Art Exhibition in Ivory Coast Explores the Relationship Between Tradition and Modernity

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In Ivory Coast, the “The Culture Shock” exhibition has been extended until September 11th at the Adama Toungara Museum of Contemporary Cultures in the Abobo district of Abidjan. It showcases the work of three young Ivorian artists who delve into the relationship between tradition and modernity.

On a large wall, dozens of traditional masks from the cultural heritage of the country’s 69 ethnic groups coexist with more modern masks. Sculptor and visual artist Chula draws inspiration from his extensive personal collection: “I create futuristic masks that are different from traditional masks, but I draw my inspiration from the past, from ancestral masks, and ethnic masks, to be precise. At some point, I thought that constantly moving and seeking inspiration from different masks required a lot of energy. So, why not start collecting and preserving my own culture? I began collecting and preserving masks while using them to create futuristic masks.”

This journey between the present and the past also reflects the work of Cris D, an artist who reinterprets the aesthetics of traditional masks in a pop art style. He says, “I belong to the generation that was not very interested in its own culture. So, with this project, I’ve been learning and continue to learn. We saw all these people who were a bit like me, in the same movement.”

Graphic designer and filmmaker David M’Bengue presents two animated short films that imagine the African city of the future, featuring administrative temples, flying taxis, and spiritual symbols. He ponders, “What might the future of Africa look like? I’ve created a futuristic and imaginative city. I draw inspiration from various sources, including the future of our urban planning, demographics, and architecture.”

The exhibition, curated by Cheikh Ahmed Sy Toungara, the son of the museum’s founder, aims to stimulate reflection on the collective imagination of African youth.

Cheikh Ahmed Sy Toungara explains his project in front of a large poster for the event. The poster depicts a cosmonaut planting the Ivorian flag on the moon.

“This is also a clash of generations,” he says about “The Culture Shock.” “It’s the clash between the older generation and the new generation. This is the first semi-digital, semi-tangible project and exhibition in Côte d’Ivoire. Here, you’ll find traditional masks and VR headsets for virtual reality. So, we’re really in Afro-futurism: ‘afro’ representing the Black African community and ‘futuristic.’ We talk about a galaxy of Ivorian astronauts.”

He concludes, “Because we live in a society where our minds have already been conditioned, and we can’t conceive the idea of, for example, an Ivorian, a Black Ivorian, working at NASA, being an astronaut, because we’re already limited to becoming bankers, doctors, or police officers. But for a 4 or 5-year-old child who sees this, society hasn’t yet confined their dreams. So, they can dream. They think: if I see this image, maybe it’s possible one day. So, they start getting interested in anything that could lead them towards becoming an astronaut. So, advanced technology, working at Tesla, NASA, and other companies.”

Soukaina Sghir

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