- Prinsengracht 371 B
During Amsterdam Art Week, Stevenson presents a two-person exhibition of recent portraits by Mame-Diarra Niang and Barthélémy Toguo. This is also the final show of the international project Galleries Curate: RHE.
Galleries Curate is an informal group of contemporary galleries from around the world, formed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. RHE is the first chapter of this collaboration, an exhibition and website themed around a universal and, we hope, unifying subject: water. It focuses on two distinct approaches to the theme: the political and economic aspect of water on the one hand, and its mythical and poetic potential on the other.
In her new series Léthé, Mame-Diarra Niang scans the globe from her Paris home using her computer, and photographs its screen with her Fujifilm X-T2 camera. The series takes its title from the Lethe river of Greek mythology. Also known as the river of forgetfulness or oblivion, it was said to run through the underworld of Hades; the souls of the departed would drink its water to forget their earthly lives and be reincarnated. Writes Niang:
“My work has always been about memory and forgetting. What makes a self? I have come to think of the self as a territory made of well-curated memories and erasures. The Léthé series places us where being itself is a forgotten monument; where even the most persistent conception of identity dissolves in front of us. We have to forget what we were in order to become anew … to be born, and to be nothing.”
In his wood carvings, sculpted from the zingana trees found throughout Cameroon, Barthélémy Toguo pays homage to the joys and sufferings and joys of people in the settlement of Bilongue, not far from his studio. He remarks:
“I lived and worked here for months in 2015 while preparing for All the world’s futures, as the Venice Biennale curated by Okwui Enwezor was titled. I met some incredible people, and told myself I had to come back to Bilongue to portray them. These are people who left poor cities to come to Douala and figure themselves out. They came to settle down in a very challenging area, and they live and survive there daily, not through violence but through solidarity. It is a flat area, so there is a lot of stagnant water. When water floods a neighbor’s house, everyone helps them, and so it goes on.”
Niang’s portraits are joyous, digital, and colorful, while Toguo’s are austere, tactile, and monochrome. Juxtaposed, the two bodies of work use the iconography of the portrait to explore the universal. They remind us of the parallel economic and psychological crises we are faced with today, and of our inward and outward struggles and discoveries.
Mame-Diarra Niang (FR, 1982), Barthélémy Toguo (CM, 1967)