11-13. June 2006
Bartelemi Togo – Barthélémy Toguo
„We are all in permanent transit. This is a notion inherent to man living in the 20th and 21st century. The colour of one’s skin is insignificant: whether white, black or yellow, everybody is potentially exiled, being driven by an engine called travel, consequently becoming a migrant.“ These words belong to Barthelemy Toguo, a Cameroonian artist, exhibiting at the Museum of African Art in Belgrade, 11 thru 13 June. His programme is part of the “Coloured world” project initiated by Mihael Milunovic and the Museum of African Art. The goal of the project is to introduce a number of internationally acclaimed foreign contemporary artists to the Belgrade and Serbian public.
Ever since the beginning of the nineties Toguo has been living between France, Germany and Cameroon. As many other artists of our time, he is constantly on the move, from one continent to another, participating in numerous exhibitions and biennales. Travelling has become a certain way of life, a modus vivendi for this artist, and the many encounters are a source of inspiration, which enable him to appraise the experience of others against his own cultural background and art experience.
During a three year period (1996-1999) Toguo enacted a series of performances named Transit(s), based on lingering/enduring stereotypes which are attributed to the foreigner / outsider. These performances took place at airports, train stations and state borders, in other words places of travel. The purpose of the performances was overcoming and crossing boundaries, while tackling social biases and breaking down the clichés which maintain the rift between the West and the non-West world. “I couldn’t put up any longer with custom-officers and their meticulous controls which have a foundation in racial prejudice and preconceived notions. I decided to provide them with an opportunity for exercising their searching talent and to make them realize the absurdity of their own clichés.“ Since then, the artist, that is „too black for his passport“, has been coming up with all sorts of small surprises during his transit(s): carrying impenetrable suitcases made of massive blocks of wood or ammunition belts filled with candies, dressing himself in a Parisian trash collector’s uniform during his travel in a prestigious first class wagon.
An extremely prolific and versatile artist who works in various media (watercolor, drawing, photography, video, sculpture, installation, performance), he has realized numerous exhibitions, and an has, rightly, been named by art critics one of the most dynamic contemporary African artists on the international art scene today.