The Black Sphinx is the title-metaphor that refers to Africa, a continent that, at the south of Egypt and its wonders (including the famous Sphinx), still apppears “black” and unknown at the beginning of the twentieth century. This exhibition draws inspiration from the book written by Mario Appelius “La Sfinge Nera. Dal Marocco al Madagascar” and published in the 1920s, after the First World War. The story tells about the discovery of Africa through a journey of European and American explorers aimed at knowing the continent with its wealth and trade opportunities, verifying the health situation in the various states, carrying out searches on botany, exploring races and cultures, and knowing the varied political situations, in order to be able to write journalistic reports or simply report them to their governments. This very heterogeneous and quite large group of scientists, doctors, journalists, political consultants, captained by Italians, starts this journey from North Africa with various means of transport (from caravans of animals, to ships, to trains - wherever railways existed) partly by land and partly by sea, then arrives, after a long wandering in South Africa and in Madagascar. Throughout the journey, well described by the author with a brilliant post-decadent narrative style, the magic and fascination of this continent are evoked, then followed by multiple stories: meetings, visits to villages, attendances at ceremonies, talks with authorities of territories, whether it deals with wild sovereigns or government officials, as you get to politically more advanced states (such as South Africa).
On the basis of this story-journey, we investigate Africa in terms of the results achieved by the latest artist's experiences from Morocco to Madagascar, as the book's subtitle says, we would encounter too if we wanted to Make a journey to discover Africa in terms of artistic research and evolution of visual arts.
Behind the mystery of such a great territory made of practices, traditions and conflicts so far from us, there is a new contribution to contemporary art resulting from the experiences of some artists. It is original, full of fascination and secular magic and strong in its own connotation, thanks to the unconventional ideas and researches that make the art of these authors strongly innovative.
As a result, some artists end up drawing on African textile tradition in order to realize modern tapestries both descriptive and abstract ones (Abdoulaye Konaté, Hassan Musa, Emo de Medeiros), instead of other ones who get their inspiration from disused resources that can be few available remains used to create stunning artistc objects with the recycling approach (Moffat Takadiwa), or fashion newspaper clippings combined to create modern collage mosaics on canvas (Vitshois Mwilambwe Bondo).
The exhibition presents also a more conceptual perspective with artists from Morocco (Mounir Fatmi) and Tunisia (Nidhal Chameck, Yesmine Benkhelil), usual to the European school thanks to France, the port of entry where they have spent a long time, living and facing up to a different reality.
The same goes for the other end, South Africa, where there are artists who use more sophisticated languages, close to north African experiences (Rowan Smith, Cameron Platter).
The scenario is very heterogeneous, full of artists whose experiences are not to be seen as alternatives but as complementary and mutually enhancing ones. They contribute to give us a slice of a world where the hunting ground has turned into a ground that conquers us through art.