Gazing intently at the viewer and wearing a Western-style pinstripe suit, artist Barthélémy Toguo acts as an African leader who professes to realize the dreams of his people. But Toguo’s African president is “stupid”—he realizes no goals, keeps no promises. The map behind him, from 1911, references the imperialistic foreign powers that led to many of the problems Africa faces today. The map’s lines are a direct result of the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885, when European heads of state gathered to carve up the African continent into profit-making colonies and agreed to how they would continue their “scramble for Africa” in forthcoming years. Conceived with no input from African people, the borderlines completely lacked relevance to existing ethnic groups or any region’s cultural or linguistic traditions. People were divided; sides were created where none before existed.
Even after decades of independence, Africans remain divided by arbitrary, imperialistic borders. What does it mean when people have no control over their continent’s future? What does it mean to be controlled by a power that doesn’t understand you?
From the exhibition: Other Side:
Art, Object, Self (August 12, 2017 – January 3, 2018)
From the exhibition: Environment and Object
Recent African Art (February 5 – July 31, 2011)