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Cameroon: An Emerging Art Scene Christian Hanussek _ i Joseph Francis Soumegne, La Nouvelle Liberie, 1994-96, Au Pond-point de Deido a Douala, 12 m H. I owe my understanding of the art scene in Cameroon to a I six-week invitation by the Goethe Institute in Yaounde, I which under the direction of Peter Anders (from 1994 to 1999) became one of the most important locations for young Cameroonian artists. This special engagement with art, in workshops and exhibitions featuring German and Cameroonian artists, is now being carried on by Andrea Jacob. A new generation of artists developed in Yaounde in the 1990s, centering to a large extent around the much frequented studio of Pascal Kenfack. In Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon, Doual'art was founded in 1991 as a non-profit organization and is run by Marilyn Douala-Bell and Didier Schaub. Doual'art organizes public art projects, and since 1995 it also has a large centrally-situated exhibition hall, which serves not only as a gallery but also as a forum for discussion and a meeting place for the artists. In a country with slow and limited postal delivery services and where public telephones are rare, Doual'art also serves such practical functions for the artists for mail, telephones and e-mail. Cameroonian artists living abroad often have the privilege of representing their country in international exhibitions. They are certainly preferred, among other reasons, for their more cosmopolitan experience, coming closer to the values and expectations of the international scene. They have, however , at the same time often lost contact with the social reality of their country of origin and its artistic milieu. Doubtless, it makes a big difference to an artist whether he or she lives in Cameroon or in Paris or New York. In all cases the artist's living conditions and everyday experience will form an essential 1 0 0 - N k a Journal of Contemporary African Art part of the context of his or her work. In the one-week workshop I led at the Goethe Institute in Yaounde, roughly 20 participants presented their work and the development of their conceptual framework. Questions and discussions followed the presentations. My main interest was to gain an insight into the artistic praxis, and to come to an understanding of their art so to speak from the inside. Following the workshop I visited many studios in Yaounde and in Douala and took part in discussions, which in Cameroon often take the form of what were, for me, surprisingly harsh confrontations. La Recuperation: It became clear to me that the concept of recuperation plays a key role in the art of the younger Cameroonian generation . This concept, which is often used by the artists themselves , denotes on the one hand the work with assemblages composed of objets trouves, that is found or salvaged secondhand objects. But it can also refer to the stance taken towards images, painting traditions and symbols, and the work the artist does in bestowing these objects with new meaning. Africa is flooded with discarded European consumer goods, and has developed in some cases a surprising ability to appropriate these to its own ends. From media such as film and television to textiles, electric appliances and cars, many products appear in a condition, which would be seen as hopelessly far gone in the country of origin. Recycling or recuperation is a central African cultural activity; this digestion process of foreign waste must be seen as formative of cultural identity. In any event, the younger generation of artists taking up this theme leads to a much more pragmatic form of cultural self-determination than the older, rather idealistic concept of promoting the renaissance of an ancient African tradition. This concept stems from the spirit of nigritude and is still to be found in the works of elder artists such as Pascal Kenfack and Joseph Soumegne (both of whom also make use of found materials). Marylin Douala-Bell explains that five years ago this break with tradition was looked upon as a betrayal of African identity. In my workshop the conflict came to life once more in a discussion of the work of Joseph...


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