Monday 30 April 2018


In a new cultural initiative, works by established and emerging artists from Guadeloupe are on vibrant display in Paris, highlighting the artistic talent in the French Caribbean region.

Freedom by Ronald Cyrille (mixed media on canvas),
200 x 144 cm. Photo copyright D. Dabriou.
The show is the first in a planned series titled Éclats d'îles (Island Bursts), “initiated by Guadeloupe and the regional President Ary Chalus”, according to A2Z Art Gallery, which is hosting the exhibition.
The series will be held throughout 2018, presenting the works of contemporary artists from the various islands that form the French overseas department, in collaboration with the Krystel Ann Art agency.
“This project, which is a real commitment to the field of arts and culture in the region, aims to give visibility to Guadeloupe artists beyond the local territory,” A2Z stated. “The gallery takes enormous pleasure and is extremely proud to reveal to the public, the universe of these selected talents, throughout these exhibitions.”
Under the patronage of renowned Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé, the current show presents the works of six artists, whose different styles make for a rich viewing experience. The artwork was selected “on the basis of the aesthetical properties, the questioning of Antillian identity by the artists, their representation and creative vivaciousness”, according to the gallery.
Among the artists is the 33-year-old rising star Ronald Cyrille, who has won a number of "young-talent" awards. After attending art school in Martinique, he launched his career doing street art in Guadeloupe, and got noticed by gallery owners and curators. He still does street murals, alongside his studio work of paintings, collages and sculptures, and he has become  known for his daring, striking symbolism - mixing images of animals and humans to pose questions about Caribbean identity, societal violence and art itself. SWAN spoke to Cyrille after the opening of the show on April 26 (it runs until May 9) about his background and creative process. The interview is translated from French.
Artist Ronald Cyrille (photo by A. McKenzie).
SWAN: How did you start painting?
Ronald Cyrille: I started when I was a child, first with cartoon characters such as Picsou, Dragon Ball Z, Mickey, Ninja Turtles and others of this kind. I loved to represent things by trying to make them as faithful to the original as possible. Over time, I began to move away from this while keeping some characters from this universe that allow me a certain singularity in my art. I actually use different techniques now, which can be installation, sculpture, drawing or painting.
SWAN: One of your main themes is freedom. How do you choose your subjects?
R.C.: I’ve been developing certain questions based on a personal way of thinking - across creolisation, legends and stories that nourish my imagination as well as my artistic vocabulary. In my work, the violence in contemporary society is something that echoes my cultural heritage, tied to the Caribbean, Africa and Europe.
And yes, I’m quite free in my choice of subjects. Painting allows you to dream and to travel in your mind, in your imagination. In fact, one of the works on exhibition at Éclats d’îles is titled "Freedom". I’m also inspired by the thoughts of some of our writers such as Aimé Césaire, and also Édouard Glissant through his concept of “Tout Monde” and creolisation.
SWAN: Can you tell us about the media that you use?
R.C.: I often use different techniques, depending on the work I envisage. I think technique is like a toolbox for artists, allowing them to experiment or create things according to their need. The techniques or media can be mixed or might be acrylic, spray paint, pencil, etc.
SWAN: Does your mixed Caribbean background (parents from Guadeloupe and Dominica) influence your work?
R.C.: Yes, I think so. It’s a double richness. So naturally my vision is not limited to Guadeloupe but reflect a need to question our differences as much as our similarities, as a kind of cultural wealth. And despite our insularity, Guadeloupe and the Caribbean are a part of the world.
SWAN: How do you feel about this exhibition in Paris?
R.C.: I think that it’s a beautiful experience and that this kind of action should be multiplied so that our artists can be better known and people can see the diversity and singularity of the Guadeloupean (Caribbean) aesthetic.
Our artists often lack visibility and recognition in mainland France. Fortunately things are gradually changing, pushing us beyond this insularity. I think that people have greatly appreciated my artwork and that of my compatriots, and that they have travelled via the works.
SWAN: Please tell us about your other shows in France.
R.C.: Last year, I took part in an exhibition in Bagneux (a commune south of Paris) titled “Mémoires Caraïbes”, with artists who were very representative of the Caribbean. The town acquired two of my grand-format drawings.
I've also exhibited at Memorial ACTe (centre for the memory of slavery) and, following a one-month residency in Sainte-Rose (a commune in Guadeloupe) from Feb. 5 to March 5 this year, I'm presenting an exhibition at the Habitation la Ramee titled “Traces d’hier et empreintes d’aujourd’hui” (Traces of Yesterday and Footprints of Today).  It comprises 43 new works created during this period. They include drawings, sculptures, paintings and installations, and the show runs until June 29.
SWAN: What are your views on the art scene in the French Caribbean?
R.C.: I believe that we are very creative and could have a firm presence in the world of arts, like Haiti, Cuba or Jamaica. We have to develop our market by supporting the sector and finding our place. My generation is very dynamic and audacious.
SWAN: How do you see your work evolving? What are your plans for the future?
R.C.: I’m increasingly trying to teach myself to live in the present. Meanwhile, I continue to create and to increase the number of collaborations in the Caribbean and beyond. In the years to come, I would like to find a good gallery or a good art dealer, participate in some biennales and have more frequent access to a certain number of artistic events. For the moment, I do realize that things are moving in the right direction.
The first edition of Éclats d'îles runs until May 9, 2018, at A2Z Art Gallery, Paris. The six artists represented are: Joël Nankin, Alain Josephine, Nicolas Nabajoth, Anaïs Verspan, Ronald Cyrille, So Aguessy Roaboteur.
You can follow SWAN on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale.

Monday 9 April 2018


By Tobias Schlosser

In the imagination of the “Global North”, Africa is often pictured as an “underdeveloped” continent marked by poverty and conflict. The exhibition “Afro-Tech and the Future of Re-Invention” in Dortmund, Germany, challenges this stereotypical image, however, and presents the continent as one full of resources, especially with regards to art and science, and their interconnectedness.

Representing 22 countries, the show - now in its final weeks - comprises 20 Afrofuturistic artistic perspectives and 12 technological projects from Africa. The public may see these as technological productions to be contrasted or compared with devices from “Western” societies.

The poster for "Afro-Tech and the Future of Re-Invention",
Design: KoeperHerfurth.
One innovation from Cameroon, for example, is called the “CardioPad” and has medical sensors attached to a tablet. Non-experts can use “Cardiopad” to carry out medical examinations which will be analysed by doctors from a distance.

This invention can be handy in rural areas as it saves time, travel and expense, and balances out infrastructural inequalities that limit access to medical facilities.
Secondly, the South African company “Robohand”, founded by machine artist Ivan Oven and carpenter Richard van As, creates designs and software that can be used to manufacture medical prostheses via 3-D-printers. In this way, people who need prostheses of fingers, hands, arms or even legs now have an Open Source to get their prostheses at incredibly low cost, no matter where they live.
In addition, the exhibition shows that Kiira Motors Corporation has developed a solar-energy bus that has the capacity to run for the whole day without being recharged, thanks to its lithium-ion batteries. With that sustainable invention, Uganda’s cities could become less polluted and noisy. These are only three of the striking technological concepts on display.
The artistic perspectives of “Afro-Tech” are based meanwhile on the concept of Afrofuturism in which a future is imagined where inequalities no longer exist. However, due to new forms of technology and digitalisation, the future visions also detect possible dangers, and function as a warning for certain issues such as ecological disasters or new forms of exclusion and marginalisation.
The artistic media range from photographs, (short) films, documentaries and a video cycle that celebrates the works of jazz musician Sun Ra, to a music station where visitors can explore the sounds of the iconic techno music duo Drexciya - who tell the myth of a black Atlantis. The music playlist contains music from “canonical” Afrofuturistic artists such as American singers Erykah Badu and Janelle Monáe as well as Jamaican dub musician and producer Lee “Scratch” Perry.
An installation at the "Afro-Tech" exhibition.
Photo: Woidich Hannes.
Some of the documentaries screened at “Afro-Tech” are challenging and quite avant-gardist, such as the almost 20-minute-long video “Deep down Tidal” (2017) by Guyanese-Danish artist and activist Tabita Rezaire. The video puts forward the argument that in a postcolonial world where there is no space left to be conquered, electronic space is created that everyone depends on, so it can be colonised.
The view is that the Internet does not create equality, but gives room for racism, homophobia and transphobia with its “architecture of violence”. This examination is underscored by the fact that the fibre-optic cables which are under the Atlantic Ocean serve to facilitate the exchange of Eurocentric knowledge within the “Global North” and they are exactly the same routes used during the slave trade.
Thus, the ocean or water reminds one of every historical deed because it bore witness to earlier crimes and now it sees how neo-colonial routes are being established. This circular approach to time indeed rules many Afrofuturistic oeuvres (the form of exclusion may vary, but the politics of exclusion remains), and it works against cultural amnesia.
“Water is a communication interface. Water will download your secrets.” – Statement from the documentary “Deep Down Tidal” (2017) by Tabita Rezaire
These mechanisms of marginalisation are also the reason why some of the artistic positions seem quite apocalyptic. The photo-series “The Prophecy” by Belgian-Beninese photographer Fabrice Monteiro shows spirits of the Earth who demonstrate the consequences of pollution in a disturbingly dystopian way. Here, an animistic world-view is used as a warning.
Wangechi Mutu's The End of eating Everything, 2013.
Copyright Wangechi Mutu. Courtesy of the artist.
The same applies to the short film “The End of eating Everything” (2013), created by Kenyan visual artist Wangechi Mutu in cooperation with US-American R’n’B singer Santigold. The film portrays the Earth as both a ship and a monster which is run only by consumption, greed and a total loss of control. It is eating up everything that is still living and poisons the atmosphere with its exhaust fumes before its destruction and rebirth.
Besides these alarming visions, the exhibition highlights rebellion and resistance. Based on the Rastafari philosophy, the Italian artist and activist Jaromil (Denis Roio) designed an operating system called “Rastasoft” which can be downloaded for free and which is not controlled by commercial interests of the conventional operating systems. People are thus not forced to spend money in order to have a system which allows them to publish online.
Having the real innovations on one side and the dystopian visions of a final destruction of the planet on the other, the exhibition “Afro-Tech” leaves no doubt that there is a thin line between use and misuse, between emancipation and discrimination, and between chances and the politics of exclusion.
Emphasising the interconnectedness between futuristic and artistic visions and the inventions coming from Africa, the exhibition further illustrates that the future has already started. In that sense, "Afro-Tech" presents not only a future of re-invention - as the title of the exhibition indicates - it promotes a re-imagination of Africa as a continent full of technological and artistic resources.
“Afro-Tech and the Future of Re-Invention” runs until April 22, 2018, and can be seen at “Dortmunder U”, a centre for art and creativity. It is organized by the German multi-award- winning art club HMKV (Hartware MedienKunstVerein), in cooperation with the regional association “Regionalverband Ruhr” (RVR) and the association Africa Positive e.V.
For more information:
Tobias Schlosser is a writer, researcher and expert drink-maker, based in Germany. He thanks Steven Rattey for his enthusiasm and expert knowledge about science-fiction and futuristic art. Without it, this article wouldn’t have been possible.

Wednesday 4 April 2018


The acclaimed Martinican writer and politician Aimé Césaire, one of the founders of the négritude movement, passed away 10 years ago at the age of 94, in April 2008. His literary works, however, have never ceased to provoke thought and discussion, and they are being increasingly read and examined to discover explicit and implicit meanings.

In a new article, scholar and translator Giuseppe Sofo has analysed Césaire’s Une tempête, a postcolonial rewriting of, or response to, Shakespeare’s The Tempest that was published for the first time 50 years ago by the pioneering publishing house Présence Africaine, in 1968, and then by Seuil the following year.
 The cover of Une tempête.
In the article, Sofo reads Césaire’s Une tempête in parallel with the French translation of The Tempest that was done by François-Victor Hugo and published in 1859 - to prove the influence of this translation on Césaire’s text. Incorporating other French translations in his research, Sofo highlights how the relationship between original text and rewriting - and between translation and rewriting - has influenced the evolution of Césaire’s text.
The research emphasizes the significant role of translation in the literary system, and especially in the reception of a text by the public. It also aims to show that Césaire’s work is the fruit of a “double derivation”, since it is both linked to Shakespeare’s text and to Hugo’s translation of that text.
Readers can access Sofo's full article in French at: 

Citation, réécriture et traduction :
Une tempête d’Aimé Césaire et les traductions françaises de Shakespeare
Aimé Césaire est décédé il y a dix ans, en avril 2008, à l’âge de 94 ans. Son œuvre littéraire n’a pourtant jamais cessé de produire de la pensée, et elle est de plus en plus lue et examinée pour découvrir toutes les significations explicites et implicites impliquées dans ses textes.
Le texte au centre de cet article par Giuseppe Sofo est Une tempête, réécriture postcoloniale de La Tempête de Shakespeare, publiée pour la première fois il y a cinquante ans, par Présence Africaine, en 1968, puis par Seuil en 1969. Dans cet article, Sofo lira Une tempête de Césaire en parallèle avec la traduction de La Tempête par François-Victor Hugo, publiée en 1859, dont on montrera l’influence sur le texte de Césaire, et d’autres traductions françaises, pour souligner comment la relation entre texte original et réécriture – et entre traduction et réécriture – a influencé l’évolution du texte.
Cela nous aidera à souligner l’importance du rôle de la traduction dans le système littéraire, et surtout dans la réception d’un texte par le public et à montrer que l’œuvre de Césaire est le fruit d’une double dérivation, puisqu’elle est à la fois le fruit de l’œuvre de Shakespeare et celui de la traduction d’Hugo.
SWAN propose un lien pour trouver l’article complet de Giuseppe Sofo:

Follow SWAN on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale. For tweets about the translation of Caribbean writing, please follow @CaribTranslate.