VISUAL ARTS MASTERPIECES IN THE MAKING
To boost their profiles, artists and craftsmen hold shows outdoors, at galleries, in museums, during fairs and anywhere else they can.
After Ziniaré, not far from the opera-village, welcome to the Laongo sculpture park, a 12-hectare granite field—over half the area remains undeveloped—where sculptures by artists from around the world emerge from the ground during symposia taking place there every two years. “Granite is the hardest stone after the diamond,” says the site’s creator, world-famous sculptor Ky Siriki. “Sculpting it is an ordeal. You’ve got to have quite a technique.” Burkina Faso’s president has backed the open-air museum and fought to keep it open since its creation in 1989. Admission is 1,000 FCFA (€1.5) for Burkina Faso citizens, 2,000 FCFA (€3) for everybody else. Twentyfive artists can reside there and bungalows are available for couples: the government foots the bill. There is also a restaurant.
Unlike crafts, art is seldom on display in Burkina Faso. Visual artists such as painters, who are often self-taught, still lack visibility. In Ouagadougou, the Galerie Nuance, Institut français, Goethe-Institut, Olorun Foundation and Villa Sikandra serve as galleries, offering them spaces to show their paintings, which they also exhibit in their studios. Burkina Faso’s citizens are unaccustomed to contemporary art shows, but they have started returning to traditional museums. In 2004 the National Museum found a permanent home. Several round, Sudanese-style buildings scattered over 29 hectares make it not just one of Africa’s biggest museums, but a return to the country’s roots based on a collection in the making since 1962. Many pieces come from the former Institut français des arts nègres (IFAN).
CRAFTS: THE COUNTRY’S PRIDE
These treasures are cherished as much as crafts, the country’s pride. Their main showcase is the Ouagadougou International Crafts Fair (SIAO), but the capital has many other venues as well, such as the National Crafts Centre, Crafts Village, Hangar 11 and City of the Arts. Ironwork, basketry, weaving and pottery create wealth, which is redistributed to village communities and invested to improve the farm sector. But stumbling blocks remain. In order to sweep them away, the 2012 Ministry of Culture study on culture’s impact on Burkina Faso’s social and economic development advises the government “to pass a budget each year for the decoration of public spaces while helping to raise the visual arts’ visibility in Burkina Faso whenever the opportunity arises.”
By Sarah ELKAÏM