15 Min

Investment in education and the building of appreciative audiences for African art in Africa are fundamental to the construction of a thriving and vibrant artistic landscape on the continent, according to video artist Theo Eshetu.

Speaking at the end of a three week residency in Burkina Faso, Mr Eshetu said that artists and their work have a valuable input to any community, as their work captures the attitude and mood of a society.

“We expect artists to say the truth about what they feel about things and how they think about things,” said Mr Eshetu. “By expressing what it is that he thinks and feels - and what he thinks is right, and what he thinks is beautiful and what he thinks is wrong – the artist is a kind of barometer of the society he’s living in.”

“I think the great difficulty is for an African artist to be aware of his role in those terms.” Mr Eshetu, who is of Ethiopian origin, says that his European education played a large part in enabling him to embrace such a role. This does not seem to be the case for a lot of African artists.

Another difficulty faced by artists on the continent is the lack of galleries, buyers and markets that artists in the developed world rely on to fund and sustain their creativity.“Do they have attention? Do they have an ear or an eye that will listen to them or look at what they have done?” asked Mr Eshetu. “In most cases the answer is no.”

To watch the video please click on the picture below.

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Theo Eshetu

Videographer Theo Eshetu was a resident artist in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou as part of the Visionary Africa: Art at Work project, funded by the European Commission, Belgium’s Centre for Fine Arts BOZAR and the African Union. His residency took place as Ouagadougou hosted its biannual pan-African film festival, FESPACO. He is currently working on a series of installations derived from his time in Burkina Faso, details of which will be posted on the site as soon as they are available.

To find out more about Visionary Africa: Art at Work and the special travelling photographic exhibition hosted in Ouagadougou, read this related article at...

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