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This year marks the third DAK'ART, The Biennial of Contemporary African Art, Dakar, Senegal. From a modest beginning , DAK'ART is quietly, if slowly acquiring some measure of visibility in the international art calendar . Granted that its insistence on situating itself in the domain of contemporary African art may not necessarily facilitate exchanges between artists from Africa and their counterparts from the rest of the world, its mission to provide a forum for the presentation, and appreciation of contemporary art from the African continent is particularly important. In this interview, Remi Sagna, the General Secretary of the Organizing Committee of DAK'ART '98 discusses the mission, and problems faced by the Dakar Biennial. More importantly, he explains why Dakar is different from Venice, Sao Paolo, and other international biennials. And what impact the administrators of the Biennial hope DAK'ART '98 would make in the discourse of contemporary African art and culture. Chika Okeke: What were the reasonsfor intiating the Dakar Biennale? Did the Biennale have a specific mandate. If so, to what extent has this been achieved? Remi Sagna: T h e reasons behind the creation of the Dakar Biennale are embedded in the logic of Senegalese cultural politics. Since independence, Senegal has maintained a solid reputation for state patronage, carried out through a politics of artistic promotion put in place in 1960 b y the Minister of Culture. This politics has permitted many actions among which w e can cite a few: the creation of art schools, the granting of many scholarships in Senegal and abroad, the promulgation of laws protecting the rights of authors, the creations of artistic workshops and salons, the creation of public cultural establishments, the creation of structures of exhibition and distribution on a national and international level, the creation of funds to support artistic work, the creation of an artistic patrimony for the state made up of "masterpieces" bought from artists, the institution, of the Grand Prize of the President of the Republic, etc. But today, faced with a global art market which all visual artists aspire to participate in, this course of action— despite its merits—has reached its limits. It needs to be reinforced b y complementary measures concerned with helping artists gain access to the art market , efforts that will be characterized by a healthy discourse between talents, partnership with art professionals, media coverage of artistic events, etc. From this point of view, the institution of a Biennale devoted principally to the visual arts can be seen as the consolidation of an essentially Senegalese cultural tradition and as the creation of an international space, in Africa, to promote, structure, and advance the visual arts. In this way, the Dakar Biennale, DAK'ART, aspires to be an instrument that will integrate Africa through a common cultural market, a platform to allow African artists access to the international art market. Its fundamental objectives are to support and encourage artistic creativity, production , protection, distribution, training and education in Africa and to promote African artists in Africa and on the international level, through state and private actions . It is in m y view a little early to evaluate if the Biennale has achieved these fundamental objectives, when w e are only in our second year of specializing in contempo24 * Nka [Journal of C o n t e m p o r a r y African A r t an interview with the 3rd dakar biennale director Remi Sagna rary African art. But already, the interest and curiosity that it is arousing among more and more professionals and the passion that it has created progressively in different African art scenes provide some indication that this event is cutting its path and affirming its status as an exhibition worthy of interest . Our desire is to make DAK'ART, the Biennale of contemporary African art; in a short time what FESPACO is for cinema or M A S A is for theatrical arts. C. O.: As an informed insider in the institution responsible for the Dak'art Biennales, what might be thejustification for retaining the same director for the events sofar. Is itfor reasons of maintaining aparticular curatorial perspective which might be altered should a guest...


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