10 May - 10 June 2002
Moataz Nasr from Egypt.
Moataz Nasr won the Ministry of Culture Prize with video installation The Water.
The video was exhibited in a dark room painted in black, with the floor covered by transparent plastic and water. In the video many faces are projected on a puddle. The images are then broken by the step of an unknown person.
Sue Williamson, From Euro to Afro. African vision of the US and Europe are on show at the Dakar Biennale in “Mail&Guardian online”, 31/05/2002
the same article also on http://allafrica.com/stories/200205300790.html
A view of another city -- Cairo -- is given by Moataz Nasr, one of the prizewinners at last year's Cairo Biennale. His untitled video conveys the teeming nature of this heavily populated city and the struggle for survival of its inhabitants. The format is simple: a camera focused on a rain puddle reflects a succession of faces, gazing downwards. Each time the water becomes still enough to see the face clearly, a foot will splash roughly into the puddle, breaking up the image.
Negar Azimi, The African connection. Moataz Nasr's success at last month in “Al-Ahram Weekly online”
Those aspects of Egypt's contemporary art scene that might be described as African continue to be the subject of debate, and it is a debate that will, if anything, intensify following Moataz Nasr's success at the Dakar Biennale -- Dak'Art 2002 -- which began its fourth round on 5 May. Nasr, an unofficial representative of Egypt, walked away with the Ministry of Culture prize.
He was invited to show Ear of Dough, Ear of Clay, the piece that had won him first prize at the 2001 Cairo Biennale. Shipping problems, though, forced a rethink. With a copy of a video piece shown at Cairo's Townhouse Gallery in November, Nasr improvised in grand fashion, constructing around it an installation designed for the space he had been allotted at Dak'Art.
At the Townhouse exhibition Nasr had invited the audience to sit in wheel-chairs made from old bicycles while watching a three and a half minute video loop of ripples made by people stepping in a pool of water. "In a theatre, you sit passive," Nasr said of the show. "The wheelchairs locked people in. Unable to move, they feel trapped and implicated in this symbolic crushing."
The space in Dakar -- nine metres long, three metres wide, four metres high -- demanded a reconceptualisation. He painted the walls black and projected the video onto a cream-colored textile surface. The floor, in the meantime, was isolated with plastic and covered in a layer of water. The reflection of the video became part of the floor and as the viewers stepped in the water in the room they too became part of the reflection, their presence completing the variable image.
From almost 1,600 entries Dak'Art's international selection committee chose 44 artists for the International Exhibition of African Art. Unlike the Venice Biennale, in which countries are represented in national pavilions, Dak'Art showcases the work of individual artists selected by a committee, a process that allows for the kind of originality often stymied by more official selection procedures. (It is, incidentally, a process that has thrown up interesting representations of Egypt in the past -- think of New York-based Egyptian artist Ghada Amer at the Johannesburg Biennale.)
While there were many installation pieces, Dakar attracted surprisingly little video art. And among the most conventional genres it was the simplest, the most minimal, that had the greater pay-off. Senegalese participant Soly Cissé employed recycled glass negatives for his portraiture work, while Safaa Erruas from Morocco showed large scale hangings made from textiles, ranging from cotton to silk, that accrued a sense of drama largely because of scale.
Some pieces were overtly political. Dominique Zinkpe, an artist originally from Benin but living and working in Berlin, produced a representation of a man bound to a hospital bed by rope and plant roots. The intravenous lines led into colored buckets marked with the names of international aid institutions. Meanwhile, Nigerian artist Emeka Udemba constructed two diverging tunnels -- one, much larger than the other, labeled "US and EU," while the second was branded "Others." Within the larger tunnel lay red plastic flowers, in the smaller metal rods.
With an African passport the only requirement for entry, the Dakar Biennale is open to North African artists and also to virtually anyone within the diaspora. Indeed, almost 90 per cent of participants were drawn from the diaspora -- their prevalence was, says Hoda Lotfi, a Cairo-based artist attending the event independently "staring us in the face continually".
Whether the Dakar Biennale fell victim to what Nigerian art critic Oladélé Bambgboye recently termed the "curating of cultures" remains debatable. Bambgoyé argues that events embedded within a deliberate cultural trajectory are inherently problematic and that the characterisation of work depending on the regional origins of the artist tends to render exclusive that which it seeks to include, exoticising work deemed outside the mainstream canons of Occidental art.
The biennale is undoubtedly a buzzword: these days it spans the globe, from Havana to Johannesburg to Cairo, though with varying degrees of international attention and support from the host cities. What may have distinguished the Dakar event from Cairo's biennales, though, was the blanket participation on the part of the hosts: many participants noted with approval the levels of accessibility and the fact that a vast number of events were hosted outside official venues. TV coverage and general visibility within Dakar was high, and the event was overwhelmingly celebratory in tenor.
On 10 June, and flushed with his Dak'Art success, Moataz Nasr broached the issue of arts in Egypt and Africa at a public lecture in the Townhouse Gallery. The audience made up mostly of art students was told that "we need to know why art in Egypt does not receive the same status it has in Dakar, or other cities for that matter."
Following the demise of the Johannesburg Biennale, held twice in post- Apartheid South Africa and cancelled in 1998 amid much controversy, the Dakar Biennale has assumed greater significance in attempts to lend credibility to arts on the continent. Chicago-based Nigerian curator Okwui Enwezor, dismissed as the curator of the ill-fated Johannesburg Biennale, has been named artistic director of this year's Documenta 11, one of the most high profile events of the contemporary scene that opened last week in Kassle, Germany. But whether events such as the Dakar Biennale, or Enwezor's tenure as head of Documenta 11, will have an impact or not is unclear; the likelihood is that many will continue to dismiss art in Africa as a poor attempt to work within predominantly Western modalities.
Art historian Salah Hassan argues that exhibitions of African art tend to be judged on a universalist, monolithic scale and are thus subject to a "widespread misconception that contemporary African culture is a distorted copy of Western culture, and therefore lacks authenticity". Modernism emanating from Africa clearly runs the risk of becoming kitsch, perhaps even nostalgic.
Do initiatives such as Dak'Art embody political tokenism, or do they signal that the tide is turning onwards dominant modalities and critical perspectives that do not originate exclusively within the West? It is, perhaps, too early to pose such a question, let alone furnish an answer.
Sara Fontana, Quando l'Africa è contemporanea. È in corso la biennale di Dakar: ne parliamo con Bruno Corà, giurato della rassegna in “Famiglia Crisitiana”, anno LXXII, 09/06/2002, p. 106.
Cresce la fama dell'egiziano Moataz Nasr, Premio rivelazione di Dak'Art 2002 per l'installazione The Water. In una stanza buia, col pavimento coperto da plastica e acqua, appaiono volti proiettati su una pozzanghera e schiacciati dallo stivale di un passante.
Melissa Dunn, DAK'ART: Report from Senegal in “Flash Art International”, July-September 2002, n. 225, vol. 34, pp. 49 and 59.
... a video installation by Moataz Nasr (Egypt), recently a prize winner of the Cairo Biennial. Nasr's video is a spare, elegiac work that documents several subjects, including the artist, staring at their reflections in a pool of water, and then breaking the surface of the water with a foot or a rock, causing the image to disintegrate into rings of abstract ripples.
www.exibart.com, Biennale di Dakar, premio rivelazione all'egiziano Moataz Nasr. Mercoledì 22 maggio 2002 (in Italian only)
Information about Dakar Biennale
Dak'Art in “Tema Celeste”, May -- June 2002, n. 91, p. 114.
Dak'Art 2002 in “Flash Art”, Giugno -- Luglio 2002, anno XXXV, n. 234, p. 64.
Faouzi Laatiris, Icham Benohoud, Ali Chraibi, Khalil El Gerib, Fayssal Ben Kiran, Erruas Safaa and Batoul S'Himi (Marocco); Zoulikha Bouabdellah and Mohamed Ounoh (Algeria); Fatma Charfi and Nabil Saoubi (Tunisia).
Mansour Ciss, Soly Cissé, Modou Dieng, Amadou Kane Sy, Félicité Kodjo, Ndary Lô, Gabriel Malou, Djibril Ndiaye, Ousmane Ndiaye Dago, Ibrahim Niang, Moussa Sakho Adams O'connor et Mamadi Seydi (Senegal); Rodney Place, Donovan Ward, Lisa Brice and Bruce Clarke (South Africa); Tamsir Dia, Jems Robert Kokobi Yacouba Touré and Justin Oussou Ngoran (Côte d'Ivoire); Angèle Etoundi Essamba and Joel Mpah Dooh (Camerun); Sokari Douglas Camp, Otobong Nkanga, Evaristus Obodo and Emeka Udemba (Nigeria); Francis Tchiakpe and Dominique Zinkpé (Bénin); Vonjiniaina Ratovonirina (Madagascar); Mulugeta Tafesse (Ethiopie); Saliou Traoré (Burkina Faso).
Jannis Kounellis (from Italy), Franz West (from Vienna), Berry Bickle (from Zimbabwe), Maria Lewis (from Trinidad et Tobago, lives in New York), Jose Angel Vincench (from Cuba, lives in Equador), Mushsana Ali (from the US, lives in Senegal), Mahiguère Dolo (from Mali), Aimé Ntakiyica (from Burundi, lives in Bruxelles) and Jaume Plensa (from Madrid).
Kossi Assou (Togo), Ricky Balbao (République Démocratique du Congo), Aboubacar Fofana and Cheikh Diallo (Mali), Jamila Lamrani and Mohamed Ahbib (Maroc), Doris Mian-Benie, Valérie Oka, Solène Prince-Agbodjan and Issa Diabate (Cote d'Ivoire), Zoarinivo Razakaratrimo (Madagascar), Adrien Abdoukhader Sarr and Balthazar Faye (Sénégal), Yamo (Algérie).
Information source: Ousseynou Wade (General Secretary of Dak'Art) and the newspaper “Le Soleil” from Senegal.
Ery Càmara is the president of the International Selection Committee and Jury of Dakar Biennale. Museolgue, cunsultant for the National Museum and the Modern Art Museum in Mexico, he was the president of the Jury in Venice Biennale in 2001.
Bruno Corà (Italian art critic and director of the Contemporary Art Centre Luigi Pecci in Prato), France Borel (director of the National School of Visula Arts in Cambre, Belgium), Marie José Crespin (president of the Scientific Council of Dak'Art 2002), Ngoné Fall (art coordinator of Africalia, Belgium, Sakina Rharib (curator of Marrakach Museum, Marocco), Céline Savoye (curator of Saint-Etienne Biennale in 2002), Pep Subiros (Spanish indipendent curator) and Ousseynou Wade (general secretary of Dakar Biennale 2002).
Dak'Art has a permanent office (Ousseynou Wade is the general secretary) and a Scientific Council (directed by Marie José Crispin) which has selected the International Selection Committee. The International Selection Committee has then selected the artists who applied for the Biennale (to apply it's necessary to have the nationality of an African country and to fill the application form ); some members of the International Committee also selected artists from different part of the world for the Individual Exhibitions. When the works are installed the Selection Committee judges them and distributes the prizes.
First Edition of the Biennale in 1992; Second Edition in 1996 with a new organisation and the new name Dak'Art; Third Edition in 1998 and Fourth Edition in 2000.