Serious, provocative and satirical, Barthélémy Toguo’s artistic practice inextricably links critique and aesthetics. As an ambitious multi-disciplinary artist, Toguo, who makes paintings, photographs, sculpture and prints, as well as videos, working performatively and presenting work as installation, examines ‘the regulated flow of people, merchandise, and resources between the developing world and the West’. Addressing migration, colonialism, race, exile and displacement, he comments “Men or women are always potential exiles, driven by the urge to travel, which makes them ‘displaced beings’”. His ongoing series of striking monochromatic watercolour paintings are celebrated for their travel diary-like qualities, where humans morph into abstract, animalistic creatures in a formal mixing of identities. Early in his career he staged a number of interventions called Transit (1996), where performances were carried out in airports and train stations disrupting transport security by him carrying bags carved out of wood or where he wore a cartridge belt filled with candles.
Currently engaged in a major project called Bandjoun Station, Toguo has initiated an ambitious creative workshop, an operative art centre, inviting fellow artists to gather in Western Cameroon. His aim is to foster the decolonization of Africa by Africa itself. As Toguo urgently states, “We Africans do not have the ‘luxury’ of surrender, of [ ... ] waiting, in spite of the enormous number of obstacles encountered by Africa and her diaspora. It is essential that we find our own solutions in all areas, (....) In order to do that our African countries must set up a large number of vibrant and innovative structures in order to stimulate creativity and the desire for culture, as well as to develop the practical side and bring projects to fruition.”
Barthélémy Toguo, born in 1967 in M’Balmayo, Cameroon, studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, the École Supérieure d’Arts in Grenoble, France and at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives in Bandjoun Cameroon and Paris France. He is a Knight of the Order of Arts and Literature in France for his ongoing artistic engagement and creativity. ‘Return to Africa’, Bandjoun, Cameroon is the catalyst exhibition that commissioned Bandjoun Station, which has also featured at 1:54, an itinerant African contemporary art fair (London, New York, Morocco). His work has been exhibited at the Centre Pompidou, the Venice Biennale and the Palais de Tokyo and can be found in collections such as the Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC) of
Jean Pigozzi, the Tate Modern, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Fondation Louis Vuitton.