Participating in the Abidjan Green Arts Biennale, 2019

Imke Rust at work in the Banco forest, Abidjan. ©Gaël Gellé and Cyrille Kouassi for Abidjan Green

(German version below)

Recently I had the honour to take part in the first Abidjan Green Art Biennale. Only twelve international artists have been invited to participate in the two-week event in the Cote d’Ivoire, which took place between the 25th of November and the 10th of December.
 
The artists were invited to create new artworks in the Parc National du Banco, one of the last primary rainforest in the country. The works should raise awareness about the danger of deforestation and the necessity to protect the environment. Banco is unique, as it is a protected area of about 3500 hectare in the middle of the coastal city of Abidjan.
 
An exciting prerequisite of the AGA Biennale is, that the artists were only allowed to make use of materials, which they found on site to create their works. If they needed any additional material, it had to be natural and biodegradable. They were also not allowed to cut or damage any living trees to create their works.
 
As a multidisciplinary artist I am known for my artworks created in and with nature. Already in 2012 I have started to raise awareness about environmental issues in Namibia with my art project and exhibition ‘An Infinite Scream’, commenting on the dangers of the ever-increasing uranium mining and plans for marine phosphate extraction.
 
For the Abidjan Green Art Biennale I have produced four new artworks. One work is a huge nest made of branches, titled the Circle of Life. The second work is made of bamboo, branches, and a natural paint made of talcum powder and cooking oil, it is called ‘The Seven Gates of the Rainsnake’. While the third work, The Passage, is made with clay on a dead tree trunk. The fourth ‘Magical Rain Collector’ is a less obvious object made of Bamboo and local seeds – and used in a performance
 
The initiator of the AGA 2019, Jems Koko Bi, famous Ivorian sculptor, commented that the new artworks are a welcome and poetic tribute to the forest. All works are ephemeral and will sooner or later return to nature.

You can find an overview of my artworks created at the Abidjan Green Arts Biennale HERE.

Who else participated or was involved?
Jems Koko Bi (Ivorian sculptor and initiator and organisor)
Ute Ritschel (Curator – Germany)
Ousseynou Wade (Curator – Senegal)
Artists: Elena Redaelli (Italy), Ri-Lee Eung Woo (South Korea), Karin van der Molen (Netherlands), Ernest Daetwyler (Canada), Soly Cissé (Senegal), Franck Abd-Bakar Fanny (Coté d’Ivoire), Nathalie Vairac (Performer, France / Senegal), Adama Adepoju Dit <Taxi Conteur> (Storyteller, Coté d’Ivoire), Joseph Baffrou Dit Bee Jo (Slam poet, Coté d’Ivoire) and Sow Souleymane (Comedian, Coté d’Ivoire)

Detail of ‘The Seven Gates of the Rainsnake’ by Imke Rust

(Deutsch)

Vor Kurzem hatte ich die Ehre an der ersten Abidjan Green Arts Biennale teilzunehmen, die zwischen dem 25. November und 10. Dezember in der der Elfenbeinküste stattfand.

Aus aller Welt wurden 12 Künstler ausgewählt, in einem geschützten Regenwald in Abidjan Kunstwerke zu produzieren. Diese Arbeiten sollen auf die Bedrohung der Regenwälder durch Abholzung und die Wichtigkeit des Umweltschutz aufmerksam machen. Der Parc National du Banco ist ein etwa 3500 Hektar großer, streng geschützter Urwald mitten in der Meteropole Abidjan. Hier wurden die Künstler kreativ. 

 
Mir liegen solche Projekte sehr am Herzen und ich bin inzwischen ja auch schon bekannt dafür, dass ich mich mit meiner Naturkunst immer wieder gerne für den Schutz der Natur einsetzte. Gleich vier Arbeiten produzierte ich direkt vor Ort.  
 
Die spannende Voraussetzung der AGA Biennale ist, das die Künstler nur Materialien die sie vor Ort finden oder natürliche, biologisch abbaubare Materialien in kleinen Mengen gebrauchen dürfen, um ihre Arbeiten zu produzieren. 
Ausserdem durften auch keine Bäume gefällt werden oder oder die natürliche Umgebung sonst irgendwie zerstört werden. 
 
Der Initiator, Jems Koko Bi, ein international bekannter Bildhauer aus der Elfenbeinküste, nannte die entstandenen Werke eine poetische Bereicherung für den Wald. Alle Werke sind vergänglich und werden nach und nach wieder Teil der Umgebung werden.” 

HIER findest du einen Überblick von meinen Arbeiten die bei der Abidjan Green Arts Biennale entstanden sind.

Visitors in my artwork ‘Circle of Life’: (from left) Jems Koko Bi – artist and initiator of the AGA Biennale, unknown, me,  the Italian Ambassador H.E. Stefano Lo Savio, the Swiss Ambassador H.E. Anne Lugon-Moulin, artist Karin van der Molen, (not visible) the Spanish ambassador H.E. Ricardo López-Aranda Jagu, the Italian ambassador’s wife Valeria Lo Savio and artist Elena Redaelli)

Some Press Links:

Ivory Coast: carving in the forest to protect it (France 24, 10.12.2019)

Abidjan (AFP) Ephemeral carvings of international artists in the middle of the rainforest is the challenge of the first biennial Green Arts which has invested the Banco National Park in Abidjan.

“Deciphering the forest instead of clearing it.The idea is to create, while sensitizing to the protection of the environment,” says the artistic director of the event, the famous Ivorian sculptor Jems Koko Bi, who played with his relationships to attract fellow sculptors from all over the world for a 12-day residency: Senegal, Canada, South Korea, Namibia, Italy, the Netherlands … (…)

Enabling Art in Challenging Environments

C& (Contemporary&) By Cédric Vincent, 18. December 2019

In Conversation with Illa Donwahi
In just over ten years Illa Donwahi has transformed her family home in Abidjan into a space dedicated to an ambitious artistic, cultural, and educational project. With C& she talks about the launch of her artistic complex in the midst of Côte d’Ivoire’s political and social crisis in 2008. (…)

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