Senegal: Artists Take the Long Road to Dak'Art

Senegal mobile museum.

The 13th edition of Dak'Art, a key contemporary African art exhibition, has opened in Senegal. Six of the artists chose to take the longest route to Dakar in a rusty yellow bus.

Senegalese President Macky Sall welcomed hundreds of artists, critics, curators and dignitaries representing Africa and the diaspora at the opening ceremony at the National Grand Theatre.

The six artists from across West Africa and Germany had set off from Lagos in Nigeria two weeks ago, aboard a rusty faded yellow school bus that may have seen better days.

Art over 3,000 miles

Some 3,000 miles (5,000 km) later, after having made their way through Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast, they pulled up at Dak'Art this week.

Their journey is part of the "Stretched Terrains” mobile residency program of the Goethe Institute, Germany's non-profit cultural association.

The project is the brainchild of Nigerian-born artist Emeka Udemba. As curator, he explores the concept of travel, destination and ambition.

Udemba was on the bus with Ray Claver Agbo of Ghana, Monsuru Alashe of Nigeria, Souleymane Konate of Ivory Coast, Dame Dionge of Senegal and Gabriel Goller of Germany.

Their digital and other visual art is being shown at the Goethe Institute's exhibition space in Dakar as part of the biennale.

The theme for Dak'Art 2018 — The Red Hour — is taken from the work of Aime Cesaire, the Martinican poet and key proponent of the black and African consciousness Negritude movement.

The exhibition, which runs to June 2, includes a mixture of artists across mediums, as well as a space for children to learn about art.

'Too focused on Europe'

"Within the African continent, artists from Africa want to exhibit or to travel abroad and traveling means Europe. Most of us, our sight is focused on Europe or America. What happens in our region is actually ignored," Udemba said.

"Every artist in Africa will know or will have more contacts with artists in Europe than their neighbors."

"We've gone through colonialism, we've gone through post-colonialism. And we stand to kind of really question ourselves. Even we have a lot going for us here, we should explore it. The solution to our problems is not in Europe or in America," he told DW.

The essence of the mobile museum, Agbo says, "is to live what is really going on from one country to the other in Africa."

Experimental artist and photographer Alashe described the trip as an adventure that he loved.

"I really preferred sleeping in the bus although we had some comfortable times where we slept in hotels. I think the fun for me was sleeping in the bus outside in the open field," he said.

Art exchange

Ivorian painter Konate said he discovered the talents of his Senegalese fellow traveller, digital artist Dionge, and the two plan to collaborate.

"Without this trip I was never going to be able to do that because I didn't even know it existed! You see I had to be in this project to discover my Senegalese friend, and it is thanks to this project that we met, otherwise we never would have known each other, " Konate says.

The long bus ride was not without a few minor bumps and breakdowns."It goes at the pace of a turtle but definitely it gets to its destination," Agbo told DW.

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