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African traditional art is on display in Paris

Two major exhibitions of African art have recently opened their doors in prestigious Parisian venues. With the same purpose but different means, Vaudun: African Voodoo at the Fondation Cartier and Dogon at the Quai Branly explore the aesthetic of West African traditional art to point at its modernity. IntoFrench offers you a guided tour.

African Voodoo, the magic of the shape
Do not look for the usual explanation at the bottom of the statue, there is none. The showing of Jacques Kerchache’s astounding Voodoo collection at the Fondation Cartier is built upon the great collector’s belief that “with regard to African sculpture we have to stop being afraid of feeling ignorant and let it get inside of us.” This means allowing the object to speak for itself; not spoiling it by petty comments about dates or location. The magic of the Voodoo artwork lies in its universality, says Kerchache. “Picasso never knew the art of Voodoo and yet there are astonishing affinities between his artwork and the works of these committed artists.” The result is an outstanding exhibition; a raw confrontation with matter and shape that leaves afraid and fascinated altogether.
Dogon, history through art
Dogon people in Mali have always attracted explorers and ethnologists. Their incredible sculpture has been extensively studied and is believed to be among the best known art created by African cultures. If the exhibition’s purpose is again to show the force of an aesthetic that has long been derided as “primitive”, its approach is more consensual. Sustained by rich explanations, the geographical and chronological presentation goes back to the origins of the Dogon people. It shows the different statuary styles of the region and tends to elucidate its sculpture through its myths (see picture). A far-reaching evocation of this animist civilisation, the retrospective enthrals by the quality of the pieces it has succeeded to bring together.
Hadrien Diez

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