A journey to a city that doesn’t exist to explore the composite, heterogeneous, multi-layered identity of the contemporary metropolis through the intensity and richness of African art. This, briefly, encapsulates the exhibition African Metropolis. An Imaginary City, curated by Simon Njami and co-curated by Elena Motisi, at MAXXI, Rome, from 22nd June to 4th November 2018.
The exhibition highlights the beauty and the contradictions in cities and the world today. The metropolis described is not a real city, made of built architecture, organised in line with town planning regulations, but a city created by the people who live there: more than 100 works by 34 African artists become the components of an imaginary city, of a journey among photographs, installations, sculptures, fabrics and videos that reinstates the chaos, the richness, the many facets of the contemporary African and global identity.
The works are displayed like parts of a city skyline, the result of an ongoing stratification of interventions, tracing a path along which visitors can wander, becoming lost only to find themselves again. The many works include Bili Bidjocka’s gigantic installations, with Time Tower, a sculpture in the museum courtyard that references the Tower of Babel and the Lighthouse of Alexandria; and those designed by Youssef Limoud, whose Labyrinth evokes a building that has fallen in on itself. The exhibition also includes compelling works such as Behind This Ambiguity (2015/2018) by Abdulrazaq Awofeso: 120 little statues that literally invade the space like a crowd exiting the underground; and Pascale Marthine Tayou’s Falling House (2014), featuring houses hanging upside down, fragile domestic buildings composed of myriad images. Franck Abd-Bakar Fanny’s photographs My Nights are Brighter than your Days (2016) give a sense of the wandering and getting lost that often goes with learning a new city.
The exhibition also tackles live issues, with Meschac Gaba’s Bureau d’Echange (2014), for instance, which decries the fact that raw materials from natural resources have become the objects of speculation, and World Disorder II (2017) by Paul Onditi, an artist who raises questions about political, structural, social and economic upheavals at local and global level. There is also room for hope, dreams and new possibilities among the clothes designed by Lamine Badian Kouyaté (Xuly.Bet), which look out over the museum courtyard, creations that transmit the values of modern Africa, and which prove that any culture can become avant-garde.
African Metropolis is an alternation of images and imagination that narrate a universal context to help us to understand cities all over the world. One of the aims of the exhibition, after all, is to recognise ourselves in the great diversity that is Africa. We question how we can live together in a space that seems to be made up of insurmountable differences, and come away with the portrait of a city of which we are all inhabitants, despite being strangers.
African Metropolis. An Imaginary City
Curated by Simon Njami and co-curated by Elena Motisi
Via Guido Reni, 4/A
22nd June – 4th November 2018
Tuesday and Wednesday: 11 am – 7 pm
Thursday: 11 am – 10 pm
Friday to Sunday: 11 am – 7 pm