A sculpture by Cameroonian artist Joseph-Francis Sumégné titled “Mon portrait sur ton visage” is displayed at Dakar's Museum of Black Civilizations. (Photo: A. Hammerschlag/VOA)
A sculpture by Cameroonian artist Joseph-Francis Sumégné titled “Mon portrait sur ton visage” is displayed at Dakar's Museum of Black Civilizations. (Photo: A. Hammerschlag/VOA)

DAKAR, SENEGAL - Berlin, Paris and London are common destinations for African artists seeking to establish their careers and build name recognition. But as they focus their attention on the West, they risk being forgotten at home. Such was the inspiration behind a traveling exhibition making its way across Africa.

An oil on canvas painting by Senegalese artist Soly Cissé titled “Comme des héros” is displayed at Dakar's Museum of Black Civilizations. (Photo: A. Hammerschlag/VOA)

Hundreds of people from around the world are gathered in Dakar’s Museum of Black Civilizations for the grand opening of a contemporary art exhibition called “Prête-moi ton rêve” or “Lend me your dream.” Guests draped in elaborate African robes admire an array of intricate sculptures, striking photographs and textured paintings. There are more than 100 works by 30 artists from 15 African countries, including Ivory Coast, Congo, Morocco and Mali.

An untitled wax and pigment on wood by Moroccan artist Mahi Binebine is displayed at Dakar's Museum of Black Civilizations. (Photo: A. Hammerschlag/VOA)

For many of the artists, the opportunity to show their work to other Africans is a rare occasion.

Fihr Kettani is the secretary general of the Foundation for the Development of Contemporary African Culture, which organized the exhibit. He said the goal of the exhibition is to assemble the best in contemporary African art and display the work for an African audience.

He says they realized these artists had been successful in Paris, Italy, London and New York, yet they had not achieved the same recognition in their home countries. So they came up with the idea to bring them together on African soil ... the idea is to reconcile the market value of Africa, so that Africans can, in a way, share in their success.

A sculpture by Moroccan artist Fathiya Tahiri titled “La Fourmi” is displayed at Dakar's Museum of Black Civilizations. (Photo: A. Hammerschlag/VOA)

The exhibit will travel to seven African cities over the course of one year, including Casablanca, Abidjan, Lagos, Addis Ababa, Cape Town and Marrakech. In doing so, the exhibit seeks to unite the continent’s web of cultures and ethnic traditions while celebrating African art in its place of origin.

Yacouba Konate is one of the exhibit’s curators. He said he hopes the show will help internationally renowned African artists forge a relationship with their neighbors at home.

Photographs by Cameroonian artist Angèle Etoundi Essamba titled “Rêve brisé” are displayed at Dakar's Museum of Black Civilizations. (Photo: A. Hammerschlag/VOA)

He says Africa was often forgotten by exhibition organizers. Their exhibits toured Paris, Dusseldorf and London, but no one thought about the necessity or the interest there would be to show African works in Africa.

Even when organizers do consider touring Africa, Konate said they give up easily and claim it’s impossible due to inadequate facilities and insufficient funding.

He says they wanted to take on these problems and constraints together, and then see, little by little, that they can remove these obstacles and show that it’s possible.

A bronze sculpture by Ivorian artist Siriki Ky titled “Têtes précieuses” is displayed at Dakar's Museum of Black Civilizations. It is part of the exhibition "Prête-moi ton rêve," which is touring Africa over the course of one year. (A.Hammerschlag)

One of the featured artists is Ivorian sculptor Siriki Ky. He said it was important for him and the other artists to have their work considered by fellow Africans.

He says they work much more in the West, outside of Africa. That’s why they wanted to participate in this exhibit – so that their neighbors and parents can see their work, interpret it, and decide whether or not they like it. But at least they’ll know that they’re doing this work.
 
The exhibition will remain on display at Dakar’s Musee des Civilisations Noires through January 28.