Friday, March 19, 2010

Gambian Artist Opens ‘Mama Africa’ Centre

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-“Mama Africa” a women’s museum and arts centre is now open at Bato Kunku village in the Kombo South district of the Western Region.
The centre was founded by Isha Fofana, a female Gambian artist, and reportedly built at a cost of 3 million Dalasis.
Mama Africa is described as the first international women’s museum in The Gambia, and the fifth in Africa, after the opening of similar centres in Senegal, Mali, Bukina Faso and Ghana.
The new art centre was officially opened on 16 February 2010 ,by the Minister of Tourism and Culture, Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, on behalf of the Vice President.
Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie congratulated the proprietor and artist, Isha Fofana, for taking the bold initiative and responding to the call of the President by contributing to the development of the artistic and cultural heritage of the country.
According to her, the new development will inspire fellow artists to re-dedicate themselves to the development of Gambian visual arts through innovation, creativity and partnerships.
The women’s museum and art centre will also contribute to the development of cultural tourism in the country which, the Minister said, “is a cornerstone of our tourism policy in terms of product development ad diversification”.
The opening of the centre, she continued, “is yet another added attraction on Gambian soil”, and a response to President Yahya Jammeh’s call for all and sundry to contribute their quota to the socio-economic advancement of The Gambia.
The minister commended the proprietor, adding that the ministry applauded her efforts in raising the standard of Gambian visual and plastic arts through establishing a centre of excellence that she created in the context of contributing to national development.
“On my behalf and on behalf of the Ministry, I wish to congratulate Isha Fofana once more for this laudable initiative, and to pray that Allah continues to give her the strength and the wisdom to make even greater contributions to the visual ad plastic arts sub-sector of our national life”.
The minister assured the founder of her Ministry’s “unflinching support and solidarity at all times”, adding, “we wish you tremendous success in the months and years to come”.
According to Tourism and Culture Minister, a nation’s artists, producing a nation’s art, are important partners in development. “Art permeates virtually every aspect of life, from the utilitarian and functional things that “we need and use as humans to the aesthetic and decorative aspects”.
The art of a nation, she said, portrays the creative genius of its people and exposes in a positive and aesthetic form, the socio-cultural features of a country.
“This is why it is so important for great attention to be paid to the arts, because they constitute an important pillar in national development”.
The development and promotion of the visual and plastic arts is, therefore, a cornerstone of the cultural policy of the Gambia, she added.
Ms Fofana’s accomplishment is yet another feather added on to the cap of Gambian women for their continued contribution to the socio-economic development of the country in virtually all sectors, the Minister said.
“Today is red letter day in the annals of arts and culture in the Gambia”, declared Momodou Joof Director General at the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), who thanked Ms Fofana for the initiative.
The day marked a breakthrough in art and culture and the tourism sector with the official opening of this first international women’s museum and arts centre in the country. According to Mr. Joof, Ms Fofana’s work as an artist started far back in the early 1980s when she was a member of “Gambia Black African Arts Club” in Bakau.
“Isha had a passion for art at early stage in life, and has been like Edrisa Saine, Baboucarr Etou Ndow, among others in Bakau town”.
“To me, it is not a surprise to see such a complex built by Isha”, Mr. Joof added.
The NCAC Director-General further revealed that the Gambian artist has spent almost ten years in working in the artistic field in the Gambia, Africa and the world at large.
“During her time in Europe, she had exhibitions at UNESCO on the occasion of the music award given to Youssou Ndour of Senegal and singer Oumou Samgare of Mali.
“Her gallery in Germany was a cultural centre for people interested in arts and culture from all over Africa”.
Ms Fofana has made a name in the arts world, as she has participated in many international exhibitions, according to Mr. Joof.
“It is very rare to see young a Gambian who has travelled abroad and made a name, who comes back to the country”. Ms Fofana has been making a positive contribution to the tourism industry, and called on others to follow in her footsteps.
Mr. Joof commended the female artist for taking up the challenge by coming back to her native country, and assured her of NCAC’s support at all times.
“What you achieved here is indeed a shining example for many Gambians, especially young artists”.
Isha Fofana said “Mama Africa” is a non-profit association founded in 2009 in The Gambia.
“The vision that guided the creation of the complex is to build an institute for the future based on the belief that the voices, imagination and contributions of women must be part of the foundation of the society, and shape the future”, she said.
According to her, she was born in Banjul in 1965, and travelled to Germany, and that she has spent over 10 years working as an artists.
She revealed that, after an audience with the Vice President some years back, she decided to return home and to help her country in her field.
She thanked the Gambian leader for creating the enabling environment for artists in the country.
“This centre was built without support from any organisation; all the money I have abroad is what I spent here”.
According to her, the museum will be turned into a lively cultural centre and, hopefully, generate interesting exchanges as more visitors from West Africa and beyond come to visit.
“It will not be a museum where visitors just walk around and watch historical objects and art works, but it will be a “living museum”, she said, adding that guests will meet artists at work, enjoy local dancing and music, observe traditional and cultural dresses and learn to prepare Gambian foods and drinks.
“They will have the opportunity to get in touch with female spiritual powers and healing methods and experience family life from the past and present”.
She added: “My mission is to show the life of a modern African woman, and contemporary African art, and to give a view to the inside of women in the African society of the future”.
I had for almost ten years a great career in Europe and I decided to come back to my country (The Gambia), to help, to give back to my country something, the experiences I have learned.
“It is not the money we have to give to our homeland, to the children; it is the knowledge which will build up a great future for The Gambia.
Prayers were led by Isha’s father, Alhaji Gassim Fofana. The public was entertained by cultural groups.

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