Saturday, November 25, 2006

Goddy Leye | Cameroon/Netherlands

Goddy Leye
b.1965 - Present
N.B. Source:

The Story Behind My Work
For a decade now, I have been busy exploring my memory. It all started with painting and drawing. I would look for old signs and symbols, remove them from their initial settings and place them in a totally new environment, thus providing room for the expansion of meaning. The signs and symbols were selected on the basis of their age but also and more so because of their beauty. They were fundamentally important as they were encapsulations of ideas feelings, emotions, thoughts that we are not directly connected to but that we could imagine, recall, think of. History books provided for the bulk of this material. But MEMORY as it recognises its subjective stand and does not pretend to have any everlasting truth or dogmatic position, was the most appropriate tool here.

Having been born and bred in an environment where the past was either forbidden or intentionally distorted in order to create a schizophrenic mind in the post-colony, I guess there has always been/there is still, the need to rewrite HISTORY.

One way of doing this is by feeding our thoughts with Senghorian Negritude: before the plagues of slavery and colonisation, Africa was a land of beauty, of loving people, of dynamic culture unrivalled poetry, sculpture, architecture, painting.... This would take our minds away from the pictures in textbooks, newspapers and now TV an Internet, of Africa as a wasteland. This philosophy/ideology provided the nutrients for my artistic growth when Pascal KENFACK accepted to guide me 1987-1991.Kenfack studied in Besancon and Paris in the late 70`s and wrote a doctoral thesis on the need and ways to draw inspiration from Pre-colonial African Art in order to produce a contemporary art that is authentic.

The other way is to rewrite and print History text books in order to produce a COUNTER-HISTORY... an eye for an eye... This may end up with awkward situations like when the Bible is rewritten with a Black Jesus. The son of Joseph and Mary was born in Bethlehem: he was neither Black nor White. Saying that Christopher Columbus was Black is probably less important to claim that he never discovered America, since prior to his arrival, people were already living there. Or maybe we should say that he discovered America from the position of Europe. Just like last year, I discovered Poland from the perspective of my family. This might imply that the entire History is written from a viewpoint that cannot be universal but which can easily be imposed as such.

In Cameroon two trends emerged from the Negritude philosophy: on the one hand, Reverend Father Engelbert Mveng studied the aesthetics of African Arts and published his findings in numerous books and articles. He opened a studio where he trained a couple of artists. His teaching was based on what he called the universal rules of African Art. His obsession with the Almighty Truth in the arts of the Black Continent led to a kind of pedagogy that had strong similarities with the Socialist Realism. His Studio failed to produce artists but instead poured a bunch of craftspeople on the local art scene. But according to him, this was not a failure since in Africa, there is no distinction between Art and Craft.

Pascal Kenfack`s theory, while drawing from the same source is slightly different. Craft and Art share some similarities and connections but belong to separate realms. Kenfack is convinced that the cultural past of Africa has not been properly studied and still has a lot to offer. The past in this case is a wonderful bank of useful information for the contemporary artist from the continent. Anthropology provides him with the necessary tools to explore this wealthy source of inspiration.

For both scholars and artists there is no redemption for a contemporary artistic production that is oblivious of the PAST.But as it is always the case with NEGRITUDE no precision is given about this wonderful past that serves as the backdrop. Thus, both theories fail in putting Africa in HISTORY. The land of the Negro is a place where nothing changes, evolves. Traditions rule here. And tradition is oral culture.In this way Negritude could be seen as an ally to the views developed by the colonial West, that Africa needs civilisation or development.

Questioning the views of these local influential cultural figures, provided the basis of my current quest for MEMORY.

Art Exhibition
Dancing with the Moon [Solo exhibition, Doual`Art, 2003]
Elections [Solo exhibition, Fri`Art, 2003]
Post-Border Art [Group exhibition, SBK, Amsterdam, 2003]
Réalité ou Fiction? [Solo exhibition, Fri`Art, 2003]
Electromediascope [Group exhibition, Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, 2002]
Nuits Métisses [Group exhibition, La Ciotat, 2002]
Espace Doual`Art [Joint exhibition, 2001]
With Bili Bidjocka
Goddy Leye [Solo exhibition, Icba Gallery, Salvador de Bahia, 2001]
Blick- Weschel - Afrikanishe Videokunst [Group exhibition, IFA Galerie, 2000]
Boulev`Art [Group exhibition, 2000]
Dak`Art 2000 [Group exhibition, Dakar Biennale, 2000]
Havana Biennale [Group exhibition, 2000]
L`Afrique à Jour, 10 Ans de Création à la Biennale de Dakar [Group exhibition, 2000]
Sankofa Blues [Solo exhibition, Doual`Art, 2000]
Behind the Scenes [Solo exhibition, Electronic Cafe International, Santa Monica, and on internet, 1999]
Dream [Group exhibition, Doual`Art, 1999]
South Meets West [Group exhibition, National Museum, Accra and Kunsthalle, Bern, 1999]
Dak`Art 1998 [Group exhibition, Biennale de Dakar, 1998]
Triennale der Kleinplastik [Group exhibition, 1998]
Fouilles Sauvages [Solo exhibition, Doual`art, 1996]
Bois Sacré [Solo exhibition, Institut de Formation Artistique, Mbalmayo, 1995]

No comments: