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The rise of the “artist” in Burkina Faso

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Abstract:

It is only during the last twenty years that contemporary art has found actors in Burkina Faso. Thomas Sankara's revolutionary regime was the first to offer artists a frame to promote and perfect their technique. During the 1980s, the Semaine National de la Culture (National Week of Culture), the Pan-African Film Festival of Ouagadougou (Fespaco), and the Salon International de l'Artisanat de Ouagadougou (Ouagadougou International Handicraft Show) were the only major projects that allowed artists to learn new techniques and to be known. However, because Thomas Sankara's government expected the creators to participate in the revolutionary project, this left them little space for innovation and the expression of their artistic freedom. The early 1990s saw the rise of new events, which at last offered artists a space to practice their art, based on personal inspiration and competence in artistic technique. The Laongo symposium of granite sculpture, PIAMET (an event started by two well-known Burkinabè artists), and Ouaga'Art (organised by the French Cultural Centre of Ouagadougou) thus offered young artists the possibility of discovering the techniques of their colleagues from Africa and elsewhere in the world. However, except the Olorun Foundation, there is no permanent space dedicated to training and artistic exhibition. This lack is a source of obvious problems for the creator who, as a result, may find himself entrenched in a circuit where commercialism seems to dominate artistic research.

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