The White Hunter! African art and the West at FM Milano

The hunter is the one who has the tools to exercise power. He achieves his goal when he brutalizes his victim. He keeps his position. He is careless, unscrupulous; with or without his gun. The hunter constructs the victim, first of all establishing a clear relationship between power and resistance. These elements are part of the exhibition Il Cacciatore Bianco/The White Hunter. Memorie e Rappresentazioni Africane at FM Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea in Milan. The show deals with the way the West has conceived Africa, and it is not merely another exhibition about Africa. Within the work of the Milan-based curator Marco Scotini, this exhibition is another chapter in a wider research. With his activity, the curator aims to deconstruct a number of clichés about non-Western Art. In recent years, Scotini’s exhibitions have explored the collapse of the Eastern block, the reception of modernity in the Middle East, the intensive exploitation of the vegetal world and the struggles of the Seventies; now it is time to focus on colonization and looting of the white man against the black continent. This path is a kind of non-institutional education, something through which Scotini manifests his interest for an alternative history of art. A task that, quoting Paulo Freire, shows how “The educator [curator] has the duty of not being neutral”.

 

Abdoulaye Konaté, Non à la Charia au Sahel, 2013 Textile, cm h 230x350, Collezione privata – Bologna, Italia

Abdoulaye Konaté, Non à la Charia au Sahel, 2013 Textile, cm h 230×350, Collezione privata – Bologna, Italia

 

The exhibition is built like a trans-historical dialogue. An attempt to decolonize the “African Art,” showing diverse stages of museumification of African Art in Western cultural institutions. Scotini has assigned an entire section to traditional ancient artworks with the reconstruction of the rooms dedicated to Negro Art at the 1922 Venice Biennale, at the dawn of Fascism. This part of the exhibition was made possible thanks to the Africanist Gigi Pezzoli. The reenactment of that 1922 exhibition (whose memories have been lost) presents a nucleus of statues and masks from Mali, from the Ivory Coast, from Cameroon, Gabon and the Congo. The curator has aimed at ‘evoking’ that historic moment in time together with its aesthetic sensitivity which was followed by the exclusion of African art from official exhibitions up until very recently. Another section has been dedicated to the notable exhibition Magiciens de la Terre, curated by Jean-Hubert Martin for the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 1989. In this section it is evident, once again, how at the end of the twentieth century African Art was still presented as uncontaminated, primitive, and original.

 

éri Samba, L’ultima battaglia, 1999 Acrilico su tela, cm 81x110, Collezione privata

Chéri Samba, L’ultima battaglia, 1999 Acrilico su tela, cm 81×110, Collezione privata

Kader Attia, An Introduction to the Repair, 2012 Video still AGI Verona Collection Courtesy: the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana

Kader Attia, An Introduction to the Repair, 2012 Video still AGI Verona Collection
Courtesy: the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana

 

Although the exhibition follows a number of clear historical references, it is not only a journey in our (Western) gaze on Africa. Il Cacciatore Bianco / The White Hunter touches the subjects of identity, diaspora and war, with works by Guy Tillim, Gonçalo Mabunda, Nidhal Chamekh, Nicholas Hlobo and Joël Andrianomearisoa. The show emblematically finishes with an enormous drapery by the young Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, that will leave the spectator with an accumulation of collective narratives deposited on jute sacks as the symbolic traces of the open exchange between Africa and the world. Thus, the curator is not only the one who draws the exhibition (as stated by Carolyn Christov Bakargiev in occasion of the 2015 Istanbul Biennale), he (she) also has an active social role, something more like a political commentator. The idea behind this cycle of exhibitions is about action, as it is concerned with the capacities to recognize and question socialized norms and constraints.  To challenge power is not a matter of seeking some ‘absolute truth’ (which is in any case a socially produced power), but of detaching truth from the forms of hegemony. Contrary to clichés, Il Cacciatore Bianco / The White Hunter tries to push the viewer to challenge the possibilities for action and resistance. Scotini contributes to evade, subvert or contest strategies of power and, most of all, he does that using the universal language of art. In this way, thinly, the role of the parts has been blurred. Perhaps the hunters take time to reflect on themselves or simply they stop looking at the other from a prominent point of view.

Il Cacciatore Bianco / The White Hunter. Memorie e Rappresentazioni Africane is on show at FM Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea (Milan) till June 6th.

 

William Kentridge, The White Hunter, FM Centro per l'arte contemporanea, Milano, Marco Scotini

William Kentridge, History of the Main Complaint. 1996
Triptych projection, video and 2 35mm trasparencies
Collezione Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

Il cacciatore bianco, installation view, 2017 Il cacciatore bianco, installation view, 2017 - Courtesy of FM Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea.

The White Hunter / Il cacciatore bianco, installation view, 2017.
Courtesy of FM Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea, Milano.

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by Vincenzo Estremo
in Focus on Europe

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