Meshac Gabba

Meshac Gabba
Meshac Gabba, Ensemble, 2012

Ensemble by Meschac Gaba, the flag and emblem of We Face Forward, is at once a bright playful quip and a sincere gesture of solidarity.

During the summer that the UK hosts the Olympic Games, symbols of competing national identity abound, but in Ensemble the boundaries of each nation are unclear. A starburst of all the flags of West Africa1 together with the Union Jack, Ensemble is a blazing riot of nations combined, all emerging from, or converging into, a central disappearing point.

Ensemble closely resembles Roulette, a work made by Gaba for his ongoing magnum opus, the African Museum of Contemporary Art. Situated in the Museum’s Games Room, Roulette combined international flags with a stick attached to a bicycle wheel. Able to spin the wheel visitors could win a ring from the artist if the stick pointed to the correct flag. A game of pure chance, Roulette was an international gamble: some nations won, others lost.

Gaba has been praised for his ability to ‘modulate jest’. From braided headpieces shaped into architectural monuments, to Sweetness, a model city made of sugar, Gaba’s playful approach conveys serious political undercurrents. For Gaba, Ensemble is his answer to the question he perceives in the exhibition’s title, ‘We face forward: but facing what? And how? I propose as a reply or solution to put all the countries’ flags together, so that it becomes a symbol of unity, solidarity and friendship.’2

1 Ensemble also includes the flag of Cameroon, a country officially in Central Africa, but which is included in We Face Forward.
2 Meschac Gaba in an email to Bryony Bond 10 January 2012.


Martin Barlow, curator of the exhibition Moving Into Space at the National Football Museum talks about the exhibition.

Barthélémy Toguo, Lucy Azubuike and Nnenna Okore, three of the exhibited artists, talk about their work and their interest in using materials which reflect the lifestyle and experience of the people of West Africa.

Twitter (#wefaceforward)

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