Madagascar’s Pavilion at the 58thLa Biennale Di Venezia 2019 presents a dark moment of loneliness, reflection and reasons for the need to build patriotism banking on the memories of lost glories and the suffering of our forbearers.
There are countries whose entrance into a competition or a showcase creates a hubbub of excitement from enthusiasts. For instance, when I was young, watching football meant watching Brazil or Germany. These countries were the powerhouses of the world’s most watched sport. However, it would be the win of France in World Cup football in 1998 that brought in a new era, well for my case and sure most out there. Brazil suffered a humiliating defeat in the hands France and for months names like Zidane, Barthez, and Thierry Henry became our daily moniker while harassing paper made balls, with our feet in my village. In the Art world, there is always something new from Africa when we talk about biennales. In this year’s Venice Biennale, Ghana has an exceptionally exciting pavilion at the event. Word is that you cannot claim to have attended the 58th world Art Olympics without popping in to see the Ghanaian “Ghana Freedom” curated by Nana Oforiatta Ayim.
In the 57th Venice
Biennale, it would be Nigeria which stole africa’s heart with her exhibition,
‘What About Now’. Like Ghana, Nigeria was having her first pavilion in the
fair. Although South Africa too made an impact, it would be Nigeria that
received the wows given her entrancing golden voyage in Italy.
Although Ghana’s name is bold in this year’s biennale which opened last Saturday 11th, there is a large yet not so large island nation in the Indian Ocean called Madagascar whose first pavilion speaks to the soul like a dream on a silent uneventful night- a night where very little happens apart from the chirping of crickets and buzzing of cicadas. In this pavilion, Madagascar’s solo act ‘I Have Forgotten the Night’ by Joël Andrianomarisoa “deploys the intangible essence of the invisible, turning around a world of otherness as an iron sun fades into the azure of night; as dark light no longer ushers in the day.” Joel, in love “with the different grounds of three contrasting orchards: cold Europe, India with its pink and blue skies and Africa, a clear, deep spring” (Jean Joseph Rabearivelo), he “endlessly unites their fundamental, component opposites to create elegant, abstract, melancholic forms woven from natural materials devoured by shadow and light.”
Though the journey
of ‘I have Forgotten the Night’ begins in Madagascar, the story the
installation tells is beyond this Malagasy nation. The exhibition is a “Child of the nights of “Iarivo the dead”
(Antananarivo) and un año de amor on the streets of Madrid, a lone dreaming
nomad straying from the bars and restaurants of Paris to the sleeping shores of
the Bosphorus or the infinite horizons of Cotonou, the artist without frontiers
brings a boundless nostalgia to the modernity of the square, breathing the
sentimentality of material things.”
Historically, the exhibition “deconstructs the Palace of Ilafy, the first royal residence on the twelfth sacred hill of Imerina, separating the heavy planks of black rosewood to build them into twelve organic canopies that tumble in a dark cascade of bags, ropes and ashes.” In this, the artist takes us back to Madagascar’s royalty- the pride of the nation and a UNESCO Heritage site. It is from here that the tentacles of the exhibition traverse the world and blackness of the night grows spanning mythologies and physical spaces. “From the lost memory of that royal hut springs a tomb for half a million soldiers at Ecbatana, an allegorical Platonic cave, a labyrinth of passions, a theatre of affections… Gutted blades falling from the sky in waves of soot and rain throw up the wan, grey mists of the dying Creuse or the notched, gullied walls of Tritriva’s lovers’ lake. Turning the world above to the world below.”
The intricate patterns of this exhibition are as result of incorporating history, movie, poetry and traditional mythologies to bring to the fore a legendary black piece that speaks volumes about the complexities of the night. With its myriad philosophical inclinations, traversing the 1975 India’s Song and the poet Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo while immersing itself in the legends of Lake Tritiva among other choice imagery, ‘I have forgotten the Night’ presents melancholy, nostalgia and memories we selectively choose to forget while also like the dark night envelope our world into a large wasteland. Joel indeed has a story to tell, it is only by immersing yourself into this immersive black papers that one gets to fathom the mystery behind the artist’s genius.
According to the organisers, “Joël Andrianomearisoa was chosen to represent his country alongside curators Rina Ralay Ranaivo and Emmanuel Daydé, due to the invention and maturity of his work, his international reputation as well as the unconditional support of his professional network.” A multi-talented artist, Joël started of his craft in the mid-90s through performances that would earn him the cover of Revue Noire Madagascar in 1998. He has so far grown to amass a wealth of experience in fashion, design, video, photography, scenography, architecture, installations and visual arts. As a pioneering contemporary artist in Madagascar, Joël has actively participated in various cultural and artistic shows in his country including Fashion festival Manja in 1998, the Sanga dance festival in 2003, Photoana festival in 2005, personal project 30 and Presque-Songes in 2007 and 2011, Parlez-moi in 2016 among others. He is represented by galleries Sabrina Amrani (Madrid), Primo Marella (Milan) and RX (Paris.)
The curators Rina Ralay-Ranaivo and Emmanuel Daydé both bring a wealth of experience in this exhibition. Formerly in charge of artistic programming at the Institut Française of Madagascar, Rina found himself thrown into a field where he successfully curated and managed several art projects for a dozen years. On the other hand, Daydé, an art historian, drama critic, essayist and curator has organised Nuit Blanche in Paris since its creation in 2002 and curated over ten exhibitions including the Lebanon Pavilion with Zad Moultaka at the 2017 Venice Biennale. Venice Biennale closes its doors on November 24th 2019.