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Ubuntu, a lucid dream

The exhibition is an invitation to occupy the Ubuntu, a space which is still little frequented by our imaginaries and knowledge. Untranslatable in Western languages, the meaning of this term, coming from the Bantu languages of Southern Africa, unites notions of humanity, collectiveness and hospitality and can be interpreted as: “I am because we are”.

This demand for “a humanity of reciprocity”, evoked by the Ubuntu thought, is one of the little-known essential contributions of African philosophies. This notion, in its philosophical and spiritual dimensions, can be considered to be one of the few characteristics of African societies to have survived six hundred years of slavery, colonialism and imperialism of all kinds, which have destabilised societies and undermined traditional means of knowledge transmission. Enrooted in numerous African languages and cultures, the Ubuntu thinking remains active in the conception of the place of the individual in a community, but also in the connections between peoples, structuring an awareness and a vision of the world within an interdependency of relationships. This notion has thus fed into the thinking of liberation movements in the African post-colonial experiences of the 1960s, for example nourishing aspirations for the construction of an African socialism or the idea of a political Pan-Africanism. This way of thinking comes out from the contemporary literary and poetic productions of the continent and its diasporas, from Edouard Glissant to Vumbi Yoka Mudimbe, Alain Mabanckou, Yanick Lahens or Léonora Miano to cite just a few French-speaking authors, among others. When it comes to musical creation, Fela Kuti or Miriam Makeba remain legendary spokespeople for this idea of unity in coming together. Given that Ubuntu symbolises the bond made between all people, it was used and broadly popularised by Nelson Mandela to depict the ideal of a society opposed to segregation during Apartheid, then to promote the national reconciliation of South Africa.

But contemporary African realities also inform us of the disarray of the Ubuntu spirit in the light of political failings, bloody conflicts and violence, in particular towards LGBTQI+ communities and women. However, the Ubuntu philosophy has broadly been reinvested by intellectuals, activists and producers in all the fields of contemporary creation, via new dynamics in the reassembling of the thoughts and imaginaries that run across an entire continent undergoing a profound mutation. In a now uncertain world, lacking meaning and stuck on identity issues seen as archaic and inadequate defence reactions, Ubuntu or the question of “making humanity together and humanising the world”, to quote the philosopher Souleymane Bachir Diagne, can be given a solid platform and is set at the heart of social claims and debates, which are political, economic, cultural and ecological on the African continent, as elsewhere in the world.

The exhibition “Ubuntu, A Lucid Dream” aims to bear witness to these current dynamics and brings together contributions by twenty artists or groups of artists whose work chimes with the Ubuntu philosophy of “making humanity together” while attempting to approach it as a resource, a space for invention, or fiction, as well as a mediation with the real world.


Curator : Marie-Ann Yemsi


From 26/11/2021 to 20/02/2022