Article written

  • on 29.05.2014
  • at 03:00 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

Here Africa/2: Interview with Barthélémy Toguo 0

In Bandjoun, Cameroon, Barthélémy Toguo launched “Bandjoun Station”: a non-profit artistic project which combines culture and agriculture. His cultural initiative also offers a showcase for the protection of biodiversity, which is considered one of the challenges of sustainable development. Interview realised by Adelina von Furstenberg (Art for the World).

This artist is the sole investor in this multi-faceted project, which weaves fair and dynamic links between the group of resident artists and their hosts and takes part in the development of agriculture in order to help the local population from Band- joun to achieve food self-sufficiency.

As an african artist from the diaspora, you largely contributed to the cultural and agricultural development of Africa, particularly that of Cameroon. Can you tell me how this project was initiated?

Born in Cameroon, I became a student at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts of Abidjan in Ivory Coast, then I attended the École Supérieure d’Arts in Grenoble, France, and the Kunstakademie of Düsseldorf, in Germany.

Confronted with a double deadlock, being neither able to save the classical and contemporary artistic patrimony on the African continent nor to set up ambitious cultural projects, I decided to launch “Bandjoun Station”, a non-profit artistic project. The Africans of the diaspora are compelled to con-tribute to the development of the continent with the knowledge they have acquired in every field.

Why associate art and agriculture in a single context?

In order to develop and transcend this ambitious artistic and cultural site, I work in close partnership with the local community, promoting mixed projects, that is projects with both cultural and agricultural objectives. This is one aspect of environmental integration and social experimentation: it sets an example for the local youths. This initiative enables them to weave dynamic and fair links between the group of resident artists and their hosts, and demonstrates that it is essential to believe also in agriculture in order to reach food self-sufficiency. Finally, it is a strong political action in which our group fertilizes a coffee tree nursery, a critical act which amplifies the artistic act and denounces what, back in the 70s, Léopold Sédar Senghor called as “deterioration of the terms of exchange”, when the export prices imposed by the Global North penalize and impoverish our Southern farmers in the long run.

How would you characterize the art center and how will it fit into the world of contemporary art ?

“Bandjoun Station” is also a design workshop where my artistic colleagues may stay to create. They may reside in a creative space in situ at “Bandjoun Station House”: it accommodates artists and scientists from all over the world. They make projects for works in real time and for monumen- tal works which require vast spaces for their fabrication and installation. The resident artist gets to work in partnership with the local community and in harmony with the local en- vironment.

How would you characteristize your agricultural centre and how will it develop?

The agricultural project will enable us to be food self- sufficient with locally grown produce such as bananas, peanuts, corn, beans, manioc, cabbage and so on. It will es- sentially be a show-case for the critical project concerning north ⁄ south exchanges by placing on the market our finished product (coffee) wrapped in our own printed packaging in order to fix our own price on the open market.

What do you expect from the inhabitants of Band joun and the Cameroonian authorities?

My dream would be to see the inhabitants of Bandjoun extend the model of Bandjoun Station. I wish they abandoned monoculture and developed a dual agriculture: one for do- mestic subsistence, one for export instead of totally destroy- ing the coffee plants. As far as education is concerned, the Cameroonian authorities should introduce art instruction as early as at primary school level, because this would encour- age the children’s creativity from their early years. Most of all, the authorities should copy André Malraux’s idea and create Cultural Centers ⁄ Community Arts Centers in the ten provinces. To sum up, Cameroon should equip itself with a large number of active and innovative structures.

By Adelina von Fürstenberg – Art for the World

The publication of this interview is part of a partnership between Afronline and Art for the World, an NGO associated with the UNDPI (United Nations Department of Public Information). Its mission is to create, through the universal language of art a meaningful and enduring dialogue among diverse peoples, cultures, and world views in order to encourage tolerance and solidarity and to foster education as a human right.

From 6 May to 8 July, Art for The World assembles for the first time in Switzerland a unique collection of contemporary African art and performances including approximately 60 works of more than 26 interesting artists from the African continent. In partnership with the Swiss NGO, will publish opinions and interviews of the personalities involved in the exhibition.

More information on Here Africa 

subscribe to comments RSS

Comments are closed

P.IVA 11273390150
Direttore Responsabile Stefano Arduini