How does your work draw from the past?
For many years I’ve been interested in architecture, but especially the relationship between traditional architecture and modernity. Le Corbusier drew inspiration from the aesthetics of the 11th century architecture of Ghardaia, Algeria. His work referenced elements common in non-Western homes and repurposed them for Western use, leaving the original source civilization without credit. This denial is colonialism. Le Corbusier, as well as Picasso and Braque with Songye masks from Africa, took from these civilizations, but most significantly they denied acknowledging the origins. We are absolutely blind to the legacies of the past and also the legacy of the values of the past. My work is very much based on the fact that we are living in a time of amnesia, which makes us weak to lead our thought toward an evolutionary horizon. I really want people to get that modernity, which is the birth of our contemporary world, has a strong relation with tradition, and we need to keep this in mind visually as much as intellectually to confront the future. Why? Because the world is changing, and those who were the minorities and non-Western cultures yesterday are now gaining more presence in the global order.
How does the concept of repair function in your work?
This issue of Repair is extremely important because Western modern education has indoctrinated us with a dogmatic conception of the Repair. Modernity has always signified that making an injury disappear and bringing the body back to the original shape is progress. The modern Western world is trying to go back to the original state of the item broken or the body injured, but this is impossible—you can never get back to the original. That ‘s why I often call this the “Myth of the Perfect”. The Western world is full of this illusion. In a non-Western traditional society, when an object such as a mask has been broken, the way it is repaired becomes the path of a new life for the object. They use wire or heavy thick string to repair any callebasse or mask. There is no concern of altering the form during the repair. The repair here becomes the signature of the person repairing it. The visible relation of parts repaired to the whole is seen in traditional architecture. Adobe houses from India, the Middle East, and Africa, are constantly repaired. The repair is life. Thus, most traditional societies place emphasis on the repair in front of the object, creating new expression.
My project aims at revealing the injuries of human history from tradition to modernity. The Western mind is determined to remove these injuries, even through psychoanalysis, but they remain forever. I am binding, like Franz Fanon did, the traumas of domination from Western modern civilizations onto the non-Western traditional ones, from African to American. However long ago, the colonial process of domination and extermination has the same goal, which is the denial of a people’s history before colonization. However we may think of these as injuries, they are forever scars on our faces.