Entering its second leg of a two-year long African tour, a new exhibition is taking the continent by storm. ‘Prête-moi Ton Rêve (Lend Me Your Dream)’ brings together 30 African artists, including Abdoulaye Konaté, Chéri Samba, El Anatsui, Jane Alexander, Ky Siriki, Ouattara Watts, and Zoulikha Bouabdellah, representing a large portion of Africa’s countries. Having begun in Casablanca, the exhibition has made its way to Senegal where it will be on view in Dakar before travelling to Abidjan, Lagos, Addis Ababa, Cape Town, and Marrakech.
‘Prête-moi Ton Rêve’ has a unique format in showcasing works, which travel to all six destinations, but leaving it somewhat open for curators in each city to interpret and put their own spin on the exhibition. By doing this, the exhibition takes a pan-African show and brings it to the local level, making it more accessible to various communities while highlighting the nuances of African cities. Now in Dakar, the exhibition is on view at the Museum of Black Civilization coinciding with the museum’s first anniversary after opening last year.
Gaining momentum and recognition, the exhibition has been called ‘an unprecedented event’ by Adel El Siwi, an Egyptian painter whose triptych is a part of the show. Why? Well, not only ‘Prête-moi Ton Rêve’ boast stunning works, but it is one of the first shows that has been completely orchestrated by Africans and focuses on Africa rather than the African diaspora. By honing in on African artists in Africa, the exhibition highlights the accomplishments of African artists and the breadth of their work. Often times, African visual artists go relatively unnoticed in Africa and leave their home countries for cities in Europe and the US, however, once abroad many tend to stay there instead of returning home. Yacouba Konaté, curator of the Dakar branch of ‘Prête-moi Ton Rêve’, notes this issue in the exhibition’s programme stating ‘All too often the careers of African artists are built on exhibitions in Paris, Berlin, London and New York … but go by without anybody in Africa actually noticing them […] We are haunted by these ghost-like events that create the nagging feeling that Africa’s art scene has been completely ignored.’
In part, the exhibition is meant to act as a beacon for young African artists, to show that they have so much to offer within Africa. It is also the hope that collectors will recognize that Africa is a place worthy of attention and that artists shouldn’t have to leave to be of interest. ‘We have to work to get back our place,’ said Senegalese artist Soly Cissé in reference to the mission of ‘Prête-moi Ton Rêve’. While the exhibition shows the immense strength of the continent’s artists, some warn that the pressure added by Western influence, interest, and the art market might suffocate up-and-coming artists. ‘The side effect of these trends is that a great deal of pressure is placed particularly on young artists, to produce for the market, in order to sustain their visibility,’ said Alexander. ‘Which can erode the distinct creative value that brought attention to their work in the first place.’ In addition to these, the exhibition also carries thematic undertones of politics, sexism, and other prominent issues today in Africa as well as the rest of the world.
Naturally, ‘Prête-moi Ton Rêve’ has no answer for how African artists will make their way in the coming years, but it does bring key topics to the surface and may act as a touchstone for artists in the future.
‘Prête-moi Ton Rêve’ is on view at the Dakar Museum of Black Civilization through January 28th, 2020 and will then continue to Abidjan, Lagos, Addis Ababa, Cape Town, and Marrakech.