The Biennial of Contemporary African Art, DAK’ART, will be held from May 3rd to June 2nd, 2018 in Dakar, Senegal. For thirteen editions, it has succeeded in bringing African art to the attention of a fairly large audience. The latest editions have changed in the sense that they are largely determined by an independent curator who makes her or his choice from the range.
The main exhibition curated by Simon Njami explores the theme A New Humanity and features the work of 75 artists from 33 countries. It is presented in the old Palace of Justice, a beautifully run down building with a huge, partly covered courtyard and dozens of small and somewhat less smal rooms. Everything except a clean swept white cube.
Five international curators provide their own presentation in the IFAN museum. A large tent next to the National Theater houses presentations of Rwanda and Tunisia. They look more like tourist offices than galleries of art.
Alden Paul Mvoutoukoulou, from Congo – where he lives and works – is one of the most conspicuous artist in this biennale. He was inspired by works of Andy Warhol and it gives him strength to mixed paint. His latest work, Medicine Blues (2017, L’agence à Paris), is very impressive and it denounces the smuggling of medicines with a model-sculpture in which imaginary cities are built with used medicine boxes. He says; ‘’First the idea comes from my mother, she is really suffering. When she was on medication, I was with her all the time. This is where I started to recover these drugs. For me, it was a way to rebuild a work. It’s like I was treating as if I brought a cure’’.
The artist has recreated the emergency room of a hospital. On the wall, persons who are waiting for treatment, a patient on the treatment bed. Literally flattened. A huge, threatening clock above his head. This sounds like a simple, somewhat kitschy story, but the quality is in the execution and the associated underlying meaning. All parts of the installation are depicted with dump material: used medications, capsules, packs and cartons. Mvoutoukoulou not only denounces the care, he also criticizes the throw-away industry and the consumer behavior that forms the basis for this.