The African Artists for Development endowment fund has organized an exhibition, open to the public, at the Théâtre National de Chaillot, November 4-24, 2015, prior to COP21. This initiative is a world first in more ways than one.
For the first time in the history of contemporary art, 54 world-renowned artists, one for each country on the great African continent, will present a work inspired by a single theme: “The Illuminated Africa.” The 54 painters, sculptors, videographers and photographers featured in Lumières d’Afriques will present their vision and, by extension, their hopes, dreams and fears for the future of their continent. These artists — most of whom have shown their work in the world’s preeminent museums and major international events, such as the Venice Biennale — have accepted a dual creative challenge: to create an original work of art on a unique theme, and to reveal their own personal source of inner light by participating in a monumental video installation. The power of that video work expresses both the vitality of contemporary African art and the critical challenges that Africa must face over the next century.
For the first time in world political history, 54 African artists have committed to creating a single collaborative work of art, displaying their confidence in the fact that the African continent is entering its own “Age of Enlightenment” in the 21st century. Lumières d’Afriques expresses the incandescence of African art, culture and thought and the necessity of a dialogue with the world to conceive the future of humanity. In that spirit, the Théâtre National de Chaillot, the emblematic location of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, has generously agreed to open its doors. In that same sense of engagement, the Maison de la Culture, in Bobigny, will organize performances and workshops that revolve around African creativity throughout the duration of the exhibition.
And finally, for the first time in economic history, 54 African artists have committed to reveal the enormous challenge that energy access represents for the future of their continent — that is, “African Lights” in the most literal sense. The artists in this exceptional exhibition call out to us with one simple notion: There is no future, no growth and no progress without electricity. But too many Africans are still without access to energy, which greatly impedes all development and contributes to the fact that a growing portion of the population — in particular, young people — seek a future beyond the borders of their native continent.
This exhibition has garnered extraordinary support. The support of its partners — Orange, the Schneider Electric Foundation, the Théâtre National de Chaillot and TILDER, who have agreed to support the exhibition in France and on it subsequent world tour. The support of its planning committee, which has assembled African and French personalities who are dedicated to the future of the continent. And the support of its emblematic exhibition spaces, because after the exhibit’s public presentation in November at the Théâtre National de Chaillot, the works will be shown at the Gare du Nord in Paris, in December 2015, during COP21; then in Ivory Coast, with the support of the African Development Bank, during the first quarter of 2016. The exhibition will subsequently go on tour in Africa, Europe and the United States.
Since its inception, African Artists for Development has endeavored to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Lumières d’Afriques is a strong initiative, driven by the conviction that African development and climate protection can dovetail harmoniously, and that contemporary art can “add a bit of soul” to the continent’s growth. It is therefore quite natural that Lumières d’Afriques is presented as a prelude to COP21, which will make Paris its capital in the battle against climate change as the year 2015 draws to a close.