© Mamadou Gomis, ohne Titel, Dakar 2008

In the double exhibition prêt-à-partager, the ifa Galleries Berlin and Stuttgart present the results of numerous transnational and interdisciplinary artistic encounters on the African continent. After seven stops in West and South Africa, the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa) is now bringing this interplay of art, fashion and movement to Germany, showing how culture can act as both a unifying and liberating instrument of awakening.

The prêt-à-partager project, initiated and organized by ifa, began in November 2008 with an interdisciplinary art workshop in Dakar, Senegal. Seventeen artists from Africa and Europe came together there to engage in a multimedia interdisciplinary workshop on fashion, design, photography and movement in public space. They brought influences from the metropolises of Berlin, Kinshasa, Dakar, London, Stuttgart, Douala, Hamburg and Johannesburg to the Senegalese capital.

The Afro-Brazilian martial art form capoeira formed the basis for the fashion creations made by Zohra Opoku (Ghana/Germany) and Senegalese fashion designer Ndiaga Diaw. Astrid S. Klein (Germany) used these for her photographs, in which she addresses the economic and social changes taking place in Dakar. Meanwhile fashion designer Zille Homma Hamid (Pakistan/Germany) drew inspiration from West African dyeing techniques. Nafissatou Diop’s (Senegal) lingerie outfits are tense aesthetic statements about bodies and gender politics. These are just a few examples of the intriguing and sometimes socially explosive works that the artists have developed against the backdrop of both their own histories and their experiences of being exposed to new cultural practices – beyond consumerism and brand fetishism.

Since 2008, prêt-à-partager has been shown throughout South and West Africa – in Dakar, Maputo, Lagos, Cape Town, Douala and Accra. Its extensive supporting program has facillitated collaborations that have expanded the ifa’s network and enriched the exhibition. In October 2011, the ifa organized an international artistic conference in Johannesburg that addressed the aesthetics and economics surrounding the concept of freedom in Africa and the African diaspora. The project and its themes touched and engaged a diverse audience far beyond the boundaries of contemporary art institutions.

The exhibition now on display in Germany marks a preliminary culmination of the project. Here, for the first time, the results of the transnational collaboration that emerged from the accompanying program will also be on view.

With prêt-à-partager, the ifa is establishing a new form of art dialogue: This form of artistic togetherness is not about seeing culture as a service, but about creating a platform where new ideas and visions that emerge through shared experience can meet. The ifa seeks respectful partnerships with mutual benefit and inspiration.

prêt-à-partager (roughly translated as “ready to share”) sees itself as a platform built on artistic exchange and participation, as well as the joint creation of new forms of understanding and perspectives on contemporary art and fashion. It is part of the Cultural Transfers series, which addresses the cultural appropriation and adoption of practices, ways of thinking, and cultural production.