The “Global South” is a loaded, highly political term often used to define regions of the world as opposed to others.
More than 90 young artists from Gabon, Mozambique, the United Kingdom and the United States, along with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from Nigeria, Gambia and Cameroon living in Italy, challenge this concept in a new online exhibition entitled “Where is the South?” which premiered on October 1.
In a press release, organizers say the use of the term “Global South” is sometimes “a shortcut to label a part of the planet as inferior, less developed or impoverished.” Others use it interchangeably with “third world,” another problematic and misleading term that emerged during the Cold War to describe countries with inferior economic status that were also not aligned with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or the Warsaw Pact. .
“No matter where in the world we are, there is always a southSimon Njami, co-creator and curator of the exhibition, said:
These young people reclaimed their power to define the word as a very intimate notion that varies according to the place where they are and where they want to reach. The exhibit powerfully reveals that there cannot be any south without the gaze we invest it with.
These young people claimed their power to define the word as a very intimate notion that varies depending on where they are and where they want to go. The exhibition powerfully reveals that there can be no South without the look with which we give it.
The exhibition will take place on the Instagram page of the Moleskine Foundation from October 1 to 30, 2020.
The works are the creative result of the AtWork initiative of the same foundation, “an itinerant educational workshop created to unleash the creative potential of young people through critical thinking, intense debate and self-discovery.”
AtWork began in 2012 in Dakar, Senegal, and has since traveled throughout Africa “to inspire a pan-African and global network of creative thinkers,” according to the Moleskine Foundation.
The artists, who are between 18 and 27 years old, challenge notions of independence, identity, borders and history.
The exhibition, showing more than 90 hacked, decorated and transformed laptops created by artists in each of the AtWork cities where workshops were held in 2019, “redefines the ideologically charged word at a time when the people are debating how to create a more equitable society in a post-pandemic world, ”according to the press release.
The Libreville workshop attracted 24 young choreographers, designers, entrepreneurs, slam poets, film directors, actors, visual artists, photographers and educators who came together to “debate, exchange and find their personal‘ south ’”.
Frank Noel Makosso, slam champion poet from Libreville, Gabon, participated in this workshop; he defines the word “south” as his “inner being”. For the exhibition, Makossa created a composition of French and English words and phrases from newspapers and magazines into a work of art called “How to express the ineffable?”
Here is a selection of artwork produced during the 2019 AtWork Libreville workshop:
AtWork Maputo 2019 included a five-day workshop led by Njami in collaboration with Pfwura Ndzilo and Anima. In November 2019, 25 local artists gathered at the National Museum of Mozambique to explore and discuss the meanings of the term “south”. The workshop culminated in an exhibition at the same museum from November 2019 to January 2020.
Here is a selection of artworks produced during the AtWork Maputo 2019 workshop:
“Our goal is to create a creative and welcoming space where young people can think differently, step out of their element and be free to question the society around them,” said Adam Sanneh, CEO of the Moleskine Foundation.
Gabon is at the forefront of the creative economies of Central Africa
The coastal city of Libreville, capital of Gabon, is called the “free city” as it was officially declared a city of freed slaves in 1849. Today, it is one of the five most expensive cities in Africa, although its creativity remains un value yourself. There have been no art centers or galleries and the cultural programming centers around its French Institute.
B unny Claude-Massassa, multimedia artist and 2018 AtWork participant, decided to address the city's lack of spaces for independent culture and founded his own non-governmental organization, Mukasa.
As the start of the city's first non-institutional space dedicated to conversations about culture and creativity, Musaka organized the AtWork 2019 workshop, “Where is the South”, in collaboration with the National Museum of Gabon and the French Institute.
Mukasa is inspired by the concept of dwabi which, in Gabonese punu, means “basket support” made of woven ropes.
The object, used to transport heavy loads over long distances, has become a metaphor for all of Musaka's activities, and aspires to serve as a strong link between art, culture, and audiences.
Musaka aims to “create, develop and support a creative arts ecosystem” to strengthen the Gabonese art scene and take a leadership role in the region's art scene and commercial market. The center will also include a media library and an exhibition space, as well as a space for artists to relax and meet.
Construction of the center was affected by COVID-19, but is now underway again, with plans to host a series of documentary screenings focused on identity issues in November, which will follow all COVID-19 protocols.
This year, the Gabonese Ministry of Culture and Arts increased government support for creative and cultural industries (CCI), defining its first legal framework to enhance emerging social and economic opportunities, according to UNESCO.
This catapults the country to the forefront of the Central African movement toward a formal creative economy.
Since the pandemic, some of the continent's creative economies, fueled mostly by informal sectors, have been hit hard. Musicians and visual artists who normally tour and participate in live exhibitions have had to push a hiatus in their shows due to coronavirus cancellations. But overall, the continent's cultural goods sector employs roughly half a million people and generates $ 4.2 billion in revenue across Africa.