Art is a human right. No Art On $2.00 A Day, a poignant reminder that economic disposition should not dictate who is entitled to see beauty or ugliness, to dream or to have nightmares.
Dedicated to a formidable artist and founder of Art Bakery, the late Goddy Leye who speaks in the later part of the video. The film documents an act of revolt in 2007, by a group of artists responding to broken promises.
In 2002, the artist collective Cercle Kapsiki had entrusted the National Museum of Cameroon with more than fifty artworks, based on the agreement that they would be exhibited and later purchased by the museum. Few people would see the exhibition due to poor promotion. Adding insult to injury, the museum would later renege on their original intent to purchase, that would have placed the artworks into their permanent collection, they also failed to return them.
Years would pass, the artists waiting patiently and their requests for the pieces to be returned unrequited. To be exact, more than five years would pass and no action nor word from the Museum. The artists from the original collective, Cercle Kapsiki would regroup with the addition of Goddy Leye calling themselves Collectif Auto Da Fe. Together they would then decide to take matters into their own hands, reclaiming their artworks. What awaited them was the discovery that the state-run museum had shown little care for the pieces; poor storage rendering most damaged beyond repair. Of the original fifty-some works, five were reclaimed.
In a moving act of solidarity, the artists in 2007 took those reclaimed pieces and choose to burn them. Goddy Leye makes the strong extolling statement to the gathered crowd, as they watch the artworks burning, that “Art is not dead tonight. Art is alive more than ever before. And this art that you see burning, will be reborn.” We could not whole-heartily agree, that Art matters more on two bucks than on fifteen thousand and that we need it as essentially as the body needs breath. RIP Goddy Leye.
No Art On $2.00 A Day
As narrated by Nahomie Merilan
They say that if you live on two dollars a day, you don’t need Art.
You don’t want Art.
What you want, is food.
You don’t care about creation, beauty, ugliness, dreams, nightmares.
All you want to know is where the next two bucks are coming from.
In a city, in a country, in a world where two bucks a day, is a good day, they say Art is a luxury, Art is for the school, Art is for the developed.
They say the people don’t care.
Who are they to say?
I say, access to Art is a human right.
To like, dislike, hate, be moved and if you choose, choose not to care.
I say all these things are rights beyond rights.
I say you have no right, to say that on two bucks a day Art don’t matter.
I say it matters more on two bucks than on fifteen thousand.
I say, it’s not because the rich don’t care, because the IMF, the bankers, the president don’t care.
I say that it’s not because they don’t care, that the man on the corner selling cigarettes by the stick don’t care.
I say, I know there are artists here.
Sculptors, poets, film makers, painters.
Hervé Youmbi, Salifou Lindou, Jules Wokam, Hervé Yamguen, Blaise Bang.
I say that on two bucks a day without art, you, they, we, all of us gag.
That there is no air left, that we all asphyxiate, every last one of us.
I say Goddy Leye.
Ladies & Gentlemen:
The choir has not come to sing for dying art.
Art is not dead tonight.
Art is alive more than ever before.
And this art that you see burning, will be reborn.
Will be reborn stronger than ever.
This may be a cry of anger, but it is also a cry of hope,
Because if we can not revolt, we can do nothing.
In months to come, ashes from the bonfire will be used to create future works of art.
The artists hope their protests will not be forgotten.
Aretha Louis Mbango
The performance seen in this film took place in the context of Salon Urbain de Douala, a triennial arts festival mounted by doual’Art & I-Strike