Presented as part of the project La Saison Africa 2020, Un.e Air.e de famille (A family air) was meant to promote the dialog between afro art and the general public. This interesting exhibition took place between June 25th and November 8th 2021 at Le musée d’art et d’histoire Paul Eluard in Saint-Denis, France.
This museum was not chosen randomly since the surrealist poet Paul Eluard was an engaged promotor of surrealism and anticolonialism. This time the permanent exhibition of the house museum served as a connecting entrance hall before the actual exhibition of the contemporary African art rooms. The historic collection made up of old personal pictures, notes, drawings and objects belonging to Eluard could be contrasted to modern photography, drawing, audio and video installations developed by thirteen African artists from Senegal, France, Germany, Angola, Belgium, Tanzania, and Mozambique.
After crossing a long path, there were two different rooms where Paul Eluard’s work and his personal relationship with the surrealists were depicted. Then, upstairs, one of the rooms of the house museum displayed Eluard’s wooden sculptures along with other pieces of contemporary African work. The comments of the cultural mediator were accurate and pertinent and having the feeling of entering “a mass” as one of the audio installations followed this religious concept was appealing and catching.
Eluard, Breton and Picasso were against political colonialism in France. Actually, these Surreal artists were known for refusing colonial policies and practices in the 1930s and the 1950s. Their interest towards non-western art objects allowed “African art” to become later fully appreciated. It was the resistance shown by the surreal art leaders what made possible to know about the contemporary African artists. Their work questions the audience about topics such as memory, migration and spirituality from a post-colonial perspective. The ethical subject of female genital mutilation closed the exhibition provoking reflection.
Cover picture: ©Timeout.fr