A Celebration of African Art in an Urban Setting

Special exhibition created an unusual calm space in an African capital

Published on 10 July 2011

Author(s): Capacity4Dev Magazine 17 May 2011

Type:  Video 3.58 Min

Street sellers took a break from selling their wares, shoppers paused in the cool shade and kids lunched beneath dramatic photographs – all part of a special exhibition that created an unusual calm space in an African capital.

Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso was the first stop in a series of African capitals set to host the exhibition which was supported by the European Commission as a celebration of African culture. Next in line will be Addis Ababa, Maputo, Nairobi and Cairo.

The travelling exhibition shows a carefully selected series of African photography dating as far back as the 1960s. The concept was conceived to mark some 22 African countries’ 50th anniversary of independence in 2010 and 2011 and to highlight creativity with a selection of emblematic works of some of the most important African photographers. In all, some 30 photographs were selected to represent the continent's past, present and future.

“Visionary Africa: Art at Work” focuses on the importance of culture and creativity as a development tool and included, along with the urban exhibition, artists’ residences and workshops on the role of culture, the arts and their institutions in the context of rapid urban development on the African continent.

Curator of the exhibition Simon Njami, a well known art critic of Cameroonian origin, chose the images to convey how Africa has transformed since much of the continent won independence some 50 years ago and to offer some perspectives on what could lie in store for Africa over the forthcoming decades.

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Pavilion: Art at Work

The exhibition was showcased at the last Africa-EU summit in November last year before travelling to Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso for a staging of the first fully blown edition of the concept.

The specially designed pavilion (right) provided space and quiet for reflection but without the doors and barriers normally associated with art exhibitions and was designed by British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye.

The European Commission joined forces with Belgium’s Centre for Fine Arts, BOZAR, and the African Union to organise the travelling exhibition, which was an extension of the Visionary Africa festival held in Brussels in the summer of 2010.

To watch the video please click on the picture below.

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