Casa África inaugurates the first part of the largest retrospective exhibition held in Europe on the work of the artist Jack Beng-Thi, from the French island of La Réunion. It is a production of the Atlantic Center of Modern Art (CAAM), curated by Orlando Britto and Nilo Palenzuela.
The melting pot of cultures, races and religions that intersect in La Réunion, the birthplace of the artist Jack Beng-Thi, mirrors a journey of identity and creative search in which the artist explores his roots and genealogical ramifications to restore the collective memory of this outermost region of Europe. This French island located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, forms the starting point of the map of the memory of this multidisciplinary creator, whose origins treasure Indian, Chinese-Vietnamese, African and European influences, which are based, in the words of Beng -Thi, his condition of "nomadic artist".
After touring numerous venues in countries in Europe, Africa and Latin America, Beng-Thi comes to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria with the largest retrospective exhibition in Europe on his work, curated by Orlando Britto and Nilo Palenzuela, and which sees the light on horseback between Casa África and the CAAM. The first center opens today the doors to a first selection, that gravitates on the African roots of the artist, since the CAAM inaugurates a second collection on December 13, once the renovation works of the center are completed, with a multidisciplinary look to its bridges to other geographies.
Sculpture, as a means of the artist's fundamental expression, but also photography, poetry, video art and performance unite the borders of the colonial tradition and the contemporary problematic in the African context protected by this first selection of ten pieces, which interpellates from the wound of colonization.
Beng-Thi reflects on the symbolism of the body as a colonized space that must free itself to re-inhabit its own memory, as reflected, among other pieces, by the installation TornTorn (1995), a metaphor of collective alienation in a path of silenced oppression. His use of handicraft materials, inscribed in different traditions and geographies, recartography traditional African art under the contemporary perspective of the artist.
The investigation of the origins of his ancestors and the inhabitants of La Réunion led the artist to exhume forgotten names in the archives and libraries of Paris, because "the history of my island is not in my island, but in France", he revealed. "My life has been a continuous search of who my ancestors were, who came as former slaves of La Réunion on the plantations of sugarcane, so sugar runs through my blood, which is the memory of my island," he added. the artist.
This is reflected in the verses that preside over the show in Casa África: "Islands of birds-beetles that live on the long route of disaster / islands in the rosary to conjure the bitter history of black blood". However, the artist argues that art persists as a living space for the dignification of drowned and silenced bodies in a past of refugees and diasporas. "For us, the sea is a cemetery, as it happens today in Europe, because the tragedy is repeated," he says. "That's why it's important to make bodies visible, because it's a form of memory."