Cameroon: Elephants With Wings

Imago Mundi

Contemporary Artists From Cameroon

In the fifteenth century, Portuguese explorers reached the delta of the river Wouri in Equatorial Africa and named it Rio dos Camarões, River of Prawns. And, like a game of Chinese whispers, these lands came to be known as Cameroon. Today the Republic of Cameroon is an independent country; after enduring colonisation by Germany, and then division under French (Cameroun) and British rule, it finally achieved independence in 1960. The territory, with its capital Yaoundé, covers over 475,000 square kilometres and has a population of nearly 20 million inhabitants divided into more than 200 different ethnic and 260 linguistic groups. Political and social stability is good and Cameroon has never experienced coups or violent overthrows of power, unlike many of the political realities on the continent. In this diverse human and cultural landscape Imago Mundi has collected 140 contributions by local artists on the customary 10x12 cm canvases.

Max Mba Kop - Proud To Be (2015)

“In Cameroon – recalls Luciano Benetton, the creator of Imago Mundi - two Africas coexist, not without contradictions: ancestral Africa, marked by a centuries-old history of conflict and inequality, and the Africa of the future, young, active and full of energy, that is facing the ambiguities of the world and globalized culture. On the cultural side, thanks to a strong literary tradition, Cameroon has focused on education and bilingualism (French/English) as decisive elements to offer a prospect of change to its young people. Cameroonian artists, in turn, are engaged in effectively overcoming the rhetoric of hospitality and dialogue without borders that animates the world of art, at a time when people themselves continue to be burdened by barriers and social inequalities.”

Victor Nyie - Self-Portrait Of The Artist (2015)

Boris Nzebo - The Wall (2015)

Louis Patrice Minkam Diffo (Kemplo) - The Crossing (2015)

“In this collection – highlights the curator Enrico Mascelloni - there are also some reconciled landscapes or the description of a mythical heavenly past, but much less so than in other projects for Imago Mundi concerning African countries. Most Cameroonian artists have little desire to relax. Their works are in constant tension. Reality is approached through short circuits through expressionist alterations, through an aggressive hyper-realism. A country like Cameroon has shown that despite the levels of technical inequality and more generally of talent that we could expect (and which do exist), ours is a large choral fresco composed of tiny works exploring all aspects of reality, following it wherever it hides. One hundred and forty different views, so many different languages, often polar opposites, nonetheless offer a glimpse of the world that made them possible.”

Joel Maxime Kevin Kingue Ngaka (Diesert) - Rainbow (2015)

Marcel Yvan Bowen - Omnipresence (2015)

Joseph Delord Nyah - The Price Of Truth (2015)

The curator makes particular reference to a work by Kolo for Imago Mundi: “The halt. Two young Africans in the desert, dreaming Europe” And he explains: “Precisely, Europe as a dream and the desert as a nightmare, African daily life as something to flee from and the realization of that dream. The above-mentioned theme, at least in contemporary Cameroon, is, however, an exception. The pride of Cameroonian artists is such that their only dream can be reconciliation with their country, loved in a visceral way and yet subjected, in many works, to a hard radiography, although not always as a direct denunciation, but delving into the anguish and expectations of everyday life, and, as such, even more profound.”

Romuald Bruno Dikoume Yomzak - Queen Kayifa (2015)

Jules Ricky Soh Fongang - Beyond Faces (2015)

Francis Ngonzick Ndiba (Franco Ndiba) - Portrait Of Ferdinand Oyono (2015)

“All generations of artists – notes the art critic Marilyn Douala-Bell Schaub - from experts to beginners, through emerging talents, took up the challenge of the miniature, the call of the Benetton Foundation, because everyone, directly or indirectly, has been trained to take on challenges, to express themselves in an art that has the problem of a concise narrative in a small layout, in contrast with the local customs made of big speeches on large formats.”

Emmanuel Essome - The Gesture That Saves. “The Sharing” (2015)

William Tagne Njepe - My Quarter (2015)

Hako Hankson - The Notable (2015)

Marilyn Douala-Bell Schaub who directs Revue Noire, the Francophone publication of reference for contemporary art in South Cameroon, comments: “if, in 1991 only one person declared himself to be a ‘contemporary creative’, deciding to live exclusively from his artistic career, in 2015 hundreds of young people decided to become professional artists.”

Justine Gaga - Untitled (2015)

Jeannine Prisca Tchacamp Noumi - The Messenger (2015)

Brain Cheghe - Thinking About The Future (2015)

The title of the Imago Mundi collection is “Elephants with Wings”. Benetton illustrates this choice with the episode of little Max, “a young 150-kilo pachyderm, which the courageous American pilot Gary Roberts rescued and transported in his Cessna to save it from poachers on the border between Cameroon and Chad in 2013. The images of the baby elephant in the cabin, with its trunk on the shoulders of the pilot, quickly went viral on the web: a symbol of hope for the coexistence of nature and modernity. Today, Cameroon itself is soaring towards the future with the conviction that the horizons of its progress are not illusory.”

Jonas Sakouyou - Myself (2015)

Credits: Story

Project Management
La Biennale di Malindi Ltd.

Enrico Mascelloni

Valentina Granzotto

Editorial coordination
Enrico Bossan

Luciano Benetton
Enrico Mascelloni
Marilyn Douala-Manga Bell

Editing and translation
Emma Cole
Sara Favilla
Pietro Valdatta
Demetrio Destefano

Book design
Marcello Piccinini

Marco Pavan

Marco Zanin

Special thanks
Fondazione Sarenco / Oksana Ignatush / Marilyn Douala- Manga Bell / Yves Makongo / Doual’ ART, Douala / Institut de Formation Artistique (IFA), M’Balmayo / Université de Nkongsamba, Foumban / Goethe Institut, Yaoundé / Otheo / Jean Emati / Mauro Battistella / Irene Bark / David Nkot

O. Maurice Mboa Nkodo - Identity

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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