Although these two accomplished artists come from diverse parts of the African continent they share a commonality at a number of thematic and aesthetic levels. Primarily through the role that ‘memory’ as a conceptual backbone influences both their artistic practices and the choice of mediums. Material usage plays a vital and profound part in both their work and contributes to an emotive and engaging dialogue between the two bodies of work from north and west Africa. With Viye Diba’s use of raw, found and recycled materials raising questions of social and environmental significance and Elnaga’s signature use of handmade paper in a series of artworks laden with historical and political discourse.
At the centre of Elnaga’s body of work is a symbol of deep religious, cultural and political importance for the region, the Olive tree. Using his skills as a master paper maker and artist, Elnaga has created pieces that are revealing, powerfully sensitive and visceral in their story telling. While Diba’s pieces have an urgency in their questioning with his masterful blend of materials, three dimensional objects, colours and markings taking the viewer on metaphorical journeys that probe issues of both African and universal significance.
The intersection between these two bodies of work is an opportunity to participate in an artistic dialogue between Arabic speaking North Africa and French speaking West Africa. And ultimately explore the role of contemporary art in bridging diverse cultures and understanding in an increasingly fragmented world.
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