La Parole aux Femmes

Curated by Christine Eyene, La Parole aux Femmes (Women Speak Out) was presented at Fondation Blachère Art Centre in Apt (France) from 7 October 2014 to 7 March 2015. The exhibition featured works by Ifeoma Anyaeji (Nigeria), Safaa Erruas (Morocco), Cecilia Ferreira (South Africa), Justine Gaga (Cameroon), Ayana V. Jackson (USA/South Africa), Hélène Jayet (France), Euridice Kala (Mozambique/South Africa), Wanja Kimani (Kenya/Ethiopia), Ope Lori (Great Britain), Mavis Tauzeni (Zimbabwe), and Kara E. Walker (USA).

A renewed version of the exhibition that premiered at Galerie Le Manège, Dakar in 2011, the project drew its title from La Parole aux Négresses (1978) by Awa Thiam, one of the first African feminist writings, and extended its reflection to a contemporary, transcontinental, and diaspora approach. Included in the exhibition were new commissions produced during residencies held in Bonendale, Cameroon and Apt, between January and April 2014. In addition, existing pieces were selected from artists whose practice focuses on body narratives from an intimate and collective perspective.

The exhibition opened with the residency as a meeting point between the self and the other, on foreign land, in an unknown context; an environment negotiated through perception and intuition by artists Wanja Kimani in her video poem Fleuve Wouri, and Mavis Tauzeni in her printed impressions blending self-portraits and landscapes. Open Door Policy, Ifeoma Anyaeji’s partitioning piece made out of threaded plastic bags conveyed the vague boundary existing between public and private space in the village of Bonendalè, inviting the passer-by to indiscretion. Curiosity was also triggered by Euridice Kala’s residency bedroom, recreated at Fondation Blachère as a site-specific installation in which the walls became pages of an intimate written and video diary.

Cecilia Ferreira and Ope Lori’s video-performances took us further into the realm of privacy through their exploration of women’s body, commodification, aesthetic canons, and sexuality. The emphasis on the black body was further explored in Colored Only (2013), a photography project by Hélène Jayet celebrating kinky hair with portraits of sitters presenting their individuality and cultural identity through afro hairstyles.

Leapfrog (a bit of the other) Grand Matron Army (2010) by Ayana V. Jackson retraced several generations of African-American women, from the pre-colonial period to our time. The transatlantic tale continued with Testimony: Narrative of a Negress Burdened by Good Intentions (2004) by Kara E. Walker. In this video, gender and race power relations are inverted, leading to the former white master being lynched by the empowered black mistresses.

The emasculation suggested in a scene of Walker’s film was echoed in Justine Gaga’s installation L’Ombre de Moi-Même (2011-2014) made of her signature genderless wooden figurines in railings, strangely resembling caged phalluses. Finally, Safaa Erruas’ series entitled Corazones Desnudos, created in residency at Fondation Blachère, reduced the body to its prime vital organ, the heart, in a process combining photography and mixed media, including the use of needles, fiberglass, broken light bulbs and metal wires.

La Parole aux Femmes was accompanied with a bilingual (French and English) catalogue published by Fondation Blachère.

Click on images to view the photo gallery