Ivory Coast: Abobo at the time of art for all - Jeune Afrique

Ivory Coast: Abobo at the time of art for all – Jeune Afrique

The crush of the roundabout of Mairie-d’Abobo, one of the most populated municipalities in the district of Abidjan, has given way since mid-January to a huge construction site. Workers are busy building an interchange, which is part of the Emergency Plan for the municipality of Abobo (Puca), initiated in 2017 by former Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly. Since then, several infrastructure, development and security projects have been planned to revitalize the town and restore its image.

Around the same roundabout, opposite the town hall, a dark gray building contrasts with the scene. On its facade, an inscription in white letters: Museum of Contemporary Cultures Adama-Toungara (MuCAT). Built on an area of ​​3,500 m2 and imagined by the Ivorian architect Issa Diabatéthe MuCAT bears the hallmark of its designer: an uncluttered interior, natural light and ventilation – thanks to openings and large glass surfaces – and greenery.

Wring neck to prejudice

From the entrance hall, the visitor is welcomed by the imposing sculpture The Three Ages of Ivory Coast, created in 1972 by visual artist Christian Lattier. It’s quite a symbol. After being removed from Félix-Houphouët-Boigny Airport in 2001, at the time of its renovation work, this work will not be installed at the MuCAT until 2021, after its restoration, to which the Toungara foundation for art and culture contributed.

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Opened in March 2020, the Mucat is a private establishment, a member of the International Council of Museums. It is also the first establishment entirely devoted to contemporary art in the Ivory Coast. Its founder, Adama Toungara, is an art collector and political heavyweight. Special adviser to Félix Houphouët-Boigny between 1981 and 1993, he also advised Alassane Ouattara. First boss of Petroci and the Ivorian Refining Company, then oil minister and Energy (2011-2017), he has been the mediator of the Republic since April 2018. Above all, he was the mayor of the municipality of Abobo for more than fifteen years, from 2001 to 2017, and says he created the MuCAT to allow the population of the municipality to access culture and to dispel prejudices. To give a better image of Abobo.

“When people haven’t entered it, they wonder about the usefulness of a museum in Abobo and wonder if it shouldn’t be better to set up an industrial activity,” says Fodé Sylla, deputy director of cultural and artistic services of MuCAT. But as soon as they cross the barrier, they realize the importance of having this building in the municipality, because, in addition to the museum, there is a library, a media library and a conference room, which accommodates training sessions and general meetings of associations. »

The sculpture “Ethiopian”, by Carine Mansan, is exhibited as part of “Memoria: stories from another story”. © Issam Zejly for JA

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Since its opening, with the pan-African traveling exhibition “Lend me your dream”the MuCAT has made Abobolais its preferred target by setting up activities around exhibitions (theatre, storytelling, performances by artists, etc.) with schools and local associations. “The idea is to make it easier for the general public to understand contemporary art and to try to pass on certain codes to them,” continues Fodé Sylla. Result: 60% of visitors are residents of the municipality, and local residents have also taken ownership of the museum – their association organized an activity during which they cleaned the building and its surroundings.

18,000 visitors in 2021

If it had to close a few days after its inauguration because of the Covid-19 pandemic, since its reopening in August 2020, the Mucat has offered a variety of exhibitions. From July 10 to September 5, 2021, he organized the exhibition “Abidjan Street Act, from the street to MuCAT”, which highlighted about fifteen graffiti artists, painters and visual artists from Abidjan. In particular, one could see works by the artist Obou Gbais, some of whose frescoes adorn the facades of buildings in Abobo as part of the operation Abobo ê zo (“Abobo is beautiful”), launched in July 2020 by Hamed Bakayoko, then mayor from the community. In 2021, the museum welcomed nearly 18,000 visitors.

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From the beginning of April until August 21, visitors can see “Memoria: Tales from Another History” free of charge in the museum’s large exhibition hall. Initially presented in Bordeaux from February to November 2021, the exhibition was part of the “women’s focus” of the Africa2020 cultural season. At MuCAT, she was enriched by the work of six Ivorian artists: Joana Choumali, Lafalaise DionCarine Mansan, Marie-Claire Messouma Manlanbien, Rachel Marsil and Valerie Oka. They express themselves through video performances, sculptures, paintings, embroidery, drawings, etc.

The MuCAT media library, in May 2022. © Issam Zejly for JA.

The MuCAT media library, in May 2022. © Issam Zejly for JA.

For now, the museum has no permanent collection. But he has just made his first acquisition: a set of sculptures by Gouro artist Jems Robert Koko Bi was installed in one of the gardens. Also placed in the courtyard, opposite the cafeteria, a gbaka (“minibus”) serves as places of expression for graffiti artists, who are regularly invited to of the performance.

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