By Maggie Otieno/AfricanColours.com
AfricanColours.com: What is the history of Dakar Biennale?
Ousseynou Wade: The Dakar Biennale was established in 1989, but you have to look back from 1966. We organised the first festival Mundial des Arts Negres which was supported by a president who was not only a politician but a well known writer. His engagements in the arts were well known. He supported the possibility of having an art festival here in Dakar.
After the 1st edition of the festival, several meeting by artists and professionals took place between 1989 and 1992. This was a difficult economic period for Senegal. The organising committee did not have enough potential to implement the discussed plan of action.
During this period, artists became very creative and they proposed a big international meeting in Senegal. The government decided to organise the Biennale for literature in 1990, making this the 1st edition. After 2 editions the evaluation committee proposed to organise definite biennales for the promotion of contemporary African art.
AC: What is the role of Dakar Art?
OW: The role of Dakar art is to promote contemporary African art and artists through a platform that gives an opportunity for interaction and networking possibilities, providing publications on the same.
The biennale is also here to make African art accessible and to facilitate the admission of viable art market for African artists. The biennale encourages the integration of the contemporary African Art into the international Art market, and contributing to the development of art criticism in Africa.
AC: What is the role of the government in the festival?
OW: The role of the government is to organise a structure whose mandate is to implement the success of the Dakar Biennale. This structure is the General Secretariat of the Dak’Art biennale. We are working for the government to achieve this purpose.
AC: What are the criteria for selecting artists for the Dakar Biennale?
OW: The biennale secretariat normally sends a proposal out to five curators representing the regions of North Africa, South Africa, East Africa, Central Africa and West Africa.
These 5 curators role is to propose artists from their regions whose works are of high-quality. In March 2010, the curators sent us the names for the artists they had selected numbering 28. This way we try to ensure that a balance of regions is created.
Other artists who have not been selected by the curators have the opportunity to apply to the secretariat to have their work on show alongside the main selected artists of the biennale. Their work is consequently exhibited in various other locations organised by the secretariat.
These artists number up to 305. Exhibition spaces include, galleries, restaurants, malls, schools, banks, offices, cultural institutes etc…..In essence the whole town is one big art showcase.
Secretary General of the Dak’Art Biennale Ousseynou Wade during Interview
AC: How do you rate the success of the Biennale?
OW: We have to look at the impressions of the participants, and the caliber of work shown during the festival. The participants’ involvement and feedback helps this initiative to forge ahead. The participants here are artists, collectors, galleries, art critics, journalists, curators, visitors and the local public.
Also we have had numerous proposals to take the Biennale in other cities outside of Africa. I believe that this is a very positive feedback for the secretariat.
AC: So does this mean that you are considering hosting the Dakar Biennale in other parts of the world?
OW: The city of Lisbon wants to host the Dakar Biennale. Rome and Milano have already proposed to support an international exhibition as part of the Dakar biennale, Prague in the Czech republic are also very keen in hosting the biennale, the director of the institute of Franco Guinea in Conakry has already met the secretariat with the proposal of organising a biennale in Conakry. We are looking into all these possibilities.
AC: Who is the most exciting artist in this year’s biennale?
OW: For me it is the artist Issa Samb from Senegal. He is not one of the artists at the Dak’Art biennale but he is participating in the festival through one gallery here. Issa’s work is explosive, expressive and very deep. He is the kind of artist whose work you want to keep looking at.
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