From political concern to action emergency in the work of Barthelemy Toguo

Posted by Florian Azzopardi on

Indignation, denunciation, reaction: it is in these terms that one could describe Barthélémy Toguo's committed work. Described by the art historian Philippe Dagen as an artist with "inexhaustible energy", the Cameroonian creator stands out not only by his prolific work but also by the diversity of the themes he addresses. By multiplying his productions and his subjects, is not Barthélémy Toguo trying to show the multiplication of alarming findings that occupy our daily lives today?

Born in 1976 in Cameroon, Barthélémy Toguo, a leading figure of contemporary African art, attaches particular importance to news and history. Sensitive to the questions generated by these topics, the political preoccupation is continuously guiding its artistic approaches. Working between Paris and Bandjoun (Cameroon), Barthélémy Toguo shows great sensitivity to the crucial issues affecting the African continent. The performance "Afrika Oil", presented in many exhibition spaces from 2005 to 2008, is revealing of the striking actions that the artist leads. He initiates this performance by placing himself in a barrel painted in white on which stands out this accusatory message falsely questioning: "Africa oil? ". In addition to denouncing the reductive image of Africa considered solely as an oil resource, Barthélémy Toguo attacks those responsible for this situation. This includes political corruption, unequal inter-country trade and the pressure exerted by the oil groups.

Afrika Oil - Barthelemy Toguo
"Afrika Oil" performance by Barthelemy Toguo

Criticism loses neither strength nor violence with regard to migration policies in Western countries. It is a frontal attack on the inhumanity of which migrants are victims. At the National Museum of the History of Immigration (Paris), Toguo’s monumental installation, Climbing Down (2004), is presented as a sinister and deserted Babel tower. The imposing structure consists of six wooden bunk beds overloaded with forty multicolored bags. This invented place evokes the real transit place, the crossing of borders, which can lead to this long and forced coexistence between migrants of different origins in unbearable conditions.

Climbing down - Barthelemy Toguo
Climbing down, Musée national de l'immigration, Barthélémy Toguo

With determination, Barthélémy Toguo affirms his duty to awaken consciences through a committed creation, always in resonance with the current world.

 Written by Eléa Sicre