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Once upon a time
in West Africa

A cura di

Alessandro Romanini

The Project Space

Aboudia, Ajarb, Nu Barreto, Armand Boua, Frédéric Bruly Bouabrè, Seni Awa Camara, Brice Esso, Laetitia Ky, Saint Etienne Yeanzi. On Saturday, June 4 in Pietrasanta opening of the exhibition, "Once upon a time in West Africa", featuring ten contemporary African artists, including five selected for the 2022 edition of the Venice Biennale branded Cecilia Alemani.

The exhibition, curated by Alessandro Romanini, has required the synergy of three art galleries that have chosen Pietrasanta as their venue and the Collector’s Night as the date to open to the public this original journey in contemporary art of the ancient continent.

The Project Space and Lis10 Gallery, located in the dell’Ex Marmi - Via Nazario Sauro 52 55045 Pietrasanta (LU), have joined forces to present this creative path and the expressive forms that are winning public and critical acclaim and inflamed the latest international auctions. West Africa is a wide and articulated region of the ancient continent, between the Atlantic Ocean to the south and the Sahara to the north, horizontally marked by a preponderant nature and a varied territory; a northern belt consisting of desert, a southern area with thickets and forests and a central semi-desert part called Sahel. At the heart of large migrations, it has become in recent years a jumble of cultures and creativity that have spread throughout the entire globe.

The artists gathered in this exhibition entitled "western", open from June 4th, perfectly represent with their languages - pictorial, sculptural and photographic - this mix of cultures and iconography, able to harmoniously blend the millennial traditions with the latest visual forms of the mainstream, south of the world and west, ritual and myth. A group of artists selected to exhibit in the national pavilion of the Côte d'Ivoire at the current Venice Biennale, including the "father" of Ivorian and African art Frédéric Bruly Bouabrè, the young artist who broke auction records over the last two years in the main international auction houses, Aboudia (based in Abidjan, New York and Paris), the poet of street life Armand Boua, the painter, philosopher and sociologist Saint Etienne Yeanzi and the very young Laetitia Ky (25 years of age), who conquered the lagoon event as "most fresh and innovative expression", thanks to her "hair sculptures" and photographs. To these are added figures like the Senegalese Seni Awa Camara, true "godmother" of African art, already present with her terracotta sculptures - like Bouabré - in the historic exhibition "Magiciens de la terre" hosted at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 1989, that brought to the fore for the first time contemporary African art in the West. The Cameroonian Ajarb, special guest fo the exhibition, creates paintings that focus on the street cultures of the capital, the ethnic and cultural melting pot, which find redemption through painting.

From Guinea Bissau, Nu Barreto was able to establish himself on the international scene and his paintings, with their strong component of militant human rights vindication, have been exhibited in the main international museum events. The Ivorian Brice Esso, multifaceted artist, proves to have assimilated a plastic language able to synthesize the expressive tradition and the Western sculptural technique, while preserving the themes dear to his poetry, such as those of childhood. The exhibition is an opportunity to see gathered contemporary African artists who have been able to assimilate and rework in expressive form the various contemporary trends encouraging viewers to think, from those more related to the news like the Black Lives Matter, Cancel Culture and the war conflicts, up to those of a historical and socio-political order such as colonialism, the diaspora and the inevitable ethno-cultural synthesis imposed by globalization.

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