Art

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.

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Reviews

Street life, dazzling dress, social commentary and a riot of sensuous colour interweave in a rich assembly of West African art, writes Charles Gore in the Times Higher Education

Nine countries show off their talent as five city venues link up for a summer celebration. Helen Nugent in the Guardian