Ka touba Farafina yé (Africa Blessing)
with Aboubakar Fofana

11 am
Agricultural University of Athens, Iera Odos 75, Athens

Conversation with the artist at the Conference Center Auditorium on occasion of project launch

Directions to the Conference Center Auditorium, Agricultural University of Athens

documenta 14 artist Aboubakar Fofana has realized his project Ka touba Farafina yé (Africa Blessing, 2017) in collaboration with the Agricultural University of Athens. This ambitious new work involves fifty-four lambs—each standing in for one country on the African continent. Working closely with Prof. Dr. Iosif Bezelis, Head of the Department of Animal Science and Head of the Laboratory of Animal Breeding and Husbandry, and in dialogue with other AUA faculty, the artist has treated each animal to a preparatory bath and then dyed their wool in specially prepared organic Indigo vats.

Reflecting on the situation of the African diaspora—of the communities of people forced to leave their homelands due to war, unrest, harsh economic conditions, or abduction by human traffickers—Fofana remarks: “Like pasture animals, we continue to travel, leaving behind danger and lack and trying to find stability, walking often into the unknown in an attempt to reach what we cannot find in our own countries, in the hope that our children will be able to do better than ourselves.”

In regard to his long-standing experience of traditional dyeing techniques, Fofana writes: “Indigo has a universal aspect. I knew it as an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory before I used it as a dyestuff. In every culture which uses indigo as a dyestuff, both within and outside of Africa, indigo is revered as a connection between mortality and the divine. Its blue compares with the heavens, and all over the world, newborn babies are swaddled in it, brides are bedecked in it, and the dead are venerated by being wrapped in it. In Africa this has been apparent for thousands of years; woven textiles have been found in Egypt and Nubia showing this link.”

As a substance with proven health benefits, the Indigo bath does not harm the animals, but rather might improve their wellbeing. Moreover, the animals partly share the condition of the dye artist who constantly has his hands submerged in an Indigo vat. Fofana’s collaboration with colleagues at the university and in the art world as well as tinctorial plants and living animals originates from the artist’s belief in the interconnection of all living beings, bringing art closer to life.

“I want to show something else with this special flock of lambs, and that is beauty. Wherever African people move, we bring with us our culture and our traditions, and we fuse them with what is local. And the new places we come to are richer and more beautiful for this fusion. Out of the necessity of leaving, new cultures and traditions are born, nothing is static and nothing changes without creation. Indigo itself is something which has travelled throughout and out of Africa along trade routes for thousands of years.”

The university community and broader public are warmly invited to learn more about this project and Aboubakar Fofana’s practice in a presentation on April 29, 2017, at 11 am, inside the Conference Center Auditorium, Agricultural University of Athens.

The lambs may be visited in a specially prepared orchard-pasture on the North Side of the Agricultural University of Athens campus, Saturdays and Sundays 11 am to 5 pm from 29 April to June 25, 2017.

Posted in Public Exhibition

Aboubakar Fofana

Born in Mali in 1967, Aboubakar Fofana left the African continent at an early age for Paris. Fofana’s founding discipline was calligraphy. Fascinated by the sign and the trace, he drew on Western and…