Thursday, 24 February 2011

Journey from Douala to Dak'Art 2006


Goddy Leye and Artists from the West:

27/03/06 departure from Douala
The group travels by bus to Limbe/Cameroon where they will catch the ship to Calabar after a night’s cruise. Because ofthe general census in Nigeria  the previous week, everything is overbooked and th ship is disturbingly full. The routers spend the night in the shipyard .
28/03/06 departure for Calabar
The exit routers take a taxi at 5 A.M to the small town of Idenau where they manage to get seats in a « flying boat »
We finally leave at 11 AM.
Arrival in Calabar in the evening. The artists despite their efforts and the help of a few people fail to locate the immigration office supposed to be on the beach. The night is spent in a hotel close to the beach.
29/03/06 departure for Lagos
This morning, the efforts are fruitful and the pasports are stamped after long negociations.
· The exit routers take off for a night ride to Lagos.   On our way we are asked in a very impolite way to switch off our cell phones and our electronic devices. We are taken aback  by  this strange way of talking to customers. But all the other passengers seemed OK. Then we were told that it was a security mesure. So all the Nigerians in the bus knew  it. .
Late that night, in the middle of  nowhere the convoi of  buses is stopped by a police patrol. A systematic search follows
Later on all the buses are halted anew and no explanation is provided. Some two hours are thus spent in the heart of darkness. Then some passengers explain that armed robbers were spotted ahead and that the military went to free the way.
A convoi of heavily armed soldiers coming from the opposite direction told us we could move as the way has been cleared.
The trip continued with no other incident apart from a few narrowly escaped accidents.
Arrival in Lagos early  in the morning. Horns, loud speakers delivering all sorts of messages, motor boys shouting the destination of their « mami wagons », noices of tired exhaust pipes welcome all the passengers to Fela Kuti’s land.
30/03/06 arrival in Lagos
Doris, informed by Justine arrives to meet us at USA park surulere and takes us to her flat at Maryland. This actress,model and make up artist is simply put, a wonderful person, surrounded by equally sweet family relatives and friends. Needless to say that the stay in Lagos turned out to be a fairy tale.
One can hardly imagine that prior to our arrival to Lagos we only knew Doris through her voice.
Doris and Isioma  are the angels one should be blessed to meet.

31/03/06 arrival in Cotonou
Hidden tears, swiftly wiped, promises, advices, separation …
The newly born family parts, first at maryland then at Oshody where the exit tourers boad a mini bus to Ogbolo/Benin via Ajegule/Nigeria. In Ajegule the group crosses the boarder through a path in the bush. Surprisingly  numerous « controls »  paved the way. Naira bills flew and landed in mysterious hands coming out of the bush.
Then suddently, signboards in french are everywhere. « You are in Benin » say the « acada » boys.
Taxi to Cotonou. Everyone is happy...
01/04/06 begening of the workshop in Cotonou.
Half a dozen of local visual artists, most of them very talented and curious, join the exit tourers to exchange views and skills in the week long workshop.
01/04/06 –7/04/06  workshop in Cotonou.
One week of intensive work, debates, and exchanges of all sorts . Performances, installations and paintings were displayed on Thursday the 6th and the public was invited to share the fruits of the workshop with the artists.
The artists from Benin are:
Anne Florence , Joel Dossou, Noel Zoccli, Roger Somegbe, Roland Bokos, Malabah, Deen,Bernard Ounsougan, Benjamin, Afiy Smith.
Simon Soha, Aston, Adogra,Tchief, Bamouss were ressource artists for the Cotonou workshop.

7/04/06  departure for Lomé.
After a short farewell designed to spare some tears, the group takes off for Lomé with two artists from Cotonou in the car. Others pledged to follow. So the workshop in Lomé is likely to be more international that earlier thought of.
8-9/04/06  Week-end in Lomé.
Preparatory meetings for the workshop.  Inspite of the voiced desire of the participants for a peaceful week end, meetings are organised in order to  set everything in moton before the first official meeting with local artists.
· Introductory meeting with the managing team of the Denigba Cultural Centre. A presentation of the Exit Tour project is followed by an introduction into the runing of te cultural centre.
Afiy Smith arrives from Cotonou in the evening
Meeting with Togolese artist KIKOKO . The workshop has already begun...
Meeting about the Cotonou workshop.
10-14/04/06  Workshop in Lomé.
Introdoctory meeting on Monday te 10th.
The following day the artists are split into two groups. One dealing with performance art and directed by Dunja Herzog, the second revolving aroung critical analysis of participants’ works and approaches.
Performance workshop directed by Dunja Herzog with artists from Cameroon, Benin and Togo.
·Dunja’s worshop is built  on discussions about the understanding of performance art and physical exercises...
· The second worshop focussed on the critical analysis of participants works. This was a real opportunity even for Toglese artists to get to know each other’s approach to art better. This also offered a chance to talk about contemporary art and the art word.
Togolese artists in the workshop were:
Enyo Dackey, alice d’Almeida, M. Traore, AholouAgbe, Dos Major Congeorges, Jean Sewonou, Eza Komla, Azankpo, Edoh Lawson, Dauskings Amedome, juste Agoussi Ake, Amen Asogba
15/04/06  Departure for Accra.
Broken hearts, shed tears, as usual, pledges to keep in touch… Then the exit tourers board an air conditionned van , it does happen, en route to Accra.… Bernard who has decided to accompany us accross the border into Ghana can now go back to Cotonou.
· The group reaches Accra in the evening and goes directly to a hotel with an American name found in our tourist’s guide book. The fame of the place seems far fetched as it is apears to us that  it offers other services that we are not interested in. So, after some unbelievable discussions we are allowed to go to a different place that would suit our needs and budget.
Though there may be no connection between the exit tourers  and any royal lineage, we are lodged at the Crown Prince hotel, down town Accra.
16-17/04/06  Easter hollidays in Accra.
Everybody is in a festive mood and naturally web cafés are closed… The beach is full and reads LA beach! Los Angeles beach? One would be tempte to say given that the hole place is invaded by Coca Cola’ merchandizing power. But no, its simply LA beach in LA neighbourhood.
18/04/06  Studio visit .
After the Burkina Faso Embassy; the exit tourers go to  Agbogbo to visit master KOFFI SETORJI in his studio. ARTHAUS. Unforgettable moments with the artist enlightening us about his work, life and projects as well as his understanding of the workings of the art world… We learned more about his workshops and residency programmes. We also learned alot about riding Accra’s mini buses…
· In the evening, on or way back from Setorji’s Arthaus, we went to the Du Bois centre, where is located the FCA
( Foundation for Contemporary Art) and were blessed with first hand information about Accra’s art scene and its main protagonists.
19-21/04/06  Africa Unite !
The Exit Tour team strikes in the night by posting bills with stylised images of the group on targeted walls in the city. It is like an attempt by these image makers to put themselves into the PICTURE. Stikers are made with same logo in order to be shared with people we meet.
· A scheduled meeting is held at the FCA with Ghanean visual artists. Presentation of the project and of the FCA are followed by discussions on the art scene in Cameroon and in Ghana.
After the FCA meeting the exit tourers go for an evening studio visits in the heart of Accra, feeling the beats of the city’s creativity. Artists Massok, Akirash, and Dawson   are the kind guides.
Discussions about art, art scenes, artists, exhibitions, the public, institutional support, private patronage… follow with artists Massok and Akirash
· Pledges…
22nd April departure for Ouagadougou
Tireless Akirash and Victor Massok take us to the bus station. The bus announced for 1pm finally leaves at 4:30 for an unforgatable journey inside Ghana. After Kumassi, the driver, took the wrong road and we are treated to a forced safari inside Ghana. In addition, the lorry has mechanical problems and we have to stop every mile for the motor boy to rush, fetch some water and pour it into the tank. The performance will last a whole night and two thirds of the next day. Then we see a signboard with Kitampo mentioned on it. We are relieved. But this is short lived as a look at our map reveals that Kitampo is only half way to the frontier and we are already half a day late to the scheduled arrival at Paga and four hours late to our planned arrival in Ouagadougou.
But remember, we are only heading to Kipompo.

Needless to say that we spent the night in this small but busy town and could only catch another bus to Ouagadougou, the following night. Departure at 10 PM. The other 40 passengers or so had been transferred earlier on on a smaller ageing bus. We refused to take another chance. We could be 5 days late in Ouagadougou... 
April 22, arrival in Ouagadougou
The group arrives Ouagadoudou at midday. Abou Sidibé welcomes everybody and takes the nomads to his place. Arrangements have been made for the artists to stay at Salif Namoin's place.
April 22-26exchanges in Ouagadougou
The stay is short but intense. The programme include visits of cultural centes galeries and private initiatives. Local artists open their studios...
April 27, departure for BamakoLong and tiresome trip to Bamako. Everybody is exhausted. But the way to Dakar is still long. Fortunately, there is some energy produced by the encounters that gives added strenght to the nomad artists.
29th April, arrival in Bamako
Very early in the morning, the group arrives at the bus station in Bamako.
Hama Goro, the director of Centre Soleil d'Afrique, personnally welcomes his friends.

April 29th -May 4th , exchanges in BamakoThe exit tourers are welcomed at Hotel Kountena, partner of Centre Soleil d'Afrique. The place is compfortable and helps relax before the next trip. In theory. In practice however, there is a lot of work to be done here, ahead of Dakar and there is equally a lot of grounwork to be carried out in order to buid a solid foundation for the Bamako -Douala axis, to be managed by Centre Soleil d'Afrique and ArtBakery.
In addition the group will visit Amsyl's studio (Amara Sylla), where a bunch of international artists are hanging out. Billy Bidjocka, Martha Caracosa, Ananias Leki, Ckeik Diallo, Mamadou 
Diane, to name but a few, are there. An international show is being set up Downtown with Africa Remix's curator Simon Njami.
The visiting artists go to the former rail station warehouse turned into an exhibtion space.Many visits will prvide and insight into the works being developped. Informal exchanges followd with organisers and curator.
A visit to the Higher School of Arts (Conservatoire desArts et des Metiers Multimedia) reveals a magnificent project supported by the state and which is intended to expand and become a regional institute. Hope they gain all the required support.
A quick visit to the national meuseum showed a real willingness to have public quality cultural instutions in the country. 

May 4th, departure for Dakar

An attempt to get a visa at the Senegalese Embassy failed. A second attempt equally failed with no strong reason. In fact, based on the same documents, the visa is given to Dunja Herzog (with a Swiss passport) but refused to the six Camerounian artits of Exit Tour. And the opening of the biennial is close. As nobody is willing to provide us with adequate information at the Embassy, the group decides to go to Kayes where there is a consulate...
At around 10 PM, the ageing bus supposed to take us to Dakar via Kayes decides to find its way through the traffic of central Bamako, 
en route for Dak'art 2006.
2days later, the group arrives Kayes. Too late, the consul has travelled out of town and will not be back before sunday night. We are then told, it would be possible with the immigration office just like in all the immigratio posts on our long way to Bamako. This will prove wrong...
We will be asked manu militar to get off the bus by a violent police officer who almost assaulted us physically as well as he verbally abused Dunja in Wolof. He could not imagine that some passengers would happilly do some translation work for us. Then the six cameroonian artists are sent back to Mali...
May 6- 7, travel back to Bamako.
Everybody is tired, angry and bitter about African integration and all the great speaches about African unity...
To be expelled from one's own land is beyond anything describable. One begins to have doubts about being African...
The Idea of Africa...
You are Cameroonian and you need a visa to get into this country... I am only doing my job, bla bla bla...
May 7th, arrival in Bamako.
Dunja arrives Dakar where the entire Exit Tour is awaited. But she is the only representative of the group to have arrived the final destination at this point. Ironivally enough, she the only one with a non African passport...
Everybody is surprised to hear over the phone that we are returning to Bamako. This is an anoying situation for just everyone. Hama Goro is both sad (for us) and happy to see us again... Ada, Justine's friend is shocked and rushes to see us. Strategies are developped for the next day...
The whole procedure has to be started anew with no garantee whatsoever that we will have our visas in time to reach Dakar before the end of major events, that is, before the 15th of May.
Three days and three nights have thus been spent on the road, in terrible conditions, i.e. no possibility to have a bath... to no avail.
May 8-11th, Visa struggle in Bamako.

to no avail.
Various attempts by different people to sort out the problem fail. Then came he light. The nomad artists could have done without disturbing their exellencies, the Ministers of Culture of Mali and of Senégal, for a simple question of visa. But they had no choice here.A nd the Ministers took the matter seriously.
In short, the Secretary General of the biennial sends by fax an official invitation as required by the Consulate. The visa is refused without reason. The Secretary General is immidiately informed of the situation and the Ministers of Culture of Mali and Senegal are equally informed.This is followed by a rain of phone calls at the Embassy from various places ... 

11th of May , VISA.
Officials at the Consulate are taken aback by the calls enquiring on the issue. They finally give up struggling and give the visa that will allow the nomad artists to go to Dakar.
It is Bob Marley's anniversary. He who sang "Buffalo Soldier" ... 

May 12 , departure for Dakar.
Gaga and Alioum have succeeded in purchaising seats on a good bus for Kayes the next day. Departure time 8 A.M There are chances to get to the border before 7PM, when it closes.
That would be possible if the exit tourers reach Kayes in time and immediately catch a car for Dakar. People say it wil be possible but the artists hardly believe, given their last experience. In fact, in Kayes, there is no car available at this time to go straight to Dakar. Understandable. If the boarder closes at 7..
Different strategy. A mini-bus takes people to the border where it could be possible to get a car for Dakar. Dibolo is some one hundred kilometer away. The bus full to capacity is old and visibly is in pain dealing with the burden. The speed of the old mini bus makes it clear that it would have been wiser to spend the night in Kayes in better condition. Obviously it is going to be stopped at the border and everybody would have to stay there till 6 AM.
These prospects haunt the artists for almost two hours then everyone is relieved. The border is ahead . The hope is short lived as a loud bang similar to the sound of a tyre puncture reminds the artists of the reality. They have a flat tire !
Achilleka, Gaga and Alioum immidiately drop and cross the border, one kilometer away by foot with all the passports so they can be stampted. Sound decision. The others stay in the van to take care of the luggages.
A few minutes later, the van is back on the road and the nomads can cross the border, since they are all officially out of Malil as the stamps on the passports can show.
A taxi is found to take the group to the police office in Diboli, from where the group was earlier on expelled. 
Everything goes smoothly, a different team is there. Stamps ! The entire Exit Tour team is in Senegal, officially.
There is one car ready and going straight to Dakar. It is a peugeot 505. Negociations. Agreements.Departure.
The landscape runs at high speed as Dakar gets closer.

13 mai , arrivée à Dakar.
Midday,heavy traffic jam.
Park, taxi, Novotel Hotel.
The exit tour team is complete. 


Dak'art my love.
Many people have gone, full of colours, forms, shapes and discourses on contemporary art, misconceptions... But a few curators are still around. A few artists as well.
Discussions, exchanges, contacts...
Barbara Muray and some other curators have lengthy talks with the artists.
Achilleka and Goddy Leye meet Mr. Ousseynou Wade who expresses his admiration and interest for the project. The exit tour team thanks the Secretary Ge neral for his precious help in solving the visa problem.
The nomad artists congratulate Bill Kouélany and Guy Wouete, former residents at ArtBakery .
Tour of galeries and exhibition spaces.
Meeting with Ms Andrea Jacob Sow, former director of the Goethe Institute Yaoundé and current director of the german cultural centre in Dakar.
Press conference at the Goethe Institut thursday 18th of May. The Secretary General of the biennial is there with Ms Marina Calvani art curator at the World Bank. The press conference turned into a round table.
.Thursday 18th May 2006, departure for Douala

TheVirgin Nigeria flight is in time. Departure time is 12:50 AM. Registration starts at 8 PM.
Early afternoon, 19th May, the damp hot air of Douala welcomes the crew. 
Bonendale is the final destination.
Sunday May 21, 2006
Preparatory meeting for the stay in Douala. The group decides to hire an appartment in the Bali neighbourhood in Douala. As in all the countries visited, Exit Tour will spend a week meeting artits and art lovers and sharing ideas. The week's stay will end with an "exhibition" recounting the whole trip. 
22-23 May, searching for space in Douala
Two interesting places are found. One is an old night club and the other is a nice appartment in Bali, a peaceful neighbourhood in Douala. Finally the appartement is chosen. The Exit Tour team holds an informal meeting in a road side restaurant where they have avocado salads. They reshape the world as usual, inspite of the expected tiredness. Future holds prospects in stock and this fuels their energy an will. .
May 28, 2006, Dak'Art OFF in Douala 
Preparatory work lasted some five days. Relocating Dak'art OFF is not an easy task. Furhermore, Thursday is a public holliday. There is a serious threat tat people would go on week end out of town and that the turn out will be poor. Anyway, nobody does an opening a week-end in Douala. It is a well known fact. Dak'art OFF ...
DONGAMEN is the name for the show in Douala. The entire Exit Tour team is invited for the cultural program "Calebasse" on Swelaba FM, a local radio. One hour of crazy ideas and laughter but also of very serious matters: art, art production and reception, promotion, art scenes...
15 ours, Sunday, invitees arrive in numbers. Unbelievable. Is it really a Sunday afternoon in Douala? Dak'art OFF is apparently very successful in Douala. Pictures of the show should be sent to Dakar to give an idea of the Dak'art OFF in Douala.
Videos, paintings, texts, drawings are posted or installed on walls or floors. The keetchen , the bathrooms, the bedrooms, the parlour... are transformed into a White Cube telling the story of seven artists who went from Cameroon to Senegal by sea and by road, to participate in Dak'art 2006.
The show is wonderful: the last invitees leave at 10 PM. The opening of DONGAMEN has lasted 7 hours, a Sunday afternoon in Douala !!! 

Here are some photos of the trip:




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