Embodied Ghost


Within various Western museums and collections, 90 to 95% of the tangible artistic heritage of sub-Saharan Africa is held hostage. The majority of these objects were collected under problematic circumstances (looting, sacking, marauding, pillaging, etc.). Removed from their original ecologies, their absence has created a rupture in the internal dynamics of the societies concerned. Because, beyond their aesthetic value, they belonged to ecosystems in constant renewal. In the course of their history of passage through the world, they have been subjected to multiple external perspectives of appreciation, the majority of them were disparaging in view of their formal characteristics that do not defer to the criteria of European art. And, for several centuries, they were not considered as works of art but rather as ethnographic material: proof of the undeveloped way of life and character of these peoples. These alternative interpretations have been perpetuated throughout time and geography, creating a logic where is right the modern, is left the traditional; the universal is right, the particular is left; is right the language, is left the dialect; is right the people, is left the tribe; is right religion, is left belief or superstition(Seloua Luste Boulbina).

Embodied Ghost fits within the framework of a long-term curatorial proposal initiated in 2018, which is a research including inquiring and collaboration between art historians, artists, musicians and curators. Its ambition is to transcribe and translate other kinds of knowledge through encoding and decoding objects. By collaboration between people from different geographies it also shows the value of cultural encounters (western and non-western), as these objects could be considered today as objects of the diaspora. The proposal creates a platform where imagination, reality, material, nature and history meet around a single non-western artefact (material or not) present outside of its original ecology in a museum or in a private collection in the one side, and in the other side less present or almost absent from its original environment. Because, as has been demonstrated in numerous studies and as held by Engelbert Mveng in Art et Artisanat Africains( Ed Clé, 1980), an African art object alone is a collection of epigraphy, which needs to be decoded, and which opens a conversation on different worlds. This process will also takes into consideration the entirety system/assemble of the object to which the object belongs. Because, as Jean Paul Notue maintains, a single object is itself a “total art”. As the same object is at the same time a sculpture, a painting, an architecture but also a philosophical argument, a story telling, an aesthetic point of view etc.

The first experience of Embodied Ghost is  invites different expertises around one specific object: the Nyatti mask. This people were chosen because of their interest on defining ,deconstructing, translating  and transmitting knowledge, but also by their artistic practice which include more or less the same kind of process.

PHOTO  CREDITS : Helen Kelhetter, Aude Mgba