Sindika Dokolo, a Congolese businessman and art enthusiast, acquired one of the most important contemporary African art collections from the late German business tycoon, Hans Bogatzke back in 2005. Based in Angola, Dokolo and his procurement have gained an overnight sensation from the public and the media since the end of the country’s civil war about three years ago. Amassing over 5000 pieces of invaluable African art, Dokolo has now become one of the symbols for repatriation in the history of art in Africa.
Dokolo is very aware of the significance behind all this media attention, both from within the country and from the rest of the world. These art pieces in his collection are not just decorations for the domestic setting, they are a beacon of hope for redefining “Africanity” amidst the deafening Eurocentric perspectives on the continent and its artistic creations. ‘[You see] every other exhibition telling you what Africa is and [what is] the real Africa. There is always this self-justification, this attitude, which I think is very counter-productive,’ argues the collector. Therefore, Dokolo establishes the eponymous not-for-profit foundation enabling the Angolan public to respond to their creation and to start organising their view of the world of art.
Samuel Fosso, Series “Emperor of Africa”, 2013 – “SFEA 1949” 166 x 124 cm
Dokolo’s collection of contemporary art includes over 80 African artists as well as those from its Diaspora. The collection holds artworks ranging from the video projection Felix in Exile (1994) by William Kentridge and self-portraits Emperor of Africa (2013) by Samuel Fosso to conceptual works by Kendell Geers and the installation work Thirteen Hours (2013) by the emerging Angolan artist Binelde Hyrcan. It covers the artistic expressions all around the continent, from the north of Egypt to the south of South Africa. Dokolo creates an interaction and a dialogue between different aesthetics of our contemporary time.
Amassing over 5000 pieces of invaluable African art, Dokolo has now become one of the symbols for repatriation in the history of art in Africa.
‘My main focus is actually to manage to have a very dynamic artistic and cultural life with no infrastructure. It has been a sort of blessing in that we do not have any contemporary art museums because we [then] have to revisit the way people engage with art and culture in an urban environment.’ One of the missions the collector aims to achieve with his foundation is to remodel the falsified bourgeois value of art into a public commodity. Currently, the Sindika Dokolo Foundation is working on a project, using marketing and publicity strategies, putting up dozens upon dozens of street advertisement of the artworks, to get the general public engaged with art in an ‘involuntary, unconscious and natural way’. Dokolo and his team are also working with local schools to coordinate guided visits to travelling exhibitions. Ever since the initiation of this programme, 50,000 children have been enrolled and this year, Dokolo hopes to reach an audience of 100,000 children in his education of African contemporary art.
The Sindika Dokolo Foundation is a safe haven for empowerment of future generations of Africans by providing them with the knowledge to participate in their own cultural history. Throughout the years with his collection and the foundation, Dokolo notices the ‘baby boom of creativity’, a proliferation in artistic expression in Angola in recent years. He is especially involved with local Angolan artists. He finds that ‘it is a socialist government but there was always a kind of depth in the Angolan culture’ giving Angola’s local artistic language an ‘inner life and sensitivity in emotion’. Dokolo has witnessed many artists come and go in his foundation and now, he shares his views on the integration of African contemporary artists in the international circuits of art like a wise man reciting a fable. ‘I think the right reflex is to come back to Angola and work some more, work to build their careers from the inside out. I think that guarantees some consistency and some prudence also when they approach the international market.’
Behind the Sindika Dokolo Foundation is an ideology to repatriate the rights to the continent to paint an accurate portrait of African art in our contemporary time. There is a synergy between his collection and his audience, Dokolo encourages authentic creation through his collection and at the same time, he is inspired by this creativity to further experiment with his foundation.
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