Contemporary Artists From Djibouti, Central African Republic And Chad: Art That Breaks The Isolation

Imago Mundi

Contemporary Artists From Djibouti, Central African Republic And Chad

HOPE 
“For many, Africa is more a concept than a bounded space, which means, in turn: more concepts than simply one. It is at once part wish fulfillment and part reality, part projection and part historical distillation, part fiction and part memory. It is, of course, generally acknowledged as a warehouse of untapped natural resources. Even as Africa exists as a desire for some, so does it constitute a nightmare from which others pray to be awakened, a piece of history’s tapestry whose threads can be unravelled without loss of definition to the rest”. The considerations of the Nigerian writer and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, expressed in the preface to his book Africa, published in 2015, define an extreme continent that often elicits extreme reactions, and is, above all, a collection of different realities and peoples. But with the common and shared aspiration of no longer being on the periphery of the empire, of being treated as equals, of becoming visible.

Thierry Ndergo - Traffic (2015)


Imago Mundi’s new African art collection – featuring the works of artists from Chad, the Central African Republic (two neighbouring countries in deepest Central Africa) and Djibouti, the city-state on the Horn that looks to the East and to the future – bears witness to this desire to open up to the world and to communicate with the universal language of art, so familiar and yet each time so different. It testifies to the hope that artistic equality can be rapidly followed by human and social equality.

Ndem Tha Sanga - Calabash Seller (2016)

Khalil Abdelnassir (Nasta) - Climate Change (2016)

Yahya Houssein Ibrahim - Father Of The Nation (2014)


Chad, which has experienced one of the most painful stories in African history, is a nation built on the edge of conflict. The harsh climate, geographic isolation, lack of resources and lack of infrastructure, combine to create a weak economy that is particularly vulnerable to political unrest.

Maxime Ganza - The Fingers Of A Single Hand (2016)


Stretching from the Sahara to the Sudan region, comprising the periphery of the equatorial belt in the south, historically Chad was above all a place
of transit for the long caravan routes, such as the trans- Saharan, heading north towards Libya and Egypt and to Sudan, with cattle, gold, ivory, weapons, fabrics and slaves. And this is why Chad is an extremely complex country, with regard to both its ethnic groups and its spoken languages, with more than 200 different groups that share an ancient and proud capacity for survival.
The Tubu people, who dwell in the north of the country, a place of astonishing beauty still barely touched by tourism, have a proverb that says “the Tubu can live for three days on a date: the first day eating the skin, the second the pulp and the third the stone”. These inhabitants of Tibesti (from where their name derives) are nomads of slender and elegant build, herders and raiders with a diffident and individualistic temperament. Unlike the Touareg, who move in groups, they face the desert alone: with a few camels and oxen, just a few men. They walk ahead of their animals loaded with salt and dates, and to survive they make a stop in the Archei Gorge, where all the herdsmen of the region water their animals as the dry season progresses.

Jean Valery Giscard Mbanda-Lodjambo - Central African Nature (2015)


Animal breeding and agriculture, moreover, are still the main activities of the working population. The most important crop, which employs almost one million Chadians, is cotton: a valuable production for the national economy, although the harvest is at risk each year from adverse weather conditions and fluctuations in the world cotton trade. Since the early years of the 21st century, Chad has begun to extract oil and this has led GDP to grow at a vertiginous rate (crude oil is exported through a pipeline to Cameroon). But despite significant investment in the sector, especially from China, Chad’s largest trading partner, the country remains at the bottom of world rankings in terms of global competitiveness and the conditions necessary to undertake entrepreneurial activity.

Ali Eleyeh Robleh - Calligraphy (2014)

GaliléE Hervé Ndoma - Central African Maternal Love (2015)


The neighbouring Central African Republic is a country studded with tropical forests and rivers, with a rich biodiversity that is also evoked in its art forms, especially
in music, which plays an important role in traditional culture. Waterfalls, animal reserves and the savannah, which extends to the foothills of the Bouar plateau, form the backdrop to the traditional villages which, located along the banks of rivers, preserve the ancient culture of this country in the heart of Africa. Independent since 1960,
the Central African Republic has not yet succeeded in leaving behind its troubled political past and is far from achieving the minimum goals of democracy. The country’s geographic location contributes to its fragility: many neighbouring states – Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo and, to a lesser extent, Cameroon – are characterized by great instability and traversed by long unresolved conflicts that spill over into Central African territory. “No violence in the name of God”, said Pope Francis at the beginning of his visit to the main mosque in the capital Bangui in November 2015. Inaugurating the Jubilee of Mercy in the Central African Republic, he asked worshippers to avoid “the temptation of fear of others, of the unfamiliar, of what is not part of our ethnic group, our political views or our religious confession”, with the hope of promoting “a synthesis of the richness which each person has to offer” and “unity in diversity”.

Omar Ali Food - Fisherman (2014)

But the porous borders of the Republic and the morphology of the territory, made up of large expanses and sparsely populated forests, have facilitated the mobility and creation of bases of rebel factions from various countries, as well as arms trafficking, creating situations of great instability and social inequality. Yet the Central African Republic can count on
strategic natural resources, from diamonds to gold, uranium, iron, copper, and the extraordinary biodiversity of its forests, where, respecting the Jengi, the spirit of the forest, one of the most ancient peoples on Earth still lives: the Aka “Pygmies” who have a perfect knowledge of herbal medicine and ancient hunting traditions.

Youssouf Mohamed Houssein - Reflection (2014)

In this challenging scenario, international art has been mobilized, with solidarity initiatives like that of Christo, the king of Land Art, who “wrapped” a fragment of Raphael’s famous fresco the School of Athens, creating 300 box sets, which were numbered and signed by the artist and sold at auction by Christie’s. The proceeds were donated, upon the wishes of Pope Francis, to the paediatric hospital in Bangui.

Liban Djama Mahamoud - Caravan (2014)

David Nadjiam Djasnabaye - African Village (2016)

A sign of hope, a desire for the future that has also been embraced by the former French colony of Djibouti, independent since 1977. At the southern end of the Red Sea at the Strait of Bāb el-Mandeb, with the Arab Peninsula only 20 kilometres from its shores, Djibouti is a strategic outpost for the world’s geopolitical interests, where Europeans and Americans combat piracy and terrorism. And where, thanks to Chinese, Indian, Brazilian and Turkish investment, a major commercial hub is developing at the intersection of East Africa and the great Europe- Asia maritime axis. The activity of the port and its related services already account for two-thirds of Djibouti’s GDP and are driving the rapid and sustained growth of its economy.

José-Martial Ventaire - The World Is Burning, the Five Continents Blow Peace (2015)

Francky Madjilem - Bobo And Noupi (2016)


The Republic of Djibouti also offers a wide variety of scenery and natural and artistic riches. Like, for example, the incredible volcanic landscapes of Ghoubbet, and the verdant Forêt de Day National Park, 1,400 metres above sea level; paradises on earth like the Sables Blancs beach and rock art sites such as Abourma,
in the Makarrassou massif, with engravings that date back to the Neolithic Age. It is, essentially, a synthesis of the landscapes, culture and humanity of Africa, as is this collection of 140 10x12 cm works by artists from Chad, the Central African Republic and Djibouti, which captures the unbroken thread of courageous humanity and artistic passion that is capable of overcoming – as the curators of the collection highlight in their introductions – perilous political, bureaucratic and logistical obstacles.

Osman Doualeh Bouh - Mask (2014)

Derick-Chrismas Ganzo - Word Of Peace (2015)


It is a collection that surprises in many ways, where tradition is intertwined with the pursuit of innovation. Where this forgotten world puts itself forward with the strength of its culture and the wealth of its images. And with a dignity as ancient as the history of mankind.
It brings to mind the winning image of the 2014 World Press Photo awards, taken by the American photographer John Stanmeyer on the coast of Djibouti: the dark African night is illuminated by a full moon and a group of migrants try to receive a signal on their mobile phones. Gary Knight, chair of the jury, said of the photo, “this image is so hopeful”, it is an “expression of people trying to find a new life for themselves and trying to connect with other people elsewhere in the world”. Searching – like the artists in this illuminating collection – for visibility, equality and the freedom to determine their own destiny.


Luciano Benetton

Youssouf Conde - Different Times (2015)

Credits: Story

ART DIRECTION, PHOTOGRAPHY AND PRODUCTION
– Fabrica

PROJECT MANAGEMENT
– La Biennale di Malindi Ltd

CURATORS
– Yahya Houssein Ibrahim (for Djibuoti)
– Paolo Prina and Tiziana Russo (for Central African Republic)
– Enrico Mascelloni (for Chad)

PROJECT COORDINATION
– Oriano Mabellini

ORGANIZATION
– Valentina Granzotto
– Barbara Liverotti
– Giorgia De Luca

EDITORIAL COORDINATION
– Enrico Bossan

TEXTS
– Luciano Benetton
– Enrico Mascelloni
– Rachel Pieh Jones
– Paolo Prina and Tiziana Russo
– Oriano Mabellini

EDITING AND TRANSLATION
– Robin Ambrosi (Service Scibbolet)
– Emma Cole
– Giorgia De Luca
– Sophie Royere (Service Scibbolet)
– Pietro Valdatta

ART DIRECTION
– Bianca Otilia Ghiuzan

ARTWORKS PHOTOGRAPHY
– Marco Zanin

ARTISTS PHOTOGRAPHY
– Enrico Mascelloni
– Yahya Houssein Ibrahim
– Paolo Prina

PRODUCTION
– Marco Pavan

COVER
– Davy
-Armel Bitsiboulou, BéAfrikArt

THANKS TO
– Fondazione Sarenco
– Oksana Ignatush
– Abdulmalik Mabellini
– Nguinambaye Ndoua Manassé, Maison de la culture Baba Moustapha Director N’Djamena
– Centre Culturel Français, N’Djamena
– Gerrard Ngouta Flekem, N’Djamena
– Eric Takukam (Tak), Douala-N’Djamena
– Association BéAfrikArt, Bangui

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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