Dak’Art Biennale 2018, opened May 3rd in the vibrant city of Dakar, Senegal to a world of art aficionados, curators and art buyers. For the second iteration in a row, Simon Njami, including guest curators, curated the Biennale with artists representing the African continent and diaspora under the theme, “The Red Hour” by Aimee Ceaser. This year’s work includes installations, sculpture, film, fabric work, photography, and paintings by African diaspora artists, including those from The United States, South Africa, Nigeria, and Morocco. The opening of the festival included an extravagant ceremony in the county’s Grand Theatre, performances by tribal dance groups, and pavilions for various countries including Senegal and Tunisia.
At the opening ceremony of the Dakar Biennale of Contemporary African Art @dak_artbiennale, the President of Senegal addressed the artists who traveled to Dakar from 33 countries around the continent and the globe, including Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the United States. Two countries that were participating in the Biennale for the first time, Rwanda and Tunisia, were celebrated with special performances. Seeing the diversity of artists and attendees and a renewed vision of Pan-Africanism for the contemporary world was probably one of my favorite aspects of the Dakar Biennale. Portrayed here is a choir singing at the opening ceremony at the Grand National Theatre of Dakar. #DakarBiennale #Dakart #Dakar #Senegal
I’m about to flood my feed with gorgeous singing and dancing from the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Dakar Biennial, so if you don’t love beautiful Black people, doing beautiful Black things, please exit stage left. It’s about to get Black & Beautiful AF up in here. (But really, hasn’t it always been?) Sidenote: this group performed for FOUR HOURS, yet look at their energy and their faces. . . . . . #blackisbeautiful #dakart #senegal #contemporaryart #dance #performance #dakarbiennale #dakar #africa #africandance
This year continued to be the meeting place for the art field with a new influx of collectors vying for art (including collectors from Christie’s), and curators purchasing art books at the African Art Book Fair organized by my colleagues at Afrikadaa. There were endless parties including fetes at the Raw Material Company, the Institute Francais, and the world-renowned Afro-Punk.
Dakar is a cultural hub, the arts are celebrated by everyone regardless of socio-economic status. It is this reverence for culture that made the local population create and then receive an endorsement from the administration of the Dak’Art Biennale for the expansive and popular Le Off. Off includes 300 exhibits of over 1,000 artists all over the city of Dakar to St. Louis to the north, even in Casamance in the south. Le Off gives Senegal’s vast number of artists, as well as artists from around the world a chance to show their work.
Dak’Art is such a significant event that it is impossible to see everything that the city has to offer regarding art and culture. With over 1,000 artists, events, and art talks, the most important thing to do is to go to Dak’Art to see the work in the official Biennale. When you do visit the site of Dak’Art, the old courthouse, please take into account that your experience is not that of the 1:54 Fair or Art Basel. This year it was refreshing that the majority of the work is labeled but there is still the issue of adequate electricity to light the glorious art. It is smart to visit the space in the early morning to really be able to see the work and enjoy the details. The old courthouse, while modern and honestly a fabulous choice to host an art event, will hopefully receive more funding for the much needed electrical updates.
Above: Photography by Fama Diouf at La maison Jaune for Adue Minart Gallery.
Here are some of my favorite pieces from Dak’Art 2018: