HASith its “Trilogy” exhibition, a triptych of committed works by three artists in the “OFF” of the Biennale of Contemporary Art in Dakar, the Océanium, a diving club and NGO which works for the protection of the environment and of the ocean since 1984, has placed art at the service of environmental protection. One more way to raise public awareness of environmental emergencies and raise awareness.
Three artists, one environmental objective
The three projects presented in “Trilogy” are linked by a common reflection: that relating to environmental issues and the repercussions of human activities on the planet.
Antoine Bertin, French artist, invites visitors to lean over a reflective surface to hear the conversations of phytoplankton, invisible beings whose usefulness is essential since they produce more than half of the oxygen we breathe. The sound installation makes it possible to listen to these songs usually inaudible to the naked ear.
German artist Bodo Korso has created a dramatic video installation that superimposes haunting images of jellyfish slowly becoming overgrown with plastic bottles over videos of factory chimneys belching thick, menacing smoke.
The 3e artist to complete this dialogue, Fabrice Monteiro, a Belgian-Beninese, exhibits two of his artistic projects.
“The Prophecy”, a series of ephemeral sculptures
Started in 2013 after his relocation to Africa with the question of “how to inspire an ecological conscience as an artist? “, the project “The Prophecy” is a series of ephemeral sculptures made from natural materials found on site, which combine environment, art and culture, and which question the relationship between Man and nature. “Each work calls on local myths and cultures to show how the modern world leads to the uprooting of man with nature. The balance is now upset. The reflection also focuses on how colonization led to chaos while populations lived in harmony, in a certain symbiosis with nature,” the artist points out.
The sculpture present at the Océanium is thus inspired by the mangrove (mangrove forests) found in the Sine-Saloum region in Senegal. Inspired by the mystical figure of the Kankourang who has a social role, the work is made up of mangrove propagules, bark, oysters… A problem for which the Océanium had set up a major program of reforestation and protection of the mangrove a few years ago.
The 15 works already produced all deal with an environmental issue in the world (coal mines in Texas, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, etc.). In total, “The Prophecy” should give rise to 25 works, immortalized in photos, to then be declined in a tale with an educational dimension.
If at the beginning the project related to a restricted geographical area, the artist finally widened, because “it is about a world problem and we must all work together to change that”, he assures.
“The Green Project” to continue to defend the environment
Next to this suspended sculpture sits the bust of a man clad in nylon fishing nets, nets recovered by the NGO Océanium.
“In 2021, we collected 30 to 40 tonnes of plastic waste and fishing nets at sea. Nylon nets are prohibited for fishing but are still used because they are cheaper. They are responsible for the death of many fish which find themselves trapped in the mesh”, informs Redwan El Ali, head of the Diving center at the Océanium. Each year, the NGO cleans the sea of these many nets which take 500 years to degrade.
This work is the first of the Belgian-Beninese’s new artistic project. Its name: “The Green Project”. Fabrice Monteiro is interested in highlighting the various initiatives and structures working on the environment. This leads him to address in a future work the problem of a Togolese company recycling plastic water bags.
A first in West Africa: an underwater museum
Beyond the exhibition on dry land, the Océanium has launched a crazy project, matured for 3 years, in collaboration with OH Gallery: the 1er West African Underwater Museum. “The goal is to connect art and environment to show the beauty of the sea, but also to make people aware of the appalling state in which it is, because there is a lack of knowledge about this environment” , says Youssef El Ali, director of the NGO Océanium. And to add: “We use all the media at our disposal to reach a wider audience and alert. »
You should know that the bay of Dakar is the second largest bay in the world, but it is also among the most polluted with the factories which dump their chemical waste there as well as the populations who do the same with their household waste in particular. Added to this is the phenomenon of overfishing which causes a scarcity of fish.
On the program of the museum…
Hence the usefulness of the underwater museum. On an experimental site of 5,000 m2 and at a depth of 4 meters, eight sculptures submerged six months ago are visible while diving with a bottle but also while diving with a mask and snorkel. In the coming months, a virtual reality visit is also planned. The works were made of marine concrete (little or not polluting) by the artists Mischa Sanders and Philip Putzer. “The works have already been transformed: algae have clinged to the rough walls, sea urchins have grown on them… It is also part of our idea that the works become artificial reefs to create a living area where before there was no was nothing. Our desire is to create a protected area without net fishing,” explains Redwan El Ali.
Inspired by underwater museums such as those in Japan or Mexico, which include hundreds of works, the Océanium hopes to be able to expand the test area and welcome new works soon, always with respect for the environment and in the desire to create the trigger and the taking of action. And it’s not over. Another project in mind: the launch of a system of sponsorship of works which will make it possible to finance the actions of the NGO on environmental problems. A sign that this long-term adventure in the service of nature protection is only at the beginning.
* Trilogy Exhibition: The Prophety & the Green Project – Metabolite Conversations to be seen as part of the 14th edition of the Dakar Biennale at the Oceanium on the East Corniche in Dakar, until June 21, 2022.