A spotlight on overseas France
In 2009, the Grande Halle de la Villette cultural centre in Paris presented the “Kréyol Factory” exhibition featuring the work of approximately 60 contemporary artists. The exhibition explored the collective imagination and identities that are both common to and specific to the Creole world while placing a special focus on artists from the French overseas territories.
Since then, there have been very few largescale events organised in mainland France that give visibility to new generations of artists from the country’s overseas territories. In the per- forming arts sector, festivals such as Zébrures d’Automne in Limoges (directed by Hassane Kouyaté), TOMA at the Chapelle du Verbe Incarné in Avignon (directed by Greg Germain), and Mois Kréyol in the Paris area (directed by Chantal Loial) provide a diverse rhythm to the French cultural season. However, there are no major visual arts events in France to enhance the presence of these burgeoning artistic movements.
Certainly, figures such as Julien Creuzet, Gaëlle Choisne, and Kenny Dunkan have emerged in recent years; but for most artists from the overseas territories, the creative journey is difficult, the question of mobility is complex, and the challenge of integrating into the French professional field is hampered by multiple obstacles (need for training, lack of ac- cess to networks, the structure of the art sector in the overseas territories, etc.). A good number of artists from the French overseas territories have flourished by approaching (and in many ways identifying with) the major contemporary art events in the Global South, particularly on the African continent (the Biennale de Dakar, the Rencontres de Bamako, etc.) where the dynamic African diaspora has, over the years, formed a transnational professional community built around deeply held notions of solidarity.
Today, there are several initiatives promoting the influence of French-speaking and overseas arts communities and, more broadly, those in outlying European regions. These include the ONDES residency programme run by the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris as well as the Archipel.eu programme run by the Institut Français under the auspices of the European Com- mission’s Department of Regional and Urban Policy.
At the same time, the artistic sectors in these territories are becoming more structured with the presence of FRAC regional contemporary art funds, art schools, cultural organisations like the Documents d’Artistes in Réunion Island, independent art centres, galleries, and other institutions. A new generation of artists has emerged and evolved, artists who are often freeing themselves from the bilateral rela- tionship with France and working more widely in their own cultural and geographical domains: the Caribbean (and by extension the American continent) and the Indian Ocean (and by exten- sion the African continent).
In the context of a new cooperation agreement signed by the French Ministry of Culture and the French Ministry of the Overseas, “Champ d’Îles”, which takes its title from a poem by Édouard Glissant, could become a permanent fixture of the French cultural calendar. Orga- nised by La Friche la Belle de Mai in partnership with the FRAC Réunion art fund, the Fraeme contemporary art centre, and the Triangle-Astérides contemporary art centre, the first edition includes two group exhibitions, a programme of performances and residencies, and a symposium coordinated by the Documents d’Artistes Network. It should lay the foundations for a recurring event, the need for which we believe will disappear over time.
Alban Corbier-Labasse Director General Friche la Belle de Mai
Friche la Belle de mai
41 rue Jobin, 13003, Marseille
Kako et Stéphane Kenklé, Lévtét, 2022, série de photographies, 80 x 120 cm (© adagp, Paris)