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Africa On TV: The Borgen Edition

Danish political drama Borgen heads to Africa for an episode, and the results are far nuanced


In European and American political drama, there comes a time for the "Africa" episode. It's a sign that the leader in question is committed to the "big issues", namely famine, poverty, war, genocide. Thankfully, all of these can be found in one place: the basket-case that is Africa on TV.  It took the writers of acclaimed Danish political drama Borgen a season and a half to take us there, but in Season 2, episode 7 Danish Prime Minister, Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) dons her khaki skirt suit and heads to Kharun, a fictional country overrun by civil strife.

Our sympathetic Danish leader wants to spread peace on Earth by negotiating a settlement between the Muslim north and the secessionist Christian South, but this is serious political drama, so there are also some material incentives for Nyborg's intervention. The conflict has interrupted oil extraction by Denmark's biggest tycoon. Add to this her crappy numbers in the polls, and you have the confluence of big money and self-interest that is the stuff of political wet dreams. With democracy, the rule of law and a healthy dose of secularism in her outstretched hands, Nyborg marches to Kharun to end religious strife, and while she's at it, notch up some humanitarian brownie points and restore the country's faith in her leadership. Here are the highlights:

The minute they hit the continent, the clouds of dust begin to billow. Nyborg has gone to meet the leaders of Kharun, but there isn't a single city, or even village in sight. This is like filling a show about Britain's political strife with images of the Lake District rather than shots of Parliament. HIC SVNT LEONES.

But there are a few citizens of Kharoun knocking about. Silhouettes in the dusty landscape, they look like mad bad gunslingers. Rather handily though, they double as mechanics, for when the bad roads mess up your 4x4.

More mad, bad men — this time the country's leaders (not a single African woman in this episode on nation building). Naturally they disagree over religion, land and oil.  There's not much to redeem Borgen's portrayal of these two presidents, except that they're so cliched it's a little bit funny.

From the Islamic north is Omar Al-Jahwar (Abdi Gouhad), a scheming Oxford alum wanted by The Hague for war crimes. His rival, Jakob Lokoya (Femi Elufowoju Jr.) is leader of the Christian south. He appeals to the Danes because he doesn't wear a turban, he speaks English and deploys buzzwords like democracy, progress, even referring to one of the Danish delegates "Uncle". But wait....

...there's a catch. After a winning speech about making "South Kharun a shining example for all of Africa" Lokoya, announces with an eerie smile “there are no homosexuals in South Kharun.” This utterance has precisely nothing to do with any of the storylines and its inclusion makes me wonder whether there wasn't some kind of African despot checklist the writers were trying to fulfill. I don't think we need to go into why such cartoonish sketches of African leaders are foolish, but we addressed the problems with understanding Africa as "naturally homophobic" just a week ago.

Despite less than progressive views on both sides of the conflict, the Danes persuade both leaders to come to Denmark for negotiations. When it turns out that North Kharun has been swindling oil revenues it comes as little surprise. In Africa, C is for Corruption.

Despite this (and other) setbacks to the peace process, the Danes decide to use the small matter of North Kharun's swindling as political leverage to close the deal, and the episode ends with faith restored in Nyborg's leadership. It's an accurate portrayal of how Western politicians use humanitarian causes to further their political capital at home, but the underlying message — that only with Danish (read: European) intervention can African leaders resolve their African squabbling –goes unquestioned. Instead, the Danes own democracy, and contrary to what the naughty Muslim patriarch thought, this progressive Western woman has taught both of them a thing or two.

Nul points: It's an otherwise stellar series, but Borgen wins zero prizes for groundbreaking portrayals of Africa.

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Artwork: Barthélémy Toguo Lockdown Selfportrait 10, 2020. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Goes to Paris in 2021

The longstanding celebration of African art will be hosted by Parisian hot spot Christie's for the first time ever.

In admittedly unideal circumstances, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be touching French soil in 2021. The internationally celebrated art fair devoted to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora will be hosted in Paris, France from January 20 - 23. With COVID-19 still having its way around the globe, finding new ways to connect is what it's all about and 1-54 is certainly taking the innovative steps to keep African art alive and well.
In partnership with Christie's, the in-person exhibits will take place at the auction house's city HQ at Avenue Matignon, while 20 international exhibitors will be featured online at Christies.com. And the fun doesn't stop there as the collaboration has brought in new ways to admire the talent from participating galleries from across Africa and Europe. The fair's multi-disciplinary program of talks, screenings, performances, workshops, and readings are set to excite and entice revelers.

Artwork: Delphine Desane Deep Sorrow, 2020. Courtesy Luce Gallery


The tech dependant program, curated by Le 18, a multi-disciplinary art space in Marrakech medina, will see events take place during the Parisian run fair, followed by more throughout February.
This year's 1-54 online will be accessible to global visitors virtually, following the success of the 2019's fair in New York City and London in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19 related regulations and public guidelines, 1-54 in collaboration with Christie's Paris is in compliance with all national regulations, strict sanitary measures, and security.

Artwork: Cristiano Mongovo Murmurantes Acrilico Sobre Tela 190x200cm 2019


1-54 founding director Touria El Glaoui commented, "Whilst we're sad not to be able to go ahead with the fourth edition of 1-54 Marrakech in February as hoped, we are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be in Paris this January with our first-ever fair on French soil thanks to our dedicated partners Christie's. 1-54's vision has always been to promote vibrant and dynamic contemporary art from a diverse set of African perspectives and bring it to new audiences, and what better way of doing so than to launch an edition somewhere completely new. Thanks to the special Season of African Culture in France, 2021 is already set to be a great year for African art in the country so we are excited to be playing our part and look forward, all being well, to welcoming our French friends to Christie's and many more from around the world to our online fair in January."

Julien Pradels, General Director of Christie's France, said, "Christie's is delighted to announce our second collaboration with 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, following a successful edition in London this October. Paris, with its strong links to the continent, is a perfect place for such a project and the additional context of the delayed Saison Africa 2020 makes this partnership all the more special. We hope this collaboration will prove a meaningful platform for the vibrant African art scene and we are confident that collectors will be as enthusiastic to see the works presented, as we are."


Artwork: Kwesi Botchway Metamorphose in July, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957


Here's a list of participating galleries to be on the lookout for:

Galleries

31 PROJECT (Paris, France)
50 Golborne (London, United Kingdom)
Dominique Fiat (Paris, France)
Galerie 127 (Marrakech, Morocco)
Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris, France)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire/ Dakar, Senegal)
Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris, France)
Galerie Lelong & Co. (Paris, France / New York, USA)
Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)
Galleria Continua (Beijing, China / Havana, Cuba / Les Moulins, France / San Gimignano, Italy / Rome, Italy)
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana / London, United Kingdom)
Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca, Morocco)

Luce Gallery (Turin, Italy)
MAGNIN-A (Paris, France)
Nil Gallery (Paris, France)
POLARTICS (Lagos, Nigeria)
SEPTIEME Gallery (Paris, France)
This is Not a White Cube (Luanda, Angola) THK Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa) Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland)

For more info visit 1-54

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