artist Barthélémy Toguo talks about his activity at Bandjoun Station, an art center in Cameroon.
COVID19 has triggered synchronized containment around the world. I went through a phase of bewilderment, since my projects scheduled for the second semester were postponed. It resulted in fruitless bubbling to generate creative force. Everything was slowing down. I was in Cameroon for more than three months with very limited means to meet my production, the demands. My confinement outside my studio has increased my concerns, lengthened the interaction times with all my interlocutors abroad and my reading of the world. Agriculture and work in the fields at Bandjoun Station, my commitment to the inhabitants allowed me to invest my energy in people and the health crisis.
■ Bandjoun Station
Bandjoun Station, is rooted in the Bamileke highlands in Cameron, this Bandjoun Station art center started with an observation: classical African art can be found in Western museums today. This phenomenon is reproduced with contemporary art which is also in the hands of the West, because there is no real art market on the African continent, and no more political will to create museums. which would prevent the works from escaping. It was therefore necessary to create a space where the works of contemporary African artists could be exhibited as part of ambitious cultural projects. Better yet: it seemed important to me that these works be associated with those of artists from all over the world, in a spirit of dialogue and sharing of cultures.
Bandjoun Station has a growing permanent collection nourished by exchanges and donations. The collection comprises 1,125 works, the vast majority of which originate from exchanges with artists and collectors. It includes paintings by Soly Cissé or Dominique Zinkpè as well as drawings by Louise Bourgeois, lithographs by Miró and Tàpies, a sound sculpture by Laurie Anderson ...
One of the vocations of Banjoun Station is education and the transmission of knowledge.
Yes, we have a whole educational component aimed at school children in the region. We also function as a residence for artists and curators. Their projects must be carried out in conjunction with local communities, because we do not want to function as an island. Bandjoun Station has the ambition to be at the same time an artistic, social and, what is more singular still, agricultural structure. We have started our own production of organic coffee. This constitutes for us a strong political and critical act, which amplifies the artistic act and which is in line with what Léopold Sédar Senghor called "the deterioration of the terms of trade", when export prices set by the West penalize and impoverish the farmers of the South.
■ Agriculture Project
The agricultural component In this section, we chose coffee. We have received nurseries from the Cameroonian state, of a variety called Java, and arabica grows well on the hills of Bandjoun. This project is based on the criticism of North-South exchanges, we tried to follow the chain from production to distribution, because farmers in Third World countries do not follow the whole chain. They produce the raw material and the state is the one which then sells for export. And, as the African states do not have so much power at the level of the world market, they stop at the stage of the sale of the raw material to the West, who take the opportunity to buy at very low prices, which impoverishes southern farmers.
In the villages of western Cameroon, farmers abandoned coffee cultivation because it was not profitable. They preferred to tear off the feet of coffee trees to plant cassava, or corn, something to eat, for their survival. I wanted to criticize this situation of imbalance, that's why I decided to create our own nursery and cultivate by going to '' to the finished product, focusing on organic quality and offering lithographed packaging signed and numbered. To be able to set the price for our production ourselves.
link to Bandjoun Station official website