|Ernest Duku | Et Dieu Crea La Pintade|
And God Created the Guinea Fowl
Western ideology is foreign to most parts of Africa in terms of seeing. Art in Africa is participatory, it is like the traditional religion of Voodoo/Voodou, it is the ephemeral for all to enjoy naturally in order to gain a sense of belonging. The beauty of a leaf, a tree, feathers from a bird, a footprint of an elephant on red soil or the cheetah’s majestic coat. Art is everywhere but in the West they have a vulgar way of caging and monetizing almost everything; be it their zoos, their water, light and air, even their walks to their workstations comes at a price. Western art is useless to Africa. It is alien and destined for deportation in every way. What is claimed as valuable is nonsense to most. Images on canvases, usually with factory manufactured oils or acrylics from China are then framed and heralded as Masterpieces by the academic world in their overpriced, high-walled, stuffy and archaic Institutions to which they belong. The ideas are presented perfectly, neatly framed, so too are the minds of the viewers. To the majority in Africa, these images are not seen naturally and therefore serve no purpose as Art, for at no point is there a sense of inclusion. It is more dictatorial with an unhealthy sense of superiority, often blended with a self-righteous ‘I told you so’ attitude attached. Art in Africa is a far more collective affair, a glue for a united community rather than a status symbol or a blinkered state of mind. The sense of sharing knowledge and giving the baton over to others is where Art lives but this generosity is rarely seen in the Art World. we are at a turning point in the History of African Art and never in history has there ever been a more important time to address these vital issues. In the works of Ernest Duku, Africa has a chance to show it's true strength and power.
|Early 20th Century Yoruba Divination Board|
Let us call upon the ancestors to show their force here with us on earth. We maybe many but we come from even greater stock and our full force has yet to be recognised. Far too often we are standing in the shadows, nervous we are not worthy of note but in reality we are what the world is aching for..bored of seeing the utter dribble shown in the name of Modern Art.
What and who are these Saints? These are our ancestors, our great noble past...good and bad.
Let us now focus on the artwork, Et Dieu Crea La Pintade | And God Created the Guinea Fowl and discuss it's makeup...The idea of art created with a frame is unnatural for Africa. To be contained in that framework makes no sense or nonsense to the majority and Ernest is well aware of these limited parameters..so he's taking his work out of the frame and making a whole new version of art in his own unique way..
That idea of water and immigration and overseas adventures...The idea of learning to float, learning to keep up with the sharks and swim with the fishes but in a good way..The idea of leaving the shallow-end and keeping afloat in the deep-end but the artist assures me that the material is his own invention. He tells me it is a mixture of paper, wood shavings and powder along with other secret materials. He blends them all together and creates a paste that is similar to the white plaster used on North African new builds. The paste is then shaped and left to harden in the sun and then once hardened Ernest then goes to work of shaping out his ideas around the mould with different coloured threds that binds the divination and holds the work together. The flashes of red in this piece denotes the sacrifice created and a Guinea Fowl is a very precious animal to give to the Gods...a prized bird indeed. The guinea fowl are a family of birds in the Galliformes order, although some authorities include the guinea fowl as a subfamily, Numidinae, of the family Phasianidae. So why the Guinea Fowl? The speckled hen...what is this bird? Where does it come from? The origins are West African and this spectatular bird is a symbol of safety in childbirth. The Guinea fowl is prized by the French…largely ignored by the British and is a bird of legend that has been used as food for thousands of years.
Thinking of Ms. Lauryn Hill and she's used a track from The SLITS. Perfect.