By Daniela Roth | February 2012
Condition Report, a symposium "On building art institutions in Africa", was held in Dakar’s Maison de la Culture Douta Seck from January 18 to 20, 2012. Organizer Koyo Kouoh, the Director of the Raw Material Company, announced, "All the continent’s colleagues are present." But there were also some from the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. The Kulturstiftung des Bundes (Federal Cultural Foundation), the Goethe Institute, and the IfA (Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations) were the sponsors...
With more than fifty participating artists, this year’s EVA International nominally responded to the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising – the failed revolution that nevertheless set the pattern for the politics and ideologies of the future Irish Republic. Titled ‘Still (The) Barbarians’, it is one of a vast number of commemorative events and exhibitions around the country that are at their best when they ignore knee-jerk romanticization of past martyrs and instead explore how we deal with our histories, the imperatives for contemporary revolution and what the future might hold.
The latest edition of Ireland’s contemporary art biennial, EVA International—pointedly titled “Still (the) Barbarians”—takes as its central premise that Ireland is a postcolonial country. The statement by Cameroonian curator Koyo Kouoh that “the entire British colonial enterprise began here,” and thus that Ireland can be read as a “laboratory” for the conduct and consequences of imperialism, might at first seem uncontroversial. It will have escaped the notice of no one with an interest in Irish history or culture that this year marks the centenary of the Easter Rising, the Irish rebellion against British rule that paved the way for independence. Nationwide commemorations of the uprising in March—parades, re-enactments, marches—sparked a prolonged period of reflection upon themes of Irish identity and the legacy of 600 years of British rule.
As far as the cyclical nature of invasion, subjugation and colonisation goes, it’s a familiar tale in our species’ short history. When the Anglo-Normans invaded western Ireland in 1172, such was the direness of the natives’ situation that whole settlements were burned to the ground to prevent the invasion’s progress. When the area was finally captured, the invaders constructed a grand castle named for their ruler, King John, that presided dauntingly over the area on the banks of the River Shannon in what was to become the city of Limerick.
On the morning of the opening of Still (the) Barbarians, the third EVA International Biennale in Limerick, curated by Koyo Kouoh, we hear that Journal Rappé, a rapping duo from Senegal due to perform at the opening, was refused passage by Royal Air Maroc because officials assumed the artists’ visas were fake. Since it has taken the curatorial team and staff of EVA enormous effort to obtain visiting visas for all the artists in the first place, it is especially frustrating that protracted bureaucratic processes can so easily be thwarted by a nameless employee. But it is by no means surprising: in a world beset by migration control and an anxious guarding of entrances and exits, the censoring of movement has become a powerful tool in the hands of the privileged.
“Of all the territories that have been dominated by British colonialism, Ireland has been the one longest occupied and yet, at the same time, doesn’t want to really consider itself a postcolonial territory,” says Koyo Kouoh, founder of the Dakar-based RAW Material Company and curator of Ireland’s 37th biennial of contemporary art, EVA International.
Entitled Still (the) Barbarians, Kouoh has drawn upon her own experiences of postcolonialism in Senegal and Cameroon in order to shape the theme of the biennial. Finding this discourse lacking in Ireland has motivated Kouoh to take forward a conversation about lasting colonial effects, in Limerick and beyond. “There are many works that deal with language, particularly in the context of Ireland losing Irish and trying to regain it. There are works dealing with trauma, with memory and with identity politics – key postcolonial concerns” says Kouoh.
A LARGE collage of individual silhouettes – depicting refugees making a long journey in search of a better life – is among the installations as part of the eminent Eva international art exhibition, which opens in Limerick city this weekend.
Art works from as far afield as Ho Chi Min City in Vietnam, Los Angeles, and Johannesburg have been flown in to Limerick for this week’s launch of Eva 2016, the 37th edition of Ireland's pre-eminent visual art exhibition, which runs for three months.
Regarded as Ireland’s largest and most diverse art exhibition, the biennial this year includes a vast array of works interpreting curator Koyo Kouoh's post-colonial theme entitled Still (the) Barbarians, from a project incorporating Limerick lace by an artist from Ghana, and a large silhouette montage by an artist from Nigeria which aims to focus attention on the current refugee crisis.
Sometimes it takes an outsider to see things clearly. For Koyo Kouoh, the curator of next year’s EVA International in Limerick, it seems obvious that EVA is the Irish biennial of contemporary art. Yet it was long denied that status, even though it has a consistent track record since 1977 and an unrivalled international profile.
Kouoh has just left Ireland following the latest of several preparatory visits here. She will return in December and plans to base herself in Limerick from February until the opening in April. Her EVA marks the centenary of the Easter Rising and will be called Still (the) Barbarians.
À l'occasion de la Biennale d'Irlande, la curatrice camerounaise Koyo Kouoh a rassemblé des œuvres qui explorent les rapports de domination. Une exposition forte qui bouscule nos préjugés.
Cette année-là, les Pâques furent sanglantes en Irlande. Le lundi 24 avril 1916, un groupe d’indépendantistes défile dans O’Connell Street, à Dublin. Il s’agit de protester contre la Home Rule League de 1914, qui garantit une autonomie interne à l’Irlande, mais la maintient sous la tutelle britannique. Très vite, la manifestation devient insurrection, prenant un temps l’occupant de court. Parmi les bâtiments investis, la Poste centrale va servir de quartier général aux rebelles emmenés par Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Tom Clarke, Sean MacDiarmada, Eamon de Valera, Joseph Plunkett…