Mobile A2K

Culture and Safety in Africa

MAKING DOUALA 2007-2017. Travelling exhibition Triennial SUD – Salon Urbain de Douala: addressing public space in the city of Douala, Cameroon

June 25th – July 9th, 2017

Ausstellungsraum Klingental, Kasernenstrasse 23, 4058 Basel, Switzerland

MAKING DOUALA 2007-2017 explores the relationship between artistic production and urban transformation in Africa. It does so through the remarkable experience of SUD – Salon Urbain de Douala, an international triennial festival dedicated to public art that was inaugurated in 2007 in Douala, Cameroon, and that has brought a conspicuous number of Cameroonian and international artists to engage with communities of various neighborhoods and the public spaces these relate to in the city. All artworks are realized with local resources, thereby supporting local economies and integrating the projects in the local context. Beside their artistic aims and cultural relevance, these interventions have a strong social and political dimension, fostering the value of the public space and the sense of ownership by the interested communities, something that is not commonly found in African cities. Their impact on citizen’s views and perceptions of the city is significant, as shown by research assessing how culture affects safety and security in African cities, including Douala. The Basel exhibition is also an opportunity to share insights gained through these scientific investigations.

SUD – Salon Urbain de Douala

MAKING DOUALA 2007-2017 presents projects and events that have been realized for SUD in 2007, 2010 and 2013 as well as proposals collected for the forthcoming SUD 2017 edition, entitled “The Human Dimension” and planned to take place in December from the 5th to the 10th. SUD as a festival stems from the longtime commitment of doual’art, a non profit cultural organization and art center founded in Douala in 1991 by Didier Schaub and Marilyn Douala Bell, that is dedicated to new urban practices in African cities and to promoting public art. Projects realised for SUD pursue various objectives, including addressing the issue of collective cultural identity by re-installing historical awareness, undertaking infrastructural public interventions or providing inventive solutions to concrete problems, creating identity to areas, locations or places, and improving the public space through public events and shared experiences. SUD is carried out by doual’art in collaboration with ICU art projects, an international artistic project organization based in The Netherlands, & Lucas Grandin.

The travelling exhibition

MAKING DOUALA is a travelling exhibition meant to share with a wider audience the SUD festival achievements and the impact its public art projects have had in terms of urban transformation in Douala. It does so through posters, models, prints, drawings, video and films, documentaries, publications and multimedia installations – each project on its own terms and the overall exhibition in a way that takes into account and adapts to the artistic context of the hosting venue, including with site-specific initiatives. The exhibition in Basel builds on previous editions, that were presented at the 5th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, at Dak’art Dakar and Entrepot Fictief Ghent in 2012, and Gallery Paradise/Le Voyage à Nantes in 2013.

Learnings from Douala

Douala and its notable history of public art interventions have drawn the attention of the scientific community. Along with Luanda in Angola and Johannesburg in South Africa, the economic capital of Cameroon, a city of around 3 million inhabitants, marked by poverty and by fear of violence, criminality, forced evictions and natural disasters, has been at the center of a research project led by the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI), namely “Mobile Access to Knowledge: Culture and Safety in Africa. Documenting and assessing the impact of public art and cultural events on urban safety”. The investigation appraised how the very presence of artworks in public spaces have indeed an impact, both direct and indirect, in terms of urban safety. They convey the idea that the site is maintained and cared for, they may contribute to urban branding, and most significantly they can help create a shared space that people can strongly relate to. In the most effective cases they trigger humanity, ownership, empowerment, active citizenship, value and sense of pride – an effect that has been reported for artworks in passageways especially, while interventions in roundabouts and squares have a higher probability of being contested.

Within the same project another stream of research, conducted by Marta Pucciarelli, has assessed the relationship between online and offline urban representations in Douala. Its findings have inspired a new work by the Italian artist Roberto Paci Dalò, titled “Douala Flow”, which explores how the discrepancy between the still prevalent oral knowledge and the knowledge as progressively reflected in the digital realm is evolving over time. “Douala Flow”, which will premiere in Basel, is based on a series of dynamic maps that are linked to voices and sounds from radio stations in Douala as well as from the research interviews, celebrating today’s living city.

Curatorial team and scientific framework

Marilyn Douala Manga Bell, Kamiel Verschuren/Xandra Nibbeling/Lucas Grandin, Roberto Paci Dalò, Marta Pucciarelli, Fiona Siegenthaler and Iolanda Pensa.

MAKING DOUALA 2007-2017 in Basel is developed within the framework of Culture and Safety in Africa, a communication project by the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI), Department for Environment Constructions and Design, Laboratory of visual culture, in partnership with doual’art, ICU art projects & Lucas Grandin, Università della Svizzera Italiana (USI), University of Basel, with the support of SNF Agora Program.