As previously colonized peoples, what makes us a community is that we share a desire for self-conception. But in what ways can we conceive of self-conception?” — Emmanuel Iduma, winner of the C/O Berlin Talent Award 2021 – Theorist
What is to be done when the past is merely a creation of colonial archives? This question is at the heart of Italian-Senegalese artist Adji Dieye’s work Culture Lost and Learned by Heart. To answer it, Dieye conducted visual research into the iconographic collection of the Archives Nationales du Sénégal (the National Archives of Senegal). The project questions archival contents and narrative constructions of the past as a way to unveil the embedded violence present within the archival institution and its seemingly neutral content.
For her exhibition at C/O Berlin, the artist has developed a video projection, wall-mounted works, and installations as a visual proposal for a non-linear reading of the history of Senegal. These room-sized sculptures were made by translating photographs into dotted bitmap grids used as templates for screen prints. The artist printed images from her own archive as well as from the National Archives onto multi-meter lengths of silk fabric, and mounted them on forged iron frames. In one of these works, the artist creates a visual dialogue between two periods in Senegalese history. A number of the images date back to the French colonial era and show the establishment of the nation-state of Senegal, while others document the current situation in Senegal today. By inscribing past and present within the shared space of the installation, Dieye calls into question the idea of history as a linear progression in which one event clearly proceeds the next. Her choice of installation materials evokes the motions of a newspaper printing press and brings the histories they present to life.
In selecting Culture Lost and Learned by Heart, the C/O Berlin Talent Award 2021 showcases the recent strategy of an expanded documentary practice that creates editions of existing images. The jury unanimously and unhesitatingly selected Adji Dieye out of almost one hundred selected submissions from around the world. Her noteworthy and provocative project continues the critical work begun by the 2020 winner Anna Ehrenstein, exploring the topics of post-colonialism and the nation-state more closely within Senegal and making use of a wholly different material approach. In her critical dialogue with the colonial institution of the visual archive, Dieye questions its function as a defender of historic truth. The jury was convinced by the exemplary way her artistic approach interprets the idea of New Documentary Strategies which the C/O Berlin Talent Award recognizes. The artist receives a cash prize, and her work will be presented in the solo exhibition Adji Dieye . Culture Lost and Learned by Heart at C/O Berlin. An exhibition catalog published by Spector Books, Leipzig, and edited by Dr. Kathrin Schönegg for the C/O Berlin Foundation contains critical reflections by prize-winner and Nigerian theorist, Emmanuel Iduma.