Monday, 22 December 2014

CONGO MINERS - WHO CARES?

I want to look into this subject. One in which all are talking. Congo. The failure of Africa. This to me highlights the greatest success of Capitalism and Democracy. The Leaders and Warlords need our greed to play out their corruption and it is so easy to buy off the few and care less for the masses. 5.4 million people dead since 1998. 15 years and a population half the size of London has died. Who is to speak for the lesser beings of Africa? Save the Congolese.

The Rights of Man. What I am trying to do here..and it may seem rather obvious but I want the world to see the black man as human. Not an animal or a slave but as an equal. With a family. With hopes and dreams. Just like you and me. Imagine for one second that these men where your Fathers, brothers, friends. Would you accept their lot in life? Would you be pleased for how they turned out? These are the people that will never know what it means to have a Thanks Giving.



And the BBC cares so much about the workers in Apple China. Who cares about them. They are still alive and getting paid. They are fine. Not worthy of comment. This is the true reality of Apple, Microsoft, Nokia and the technology industry which should be under the microscope. This is the plague of our today.

The point is made so clear. "If I wasn't doing this somebody else would. I am not here to be some kind of moral saviour." No he is not but he should be punished for his greed. I think back to Patrice Lumumba and think what on earth would he be thinking of this kind of rotten human behaviour by his fellow countrymen?

Economists around the world. What if we were to put the price of Tin Ore up 5 times but on the assurance that the workers of the mines are given decent working conditions, build communities to house their families, with good sanitation and plenty of open spaces. To insist that all must be fed three times a day would that change anything? I really don't know what I am looking at here. Is it poverty, corruption, slavery, misery, starvation, violence, poor management or just simply murder?

It is confusing to know just what the United Nations Peace Keepers do? They stand around and advocate this level of corruption, it is astonishing. What useless bastards they all are. They, knowingly allow this filthy behaviour to exist, as the Multinationals are so happy to oversee slave labour and benefit from afar. To all those shareholders cluching their tech stocks and winning by the day I ask you, have you a conscience? Who really suffers for your spoilt kids private education? For that extra Land Rover "Disco Wheels"; who is the one doing all the work? You are devils and those that will see our world end. All respectibility has died.

We know what is happening yet we do nothing. Who are the guilty parties? We, as witnesses are inside this guilt that allows our fellow man to live under these barbaric conditions. All those with a toaster or a mobile/cell phone are to be under the spotlight. Are we to allow this kind of life for anybody on earth? If so, we must just turn our eyes away and say that is the luck of geography. That is how the Congolese work and we will work within these parameters and careless about morality and decency. Today is the day we lost our compassion and so we must ignore our fellow man and smile as we switch on our beautiful computers.


Author: Joe Pollitt 2014

Friday, 19 December 2014

Renzo Martens – the artist who wants to gentrify the jungle






Arch provocateur … Dutch artist Renzo Martens
Arch provocateur … Dutch artist Renzo Martens. Photograph: Aled Llywelyn/Athena Pictures/Aled Llywelyn/Athena

Next month, Renzo Martens, along with his wife, son and baby daughter, are going to live in eastern Congo so he can continue his five-year plan to gentrify the jungle. The 41-year-old Dutch artist is trying to create an arts scene in one of the most impoverished parts of the world.
It sounds like a sick joke. “It’s not,” Martens tells me when we meet in London. “I mean, it’s funny to call your programme a central African gentrification programme, but I’m basically putting a white cube in the forest to see what it does.”

There’s a little more to it than that. Martens is artistic director of an outfit called the Institute for Human Activities, which has helped artists from Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, establish a critical curriculum akin to a foundation arts course for plantation workers. The Congolese Plantation Workers Art League has now started to organise exhibitions of self-portraits. At workshops, workers’ children drew what they imagined their futures would be. “Most of these kids had never had a pencil in their hands before,” he says.

Some critics have compared Martens to Klaus Kinski, the German actor who – in Werner Herzog’s film Fitzcarraldo – built an opera house in the Amazon rainforest. There are parallels. “I think this will be central Africa’s most extravagant and beautiful arts centre,” says Martens. Perhaps in the future, he muses, Congolese artists will sip cappuccinos in the jungle while discussing, say, critical strategies in contemporary art practice, just as they do in Shoreditch and Brooklyn.

Why is he doing this? “Clearly these people can’t live off plantation labour. But I think they can live off critical engagement with plantation labour.” By which he means workers making saleable art expressing their feelings about their lives. As we talk, Martens offers me a chocolate head, a reproduction of a self-portrait by a plantation worker. The original was made from river clay in eastern Congo. That clay bust was scanned, a 3D digital print was then used to make a mould into which chocolate was poured in Belgium. Some of the cocoa used came from the artist’s plantation.

Nibbling a chocolate ear, I tell Martens I feel awkward, even implicated in a kind of economic cannibalism. “Maybe you feel that you’re eating the soul of that person,” he replies, laughing at my compunctions. “But you’ve been eating it all along, so don’t worry.”




Part of the Artes Mundi exhibition with Martens's chocolate sculptures in Cardiff.
Part of the Artes Mundi exhibition with Martens’s chocolate sculptures in Cardiff.
This has long been the artist’s concern: we in the west have been consuming Africa and Africans for centuries, sometimes titillated by our reactions of compassion, guilt and shame. Not only do we pay, say, Congolese workers pitiful salaries ($1 a day, Martens tells me, is the norm on palm oil plantations) to supply us with cocoa, rubber, coltan, or diamonds. But also, he says, poverty has itself become Africa’s leading export product, and one from which Europeans and Americans profit – images of such suffering accumulating cultural capital in the old centres of empire, rather than in the places they are supposed to critique.

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In 2008, Martens made a film about these inequalities called Episode 3: Enjoy Poverty. Wearing a silly straw hat, he appears as himself, self-consciously performing “an artist on a mission”. The latest white man voyaging to the Conradian heart of darkness, Martens journeys into the jungle, accompanied by Congolese men carrying mysterious crates. Arriving in a village, he opens the crates to reveal neon signs. He straps them to bamboo frames, plugs the lights into a generator and turns them on. The words “Enjoy Poverty” shine out electric blue as locals dance in seeming celebration. Martens is a godless missionary come to teach the natives capitalism’s harsh gospel: how to monetise their poverty.

Accordingly, we see him coach village photographers, who hitherto have been taking happy pictures of locals at birthday parties, to sell images of starvation and death. But the Congolese photographers’ pictures of their neighbours’ malnourished children and dead babies don’t meet the demand from European and American media outlets as well as those by western photojournalists.

Still, if he was useless at helping Africans, Martens was brilliant at helping himself. He left Africa after two years with a film that was seen and discussed by western aid workers, NGO functionaries, academics, artists and critics. In 2013 he became a Yale World Fellow; in 2014 he’s been shortlisted for the £40,000 Artes Mundi prize, the UK’s most lucrative art competition.

But the film was still a failure, he says. “However critical it is of labour conditions in Congo, in the end it only improved labour conditions in Berlin’s Mitte and in New York’s Lower East Side. Because that’s where people see it, talk about it, write pieces about it - whether for or against doesn’t really matter.”
Martens has so far made two films. The first, called Episode 1, was made in 2000 in the Chechen war zone. As women in headscarves queued for aid packages in bombed-out Grozny, Martens asked them: “What do you think of me?” The point was that those doing the looking in the war zones were probably more interested in their own image, lives and loves than those of the suffering people whom they’d ostensibly come to depict. Like Enjoy Poverty, the film was about “its own conditions and dependencies and financial structures”. All art since the early 1900s, he argues, has become self-referential, and his films follow that tradition: “My job is to highlight the codes by which we live, including, in this case, what is watched by whom and for which agenda.”

Perhaps Martens should give up his art if he believes this, since it is premised on exploitation. He thinks not. “You can’t afford to be critical and then leave the real effects of art to real-estate investors and politicians.”

Hence Martens’s return to eastern Congo in 2012 with another idea of how to make plantation workers rich. Following American urban studies theorist Richard Florida, who has written about how art can revive depressed areas, Martens established his gentrification project. He thinks the Institute for Human Activities is tapping into a tradition in African art that can be marketed overseas. “Their work inspired the entire European avant garde – Picasso, Matisse – and that was great, but locally many of the pieces were destroyed because they were heretic[al] or something. So art production doesn’t play an active role in society any more, I would say.” Maybe it will. Consider the chocolate head I’ve been eating. “We can sell these for £40 a piece, they cost maybe £2 or £3 – so £37 profit.” The IHA has only sold 10 so far, but Martens hopes they will be sold on a much bigger scale through western department stores.




Renzo Martens's workshop in Congo, before it was evicted.
Renzo Martens’s workshop in Congo, before it was evicted. Photograph: Institute for Human Activities
Only one problem. Earlier this year, Martens and the IHA were evicted from the plantation where they have been operating by Feronia, the Canadian firm who bought the business from Unilever in 2008. “We’re in exile, at an undisclosed location.” Feronia, Martens tells me, is supported by the British bank CDC. Both, he believes, are worried about what his project means for their business models.

He hopes they will allow him to return, but irrespective of what they decide, in January Martens is going back to pursue jungle gentrification, backed by European galleries, museums and chocolate producers. He’s already planned a conference at which the celebrated Cameroonian postcolonial theorist Achille Mbembe will speak; he’s brokering links with galleries, such as the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, so there will be temporary exhibits of contemporary western artworks. “It’ll be the same sort of art you’d see at the Unilever series at Tate Modern,” he says. He’s also planning a residency programme for western artists. “If you really want to come to terms with the role of art in society, this is the place to see it – not hopping between New York and Berlin.” Eventually, with western art world grants and – fingers crossed – prize money, there will be a white cube of a gallery, just like the ones in western art capitals. “Except it will be made of bamboo,” he says.

Why is he doing all this? “I’m not a revolutionary and I’m not particularly close to these plantation workers. I just try to openly, overtly and consciously perform the role God has for me.”
I think he may joking about God, but not about his hopes for Congo’s new art scene. “It’s ridiculous that they’re doing this manual labour when they have so much to teach us about all the changes we’re going to go through. If it’s true that we’re going to have climate change and imploding social democracy and growing inequality, and I guess it is, then they know all about it. They’re years ahead of us.”

Renzo Martens is one of 10 shortlisted artists for the Artes Mundi 6 prize. The prize show is at National Museum Cardiff, Chapter Cardiff and Ffotogallery, Wales, until 22 February. Details: artesmundi.org

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Bertrand Russell and his Lecture



This is a great lecture. Fantastic stuff back in 1927 in Battersea, London.



I am listening and reading about this to argue with Nigerian and Ugandan Christian extremists. "Please stand upon your own feet and be not afraid of it and conquer the world with intelligence."  To show that the freedom of the Continent lies in the denial of Jesus being the son of God. We all are the sons and daughters of Gods of our world.

This is a wonderful storybook all must read.

The Adventures Of The Black Girl In Her Search For God




Here is one of the greatest minds of our time. What I adore about this thinker is that he always speaks about Congo and the tradegy of their missionary here on earth. They are the Heart of Africa.



He shares our love for this world. 






Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Jean-Michel Basquait and Dan People of West Africa

Baule "Kuamanbo" Ram Mask - Cote D'ivoire



Dan Deangle Stilt Dancer Mask, Cote D'Ivoire




Dan Deangle Chief Dancers Conductor Headdress Mask Cote D'Ivoire








Old Grebo Kru 6 eyed Mask, Liberia Dan


Old Grebo Kru 6 eyed Mask, Liberia Dan

Dan Kran Kaogle Mask | Liberia








EBOLA, 2014 by Joe Pollitt
















Monday, 15 December 2014

Modigliani and his African Connection with Fang People of Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon.

Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (Italian pronunciation: [ameˈdɛo modiʎˈʎani]; July 12, 1884 – January 24, 1920) was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France and lived in Montparnasse, Paris at the beginning of the 20th Century. He is known for portraits and nudes in a modern style characterized by elongation of faces and figures.

Portrait of Léopold Zborowski, 1918


Source: Louvre in Paris

A return to the Louvre — or a long-awaited arrival


Ngil Mask | Fang People, Equatorial West Africa
Non-Western art has not always been absent from the Louvre. In 1827, under the reign of Charles X, the Louvre housed a maritime and ethnographic museum called the Musée Dauphin, where visitors could admire “exotic” pieces brought back by great explorers such as Cook and Lapérouse—objects regarded as mere “ethnographic specimens”. After Jules Ferry’s decision to separate “the history of traditions and customs from the field of art,” a museum of ethnography was created at the Trocadéro in 1878, to house the collections of the Musée Dauphin, the Musée de Saint-Germain-en Laye, the Bibliothèque Nationale, and the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève. At that time, aesthetic considerations were overlooked in favor of scientific value.


In 1905-1906, artists in the avant-garde 
Ngil Mask | Fang People, Equatorial West Africa
(Fauves, Cubists, Expressionists, etc) encouraged a shift in attitudes to what they called “negro art” (including African and Oceanic art). In 1909, Apollinaire expressed his desire that the Louvre should present “certain exotic masterpieces that are no less moving than the finest specimens of Western statuary.” Similar declarations were made throughout the century; Claude Lévi-Strauss, for example, declared in 1943, “The day is surely not far away when collections from distant parts of the world will leave ethnographic museums to take up their rightful place in art museums,” and in 1969, in his work entitled “L’intemporel”, André Malraux foresaw the arrival of negro art in the Louvre, asserting that many people shared this desire.

The Fang People of Equatorial West Africa
Source: The History of Fang Masks

Ngil Mask | Fang People, Equatorial West Africa
The Fang people used masks in their secret societies. Members of this male society wore the Ngil masks during the initiation of new members and the persecution of wrongdoers. Masqueraders, clad in raffia costumes and attended by helpers, would materialize in the village after dark, illuminated by flickering torchlight.

The Fang tribe are spread over a vast area along the Atlantic coast line of equatorial Africa and can be found in Cameroon equatorial Guinea and Gabon namely along the bank of the Ogowe river.
Masks, such as those worn by itinerant troubadours and for hunting and punishing sorcerers, are painted white with facial features outlined in black. Typical are large elongated masks covered with kaolin and featuring a face that was usually heart-shaped with a long fine nose. Apparently it have been linked with the dead, since white is their color. The Ngontang dance society also used white masks, sometimes in the form of a four-sided helmet shape with bulging forehead and eyebrows in heart-shaped arcs.  The So, or red antelope, was connected with initiation that lasted several months, the masks used during this ritual had long horns. Passport masks, were attached to arms of the maskers.

This great rain forest region in the Fang territory is a plateau of middle altitude, with innumerable waters with falls and rapids rendering navigation for the most part impossible, and with a climate typically equatorial. 


Ngil Mask | Fang People, Equatorial West Africa
History: They are principally hunters but also agriculturists. Their social structure is based on a clan, a group of individuals with a common ancestor. The ensemble of Fang peoples practice a cult devoted to ancestor lineages, the bieri, whose aim is to both protect themselves from the deceased and to recruit and aid in matters of daily life. This familial cult does not monopolize the Fang’s religious universe, for it coexists with other beliefs and rituals of a more collective character. 

Ngil Mask | Fang People, Equatorial West Africa

The bieri, gave rise to remarkable wooden sculpture. The bieri, or ancestor figure, would be consulted when the village was to change location, or when a new crop was planted, during a palaver, or before going hunting, fishing, or to war. But once separated from the reliquary chest, the sculpted object would lose its sacred value and could be destroyed. The ritual consisted of prayers, libations, and sacrifices offered to the ancestor, whose scull would be rubbed with powder and paint each time. With its large head, long body, and short extremities, the Fang bieri had the proportion of a newborn, thus emphasizing the group’s continuity with its ancestor and with the three classes of the society: the “not-yet-born,” the living, and the dead. The relics were essentially skull fragments, or sometimes complete skulls, jawbones, teeth and small bones. The bieri also served for therapeutic rituals and, above all, for the initiation of young males during the great So festival. 

Chinua Achebe Talk On Conrad's Heart of Darkness 

Quote: "But more important by far is the abundant testimony about Conrad's savages which we could gather if we were so inclined from other sources and which might lead us to think that these people must have had other occupations besides merging into the evil forest or materializing out of it simply to plague Marlow and his dispirited band. For as it happened, soon after Conrad had written his book an event of far greater consequence was taking place in the art world of Europe. This is how Frank Willett, a British art historian, describes it: 

Ngil Mask | Fang People, Equatorial West Africa
Gaugin had gone to Tahiti, the most extravagant individual act of turning to a non-European culture in the decades immediately before and after 1900, when European artists were avid for new artistic experiences, but it was only about 1904-5 that African art began to make its distinctive impact. One piece is still identifiable; it is a mask that had been given to Maurice Vlaminck in 1905. He records that Derain was 'speechless' and 'stunned' when he saw it, bought it from Vlaminck and in turn showed it to Picasso and Matisse, who were also greatly affected by it. Ambroise Vollard then borrowed it and had it cast in bronze. . . The revolution of twentieth century art was under way! 

Ngil Mask | Fang People, Equatorial West Africa
The mask in question was made by other savages living just north of Conrad's River Congo. They have a name too: the Fang people, and are without a doubt among the world's greatest masters of the sculptured form. The event Frank Willett is referring to marks the beginning of cubism and the infusion of new life into European art, which had run completely out of strength.
The point of all this is to suggest that Conrad's picture of the people of the Congo seems grossly inadequate even at the height of their subjection to the ravages of King Leopold's lnternational Association for the Civilization of Central Africa. 

Ngil Mask | Fang People, Equatorial West Africa



Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne in a Black Hat


Tsogo Mask | Bwiti People from Gabon
Tsogo masks are controlled by the Bwiti men's initiation society. The masks represent supernatural beings, each type has its own name and symbolism. They are used in initiation ceremonies and share the kaolin white surface with their Gabon neighbours, the Fang, Punu and Kwele. Check out blog: Trip Down Memory Lane


Lunia Czechowska with her left hand on her cheek 


Portrait of a Lady
Ngil Mask | Fang People, Equatorial West Africa
 





The Ngil Mask of the Fang and Amedeo Modigliani By Barbara Steinberg

The Ngil Mask of the Fang and Amedeo Modigliani By Barbara Steinberg 
 
 The Fang were once an itinerant people, whose animist cult, bieri, was devoted to ancestor worship. Their statues had reliquary boxes attached, which the Fang carried with them. Without a reliquary box, a statue lost its power.


They had a secret society called Ngil (gorilla), accessible only to men. Its purpose was to initiate new members and persecute adulterers, thieves, debtors, poisoners, and those who dealt with society disrespectfully. The Ngil mask, painted with white kaolin to invoke the power of the deceased, represented a horrific spirit designed to eradicate evil. The character would appear suddenly in the dark, illuminated by torchlight. It was a terrifying experience.

 When the Europeans came, especially English, Dutch, and French traders in the 16th Century, the Fang mostly settled in Equitorial Guinea, Cameroon, and Gabon. In 1910 Gabon became part of French Equatorial Africa, which was when French colonial officers banned the Ngil mask.


However, through colonial trade ships, African art reached France.

African masks and sculpture became attendant muses to Cubism. As Picasso, a noted collector, pioneered the movement with Georges Braque from 1910 to 1920, European artists paid no attention to the original cultural significance. They were only interested in integrating African art’s simple forms, bold lines, and open designs into their own philosophy.


One of the artists most deeply influenced was Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920). In 1909, an ambitious art dealer named Paul Guillaume wanted him to try sculpture, so he became Constantin Brancusi’s apprentice for a year. After Brancusi introduced him to African sculpture, Modigliani rejected Art Nouveau and Impressionism. Instead, he painted studio portraits with a Cubist palette of black, browns, greys, off-whites, red ochre, and burnt sienna. His style was unique.


There may never have been a Modigliani face had he not seen the Ngil masks of the Fang people of Gabon.


Indeed, Modigliani’s sculpture, “Tête,” shown at the 1912 Cubist exhibit in the Salon d’Automne, sold at Christie’s for $52.6 million on June 14, 2010.


So we have yet another story of African design being banned by European colonialists determined to replace indigenous culture with Christianity, exploit natural resources, engage in the slave trade, and conquer land, while European artists interpreted the same objects and advanced Western intellectual history.

Ngil Mask | Fang People, Equatorial West Africa


Female Head 1911-12 Tate





Ngil Mask | Fang People, Equatorial West Africa




Stone Figure Head 1912







Friday, 12 December 2014

Francis Bacon and his African Connection to Congo

Here we can take a look at Francis Bacon's Portraits in connection with Mbangu Sickness Masks from the Pende people from the Democratic Republic of Congo.