Arriving in Dakar I was met with a chocolate crêpe by Marion Louisgrand-Sylla, director of Kër Thiossane, a home, a space for artistic experimentation and a technological research lab. Home also to Afropixel festival, Fab Lab and Jardin Jet D’eau, Kër Thiossane wants to propose new approaches to media, emphasizing technology as tools for knowledge that can be used and appropriated for art, forexperimentation and for the development of African multimedia creations on the internet.
Marion guided me through the past and present activities of Kër Thiossane, emphasizing the social approach the organization takes: “The community of people living around the Jardin Jet D’eau have been through huge changes, often forced upon by others. The space between the houses has become a garden, a space for growing foods and for learning techniques to integrate sustainable living into the city.”
Fab Lab is an open door, a blue room for serious and non-serious play. Machines with orange pipes, 3D printers and flashing drills are physical tools part of a network of conversation, knowledge sharing, thought and production. Marion opened up a jerry can to reveal the inner workings of a computer’s brain. Her children looked on and smiled.
Kër Thiossane delivers projects as and when the funds and urgency arrives. There’s a refreshing looseness around this type of programing but with no lack of commitment to a full and dynamic series of residencies, events and projects that continue to search for a space between art, technology and society.
During my visit in Dakar I participated in a three-day symposium Condition Report 2 on the achievements, challenges and potential futures of Artistic Education in Africa, organized by Raw Material Company and École National des Arts. Koyo Kouoh, curator and founder of Raw Material Company, opened the symposium with the words: “Without education, humans cannot express themselves”, which set the scene for a holistic yet thorough interrogation of the histories and possibilities of Art Education in Africa. Exploring such questions as: How do we learn? What do we learn? And why do we learn?
In the mid-twentieth century, African states created national autonomous art programs or expanded the existing colonial education structures already in place. Structural Adjustment Programs imposed by international financial organizations such as the IMF on states in the 1980s and 1990s negatively impacted culture and education industries resulting in struggles for finance, scale and quality. Condition Report asserted the importance to learn, unlearn and rediscover these centers for training and transmission in order to bring them into relevance today.
A myriad of different strategies collaborations between the formal and informal, ways that art schools can draw from non-degree programs and how to subvert lack of resources into innovative tools for learning were all explored and presented by individuals from, or invested in, art education on the continent. An intensive and inspiring three days that deepened the learning process during my stay in Dakar.