Dak'Art 2016 - The City in the Blue Daylight

12th Edition of the Biennale de Dakar
The City in the Blue Daylight
Dates: 3 May – 2 June 2016
Artistic Director: Simon Njami

The title for Dak’Art 2016 ‘The City in the Blue Daylight’ was taken from a poem by Leopold Sedar Senghor, specifically the line, ‘Your voice tells us about the Republic that we shall erect the City in the Blue Daylight In the equality of sister nations. And we, we answer: Presents, Ô Guélowâr!’

Inspired by this line and the context of the poem, the Artistic Director Simon Njami felt it mirrored his vision for the biennale; the desire to foreground artistic practice and methodologies that re-imagine, re-energise and inspire the “re-enchantment” of the continent.

Kemi Bassene’s Varna’s Dharma (detail)
Photography by Ricci Shryock

Alexis Peskine’s installation The Raft of Medusa
Photography by Ricci Shryock

The city became a central actor in the unfolding of the biennale, tying the relationship between the urban imaginaries, histories and realities of Dakar together with the curatorial and artistic interventions present throughout its duration.

The Ancien Palais de Justice, a largely abandoned building, housed the main exhibition titled ‘Re-enchantments’, emphasising ideas around re-animation and calling into one’s mind the residue of the past in the reconfigurations of the present. It also emphasised the call to artists and people from Africa “to invent new strategies and aesthetics in order to re-enchant the world and the continent.”

The centrality of city space also becomes apparent through URBI, co-curated by Njami and Delphine Calmettes. Re-enchantment carried over into the framework for this aspect of the programming, “designed to build a network throughout the city and re-enchant popular places which up until [then] had been left dormant.”

The biennale programme included ‘A Tribute to the Senegalese artist: Issa Samb aka Joe Ouakam’ as well as other artists who passed away in the months leading up to the biennale. These artists were: Oumar Ly (Sénégal), Souleymane Keita (Sénégal), Amadou Sow (Sénégal), Ismaïla Manga (Sénégal), Sidy Diallo (Sénégal), Leila Alaoui (Morocco-France) and Kiripi Katembo (DRC).

A video mapping project on the Hotel de Ville in Dakar, Senegal as part Dak’Art 2016
Photography by Ricci Shryock

Dancers perform at the official opening of Dak’Art 2016
Photography by Ricci Shryock

Njami invited guest curators from relatively unexplored regions to propose an exhibition – part of the attempt to fulfill the desire to create a more balanced art scene – to bring to light different perspectives and solidify avenues of communication and curatorial exchange. This invitation also became an exercise is breaking down the North / South dichotomy. The curators and their exhibitions were:

Nadine Bilong (Cameroon)
Title: Le Manifeste de la Cité dans le jour bleu
With: Jean-François Boclé, Fred Ebami, Myriam Mihindou, Marc Alexandre Oho Bambe & Albert Morisseau Leroy, Barthélémy Toguo.

Orlando Britto (Canary Islands)
Title: About denaturalizations, cartographies and legends
With: Idaira del Castillo, Marc Lata-mie, Valeriano Lopez.

Solange Farkas (Brazil)
Title: Crossings
With: Sonia Gomes, Daniel Lima, Thiago Martins de Melo, Paulo Nazareth, Moises Patricio.

Valentina Levy (Italy)
Title: The witnesses of the invisible
With: Stefano Canto, H.H. Lim, Emo de Medeiros, Chai Siris.

Sumesh Sharma (India)
Title: India’s search for power 1966-1982
With: Yogesh Barve, Kemi Bassene, Zied Ben Romdhane, Judy Blum, Ouso Chakola, Martin Chramosta, Samit Das, Julien Froment, Pisurwo Jitendra Suralkar, Raphaël Jul-liard, Naresh Kumar, Saviya Lopes, François Mazabraud, Aurélien Mole, Charlotte Moth, Somnath Mukherjee, Seema Nusrat, Amol K Patil, Maithu Perret, Chloé Quenum, Fazal Rizvi, Mithu Sen, Janek Simon, Eric Stephany, Sawangwongse Yanwghwe.

Sujong Song (Korea)
Title: Hybrid / Metamorphosis
With: Wang Qingsong, Phan Quang, Noh Suntag, Pradeep Thalawatta, Anida Yoeu Ali.

Dak’Art 2016 also saw the first ‘Carte Blanche’ – offered to the Doual’art space in Cameroon, as a tribute to co-founder and artistic director of Doual’Art, Didier Schaub who had passed away the previous year.

The symposium ‘States of Opacity’, curated by Elvira Dyangani Ose and Mara Ambrožič, offered contemplations guided by the idea to “return to the beginning of things, not to reproduce a pale and outdated copy, but to update the terms of the debate and forge the weapons of a creative sustainability of re-enchantments.” Participants included: Kader Attia, N’Gone Fall, Kodwo Eshun, Jorge Fernandez Torres, Cheryl Finley, Henriette Gunkel, Srećko Horvat, Aliocha Imhoff, Joasia Krysa, Achille Mbembe, Doreen Mende, Miran Mohar, Nana Oforiatta-Ayim, Bisi Silva, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, Ivor Stodorovky, and David Zerbib.

Fabric Monteiro stands in front of an element from his mixed-media installation (P)resident, This is not a Phoenix


Dak’Art 2016 Press Release – from H-Net (Humanities and Social Sciences Online)
Dak’Art 2016 Programme (in French)
Dak’Art 2016 Webpage
Images courtesy of journalist and photographer Ricci Shryock