"My identity and my story"Conductor:
Jems Robert Koko Bi
Page after page, AtWork moved to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, for the second chapter of the project promoted by lettera27 and organized by Fondation Donwahi pour l’Art Contemporain. From December 13, 2013 to February 1, 2014, the Donwahi Foundation hosted a digital exhibition of art notebooks. This chapter was divided into two parts:
“The collective is set in motion only when the individual takes responsibility for him/herself. It is only after individual creations that exchange may work. The collective arises from these individual interactions.”
Jems Koko Bi, AtWork Abidjan leader
Under the guidance of artist Jems Robert Koko Bi, participants created their notebooks starting with a reflection on creative process, free licenses, and the theme “My identity and my story.” Regarded as a construction of visual metaphors for the status of knowledge, art was used by Koko Bi to provide participants with an opportunity to discover themselves, explore their culture and history, and reflect on their own identity with the aim of “re-inventing,” rather than “re-appropriating,” it.
Jems Koko-Bi was born in 1966, in Sinfra, Cote d’Ivoire. He is an important figure in the Ivory Coast’s contemporary art scene. After studying at the National Institute of Arts and Cultural Studies (INSAAC) in Abidjan and the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf, he was among the protagonists of the Dakar Art Biennial. His works have been displayed at various international exhibitions. He excels in carving burnt wood, his favorite material, which he uses to create figurative, abstract and conceptual shapes. His works deal with the struggle for power (Installation de chaises, 2013) and ‘brain drain’ (Convoi royal, 2010). His work is present in The Divine Comedy, Heaven, Purgatory and Hell revisited by contemporary African artists exhibition that started its world tour in 2014. He currently lives and works in Essen, Germany.
“To express one’s identity and history, it is necessary to get rid of academic superstructures so as to find one’s essence. I was curious to see how workshop participants would express their freedom and perhaps discover their true nature. It is a challenge that requires spontaneity, creativity, but also discipline; an arduous path in view of a final achievement.”
Jems Koko Bi, AtWork Abidjan leader
The workshop offered 29 participants the possibility of experiencing mutual exchange, encouraged by the “friendship culture” promoted by the inspiring leader Jems Koko Bi, which resulted in a process of collective learning. It was held both in the premises of the Donwahi Foundation and all around the city of Abidjan. Students used their notebooks as travel objects, engaging in daily rituals, such as writing, inscribing, drawing an extension of their experiences, ideas and stories on paper, leaving a trace of their discoveries, and capturing the magic moments of interaction with others.
“They say I just need to use a few colors to make art – that is, to be myself; this is art because being yourself is difficult. I am everybody: I am nothing but the sum of ‘myself’ and the others.”
Philippe Ekra Komenan, AtWork Abidjan participant
The works donated by 63 artists to support Moleskine Foundation, which have become part of the collection of art notebooks, were displayed on tablets during an interactive exhibition organized for the occasion. The gallery walls were covered with quotes from AtWork artists, curators and workshop participants. Such a meticulous, patient and thoughtful work was aimed at giving the exhibition space a handcrafted edge. This ever-changing collection reflects the complexity of contemporary artistic research and is constantly enriched with new contributions. Simon Allen, Carlo Fei, Marcus Neustetter, Virginia Ryan, Fally Sene Sow, Angelo Sarleti, and Enrico Tealdi are seven new artists who took part in this project in 2013.
This experience is described in the second chapter of the booklet dedicated to the AtWork project, with texts by curator Katia Anguelova, advisor Simon Njami, and artist Jems Koko Bi.
Konan K. Dieudonné Affroumou
Yves Constantin Amangiua
Koffi Kra Emmanuel Appo
Bahébua E. Serge Kouame
Konan Frank Ouaka
F. Vivien Silue
Nemlin Serge Nemlin
Hie Bouadi Mardocche
Koffi Josué Kouame
Richmond Nguessan Yao
Philippe Ekra Komenan
Ange Patricia Atsain Adou
Marc Leonce Yao
Blazi Stéphanie Assoukou
Sahoua Marie Donwahi
Katia Anguelova in collaboration with Simon Njami
Ila Donwahi, Amédé Mulin, Mareme Malong
With the support of
Video directed by
Ange – Emmanelle Ahiwa
JC Kadio – Jeremy Assaka
Hertz De Meideros