Touching upon cultural influence, trade and commerce, social and environmental destruction and identity the exhibition has now landed at Whitworth Arts Gallery and has coloured the walls with all the diversity and sensationalism of West Africa.
mailout reporter Kajol Lally takes a trip to the Whitworth Arts Gallery to share her thoughts on the Cultural Olympiad inspired exhibition.
How do people react to artwork from different cultures? As someone who’s not experienced as much culture as I would have liked to, I’d still like to think that this country is really diverse when it comes to celebrating many people’s racial identities. For many years this country has been the core of immigration and has collected many different cultural heritages which have moulded today’s society.
I visited the Whitworth Art Gallery after hearing about an art installation by Pascale Tayou, a renowned artist currently residing in Cameroon who specialises in site specific installations. His work consisted of an impressive reflection of the natural African surroundings embellished with bits and pieces of commodities hung up on large wooden columns. The surroundings you were in felt like you were enclosed where you couldn’t escape confrontation – but it was grand and beautiful. However, I felt it lacked concept and wasn’t as thought-provoking as some of the work I was to encounter later on.
I also discovered the work of poet Nii Obodai. Not only was the photography captivating but the poetry was intensely poignant to; riddled with spiritual and philosophical questioning about the world. It was Obodai’s intention to reflect the emotion of the nation throughout their struggle under British control during the 1950s.
I then immediately fell in love with Toguo’s work at the “Redemption” exhibition; I was specifically humbled by a piece entitled “Purification”. It was huge landscape painting that made references in bleeding red watercolours to basic human rights that he made clear was something that was exploited in West Africa. This beautiful but sorrowful interpretation of the vulnerability of the civilians caught up in political affairs and conflicts in oppressed parts of Africa was so powerfully put forward and displayed, I have to say this, to me was the best painting in the entire gallery.
However, I kept questioning how these artists felt having their work up at a swanky art gallery. The pain and suffering they had demonstrated in their work may have been for raising awareness but I wondered how such a real and current issue can be documented, commissioned and be called art? It is thought-provoking – that’s what good art is – but at a time where the Olympics – the celebration of the reunion of the world – is above politics, this exhibition has not been afraid to disclose the unhappiness and distraught that is felt in other parts of the world.
Is that the beauty of the Cultural Olympiad? Bringing the sport – the crème de la crème of the nation’s pride and triumph – with the art; the voice and expression of the people.
For more information on any of these pieces and installations visit: