CONTEMPORARY ART > Current Projects

> Broken Memories
> Voodoo

NÀWÁO & Musée National du Mali (Bamako, Mali), National Museum (Accra, Ghana), Musée d'Art Africain (Dakar, Senegal), Centre D'Art contemporain Fri-Art (Fribourg, Switzerland), Kunst-Werke Berlin e.V. Institute for contemporary Art (Berlin, Germany), Forum d'Art contemporain (Luxembourg), Ateliers d´Artistes de la ville de Marseille et MAC, (Marseille, France) present


a contemporary art exhibition to be inaugurated in 2006

«Reflections on history and expropriation of cultural goods through the eyes of contemporary artists»


The BROKEN MEMORIES exhibition will present 20 works by contemporary artists from all five continents. The works presented will evoke the absence of artefacts that were stolen during an episode of history marked by the use of force. These original creations will shed a new light upon the theft of relics, upon war booty (and, in particular, that of colonial wars), contemporary instances of pillage, and other kinds of trophies. These objects were a part of the material heritage of the societies that produced them, and the empty space left behind them is the central theme of this exhibition.
The exhibition is set to be inaugurated in September 2007 in the MUSÉE NATIONAL DU MALI in Bamako. Then it goes in November 2007 to the NATIONAL MUSEUM ACCRA in Ghana and in January 2008 to the MUSÉE D'ART AFRICAIN DAKAR in Senegal.
The exhibition will then travel to Europe, and will be displayed in Switzerland in April-June 2008 at the CENTRE D'ART CONTEMPORAIN FRI-ART in Fribourg (Switzerland). The following show is at the FORUM D'ART CONTEMPORAIN in Luxembourg (June-September 2008).
Then the exhibition will be presented in Marseille (France) at the ATELIERS D´ARTISTES DE LA VILLE DE MARSEILLE (September-November 2008) The next station are the KUNST-WERKE BERLIN e.V. Institute for Contemporary Art, Germany (December-February 2009). Great interest has also been shown by the NATIONAL MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART in Seoul, South Korea, whose director would like to present the exhibition in his native country in 2009.
Great interest has also been shown by the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul, South Korea, whose director would like to present the exhibition in his native country in March/April 2008.
The BROKEN MEMORIES exhibition will be accompanied by a variety of activities. Since April 2004, a focus group has been set up with local partners and surveys concerning a selection of relevant objects are in progress.

«The last time I wrote to you about Africa / I used a piece of parchment / There were a lot of empty spaces in that letter .../ Now I can fill in some of these spaces because .... / I have grown older».
El Anatsui

The Ghanaian artist El Anatsui is speaking here about the complexity of real life : a story that has yet to be told, an ill-defined reality that can only be apprehended through memory and a certain intellectual distance. Moreover, if memory is indeed one of the main elements that make up individual or collective identity, how is survival possible where amnesia prevails?
Memory and culture make up a single entity : the ruins upon which we build our present and upon which we project our future are the vestiges of a past that we never knew. The reality of this past is to be found in certain traces, objects, vestiges. These traces are invested with a kind of power. Because of their evocative value, they can be used to relay a defective memory. And, indeed, the memory, just like El Anatsui's letter, is full of empty spaces.
The team behind the "Broken Memories" project has therefore invited twenty-five contemporary artists from Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe to bring out, each in his or her own way, the different problems linked to these stolen objects, to the empty spaces left by them, or to a memory that has to be recovered. These artists' impressions may be seen as attempts to re-establish the missing links of a defective memory. The idea is for the exhibition to reconstitute a memory which, although not identical to the "stolen" memory, will nevertheless help to reactivate it.
The best metaphor for this process is that of a work of art. Accepting the eyes of other people on oneself, "dreaming in other people's dreams", as Yves Klein puts it, is one of the prerogatives of contemporary art. Creation, here, would draw the outline of a world in which the empty spaces resulting from theft do not reveal an abandon, but the discovery and the mutual exhibiting of other worlds.
We tend too often to believe that we meet with other people, whereas we do not always live at the same moment as others. However, an artist may be able to do so, by seeking constantly to make up for this distance and these discrepancies between themselves and others. In this way, contemporary art, with its flexible memory, its hesitations, its constant attempts to write, from day to day, other stories by renewing languages, would appear to be the ideal vector for this quest.
The purpose here is quite clear. The idea is to propose a kind of surrogate memory that will be re-appropriate by peoples those culture have been subjected to an attempt of eradication (such as colonialism, the jewish holocaust, forced migrations, etc.). Even generations after the events, it appears that it is still necessary to examine the memory of the historical context in which objects were collected, the transmission of this memory, and its present-day effects. The links between the present and the past are numerous, ambiguous, and they run deep.
The empty spaces left in the memories of the peoples throughout the world who underwent colonisation will never be filled again. Or, at least, we will never see exactly the same thing returning, since things (as well we know) are no longer the same. However, it is our duty to try. The artists taking part in the "Broken Memories" project will also be faced with such a challenge. However, whether or not they succeed is of little importance. What matters is that each one of them should be aiming at the same goal : that of working, according to their history and their own sensitivities, towards the establishment of a collective memory, which will transform the broken memories of this faltering 21st century into a kaleidoscopic memory that everyone will, at last, be able to share.

ARTISTS (provisory, ca. 20 artistes)

Alexander Jane, South Africa, Meshac Gaba, Benin, Alvim Fernando, Angola Motti Gianni, Switzerland, Art Orienté Objet, France Pongl Lisl, Austria, Barrada Yto, Marocco Sachs Hinrich, Germany, Bidjocka Bili, Camerun Santiago Rodrigez Olazabal, Cuba, Büchel Christoph, Switzerland, Sedira Zineb, Algeria, Fast Omer, Israel, Shonibare Yinka, UK, Fleury Jean-Damien, Switzerland, Superflex, Danmark, Hammons David, USA, Tan Fiona, Netherland, Junqueira Paula, Brasil, Yung Yeon-Doo, South Korea, Konaté Abdulaye, Mali Wilson Fred, USA, Koo Jeong-a, South Korea

In order
to avoid to reduce this project to a short-term event, we plan with local partners to organise several long-lasting programmes. Workshops, seminars and conferences will be organised in concertation with universities, art schools and institutions linked to the issue of heritage. The results of this reflection will be diffused to a large audience. An evaluation of the conditions of a sustainable research program is already in preparation.

Several workshops are scheduled on the following themes :« History and art » with artists, « Exhibiting History » with museum specialists, historians and anthropologists, « Objets, History and Documentation » with archive specialists.

During the exhibition, we will provide a speakers’ platform for both local and international personalities (cultural studies, litterature and art). The aim of these conferences is to promote the debate on idea of “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” (coming to terms with the past), the question of reparation, the issue of restitution and, more generally, the links beween arts and politics.

Guides tours
Regular tours of the exhibition for students and schoolchildren will also be organised.

Public relations
We believe that cooperation with the local community is essential. In the preparatory stage, it will, therefore, be important to make local contacts on many levels (TV, newspaper and public forums), in order to establish the broadest possible base in the society for the project.
Journalistss will be invited to the inauguration of the exhibtion in Africa. A tri-lingual catalogue (English, French, German) is already in preparation. The catalogue will take in account the results of the research programm.

The network established before and during the tour of the exhibition should be maintained. Discussions on this issue are already taking place with the involved institutions (for instance museums, universities and international organisations).


The research programme
is based on a series of surveys. We have determined six countries in which surveys are to take place : four are in Africa (South Africa, Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria), one in Asia (Korea), and one in Latin America (Mexico). The surveys will aim to describe, on the one hand, the context in which objects were taken, and on the other hand, to bring out the present-day implications of the absence of these objects in the areas from which they were taken. Particular attention will be paid to present-day oral narratives which carry on the memory of colonial situations. These surveys will be carried out by research groups of 2-3 members, under the aegis of a host laboratory / department. Young scholars from these countries will be encouraged to set up a survey.

The International Seminar and Workshop
The scientific programme will be followed by a research group made up of academics, writers and artists. Several meetings will be organised, either in Paris, in the seminar-workshop, or in other countries, with the partner institutions. These meetings will allow the group to monitor progress on the ongoing surveys and to set up the framework of the debate.

Series lecture at the University of Zürich (CH)
In collaboration with the University of Zürich, NAWAO PRODUCTION coordinates between April and June 2005 a series of lecture entitled „RESTITUTION and MEMORY“.

The following lectures are scheduled :
Dr. Bernard Müller: «The role of objects in the construction of history»
Dr. Adepeju Layiwola; “Edo Art: «Memory and Reinvention», Prof. Ciiraj Rassool: «The Politics of Memory Work in South Africa», Prof. Jakob Tanner: «Minima moralia der Restitution», Prof. Wole Soyinka: “Forget the Past. Forfeit the Future“, Prof. Dan Diner: «Über Geschichte und Eigentum».

Documentary Research Project on Objets
A database on war booty will enable us to draw up an inventory of all the written and pictural sources relating to these objects. The public will be able to consult this during the exhibition. It will also be made available online, and will be published as a book.

Publication of the proceedings of the workshops
Publication of a book, Publication of articles, Participation in the catalogue.

Highlights of the surveys & research project
In Nigeria,
Peju Layiwola (department of Creative Arts, University of Ibadan au Nigeria) collects in situ modern family narratives related to the battle of Benin in 1897 when the town was destroyed and looted by the British colonial army. These events eventually resulted in the worldwide dispersal of at least 900 pieces of the subsequent famous Benin-Bronze.
In Mali, Issiaka Bagayadogo
(anthropologist, Institute for Social Research in Bamako - ISH), carries on a survey on a sacred object called a boli used during kono ceremonies that has been taken by the French ethnologist Marcel Griaule in 1933 when the country was in process to be pacified. The vacuum caused by the loss of this object has forced the inhabitants of the region to invent new religious and political practices.
In Burkina Faso, Jean-Baptiste Kiéthéga and his team from the History and Archeology department - university of Ouagadougou make investigations on the substantial weapon boot ceased in the Bwaba area by the French colonial troupes during the rebellions that troubled the area between 1913 and 1916.
David Coplan (anthropologist, university of Witwatersrand, RSA) will document the looting of a christian mission at Beersheba – Orange State – by a group of Boers in 1858.
Jinkook Chung (art historian, « Group for People Without History » - University of Yeungnam, South Korea) investigates on the Kang-Hwa Island were was located the monastery that was first looted and then bombed by the French Navy in 1866. Apart from gold bullions and other fortunes, the soldiers looted 279 volumes of a description of the royal rites in the Yi dynasty which are now at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
In Europe, Patrick Prado (CNRS, Paris) investigates on the so called « Elgin Marbles » taken from the Parthenon in Athens by a British diplomat during the Ottoman occupation (1804).
Thierry Bonnot (GTMS, Paris) investigates on human remains and ashes of personalities that have recently been claimed for restitution (notably : the debate on the transfer of George Sand’s remains from the village were she died to the Panthéon in Paris, the remains of Ernesto Che Guevara that have been claimed for restitution by the Parliament of Argentina to the Cuban Government were the remains are presently conserved).
These surveys are coordinated by Bernard Müller and Jacomijn Snoep.

With the collaboration of:
Wole Soyinka (Prof.), Author, Nobel Prizewinner 1986 (Nigeria), Gwenola Sanquer, Conteuse, Paris (France), Jacomijn Snoep, doctorante en anthropologie, muséologue, Paris (France), Patrick Prado (Prof.), Ethnologist, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris (France), Barbara Plankensteiner (Dr.), Curator, Ethnographical Museum of Vienna (Austria), François Mécili, Filmmaker, Paris, Peju Layiwola (Dr.), Department of African Studies, Ibadan (Nigeria), Gesine Krüger. Prof. of History, University of Zürich (Switzerland), Jean-Baptiste Kiethega (Prof.) Historian and Archaeologist, Ouagadougou University, Chung Jinkook (Prof.), Artist, curator, Yeungnam University (South Korea), Jean-Damien Fleury, Artist, Fribourg (Switzerland), David Coplan (Prof.), Anthropologist, University of Witwatersrand (South Africa), James Clifford (Prof.), Anthropologist, University of California, Santa Cruz (USA), Thierry Bonnot (Dr.), Ethnologist, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris (France), Kangni Alemdjrodo (Dr), Author, Bordeaux (France) and Lomé (Togo), Camille Amouro, Director of the Diaspora Media Library, Cotonou (Benin)


Overall coordination
NAWAO Production Zurich, Berlin, Accra, Niggi Popp, Zürich, Switzerland, Christoph Ludszuweit, Berlin, Germany, Joe Nkrumah, Accra, Ghana

Exhibition curators
Simon Njami (Paris), Sarah Zürcher (Fribourg)
Samuel Sidibe (Mali), Enrico Lunghi (Luxembourg), Anselm Franke (Germany), Thierry Ollat (France)

Local Partners
Musée National du Mali, Bamako, National Museum Accra, Ghana, Musée d'Art Africain Dakar, Senegal, Forum D´Art Comtemporain, Luxembourg, Ateliers D´Artistes de la ville de Marseille, France, Centre D´Art Contemporain Fri-Art, Fribourg, Switzerland, Kunstwerke Berlin E.V. Institute for Contemporary Art, Germany