African art and artists in Spain – Part I (Barcelona)

During the past week I’veve had the opportunity to attend various events – both here in Barcelona, and Madrid – in which various African artists played a central role. Last Saturday I attended ARCO – the most important Contemporary Art Fair in Spain, held in Madrid – where there was a remarkable African presence, especially around the project Arte InVisible. And yesterday evening I was at the Altaïr bookshop Forum , where two documentaries related to the African community in Barcelona were projected. I will begin by commenting on this last event, and tomorrow will dedicate a post to my visit to ARCO.

Yesterday then, as part of the «Cicle de documentals solidaris»/ Solidary documentary cycle thet screened two documentaries at the Altaïr bookstore: “Expressions de l’Àfrica negra a Barcelona” by Sara Losa and Tania Adam, and “Africans en ruta” by Núria Tomàs and Hannah. This last documentary is a project that came as part of Nuria and Hannah’s field-work on their investigation of intercontinental migration between West Africa and Europe. It is filmed, in addition to Barcelona, in Mali, Senegal and Burkina Faso between 2008 and 2009, and in it migrants from Ghana and Senegal tell us how was their trip and how is their experience in Spain. The most interesting part of the documentary, to me, are the reflections – expressed in an almost perfect Catalan – of the Senegalese Rashid Abukadar (I think it is him), about the lack of help they migrants receive from NGOs and his irony regarding «the crisis». Here you can see the full documentary and his reflections are from the minute 9:35, and until 12:40.

Africans en ruta. Reflexions sobre l’emigració. from Africans en ruta on Vimeo.

The second documentary, “Expressions de l’Àfrica negra a Barcelona” by Sara Losa and Tania Adam is an initiative of the CEA – African Studies Center in Barcelona with the support of the Institut de Cultura de Barcelona and was premiered last March . In their website you can find much more information about the project and future projections. In this very interesting documentary, the directors interviewed 12 African artists based in Barcelona: Makha Diop, painter -Senegal; Agnès Agbotón, writer and storyteller- Benin; Xumo, Multi-disciplinary artist – Cameroon; Edith Mbella, gallerist and curator – Cameroon; Childo Tomás, Music and composer – Mozambique; Inongo Vi-Makome, theatre writer and producer – Cameroon; Nino Galissa, Music and composer – Guinea Bissau; Cheika, Music and composer– Senegal; Mû, Music and composer– Guinea Bissau; Rui Saldanha, theatre director – Guinea Bissau; Anna Nbemgue, dancer – Senegal.

In these interviews they all talk about what it means for them to be African artists in Spain, the difficulties they face, how African music is perceived in Spain ( «Where are the drums??»). This is a great documentary that shows a different picture of African immigration, an image that does not respond to the topics of immigrants living in poor conditions and working in blue collar jobs. For me however, the most interesting pare was the allegations made that thare is a strong discrepancy between the image they want to sell of Barcelona as a cosmopolitan city, full of culture; and lack of support which artists on the groung suffer. Here you can see a snippet of the documentary.

For those interested, tonight at 22:00 the radio programme Tots x Tots of ComRadio (91.0 FM) will broadcast a summary of the conversation held with the directors after the screenings.

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