Achillekà Komguem and Lionel Manga
16 September 2009
Duration: 31 minutes

Achillekà Komguem lives and works between Douala and Yaoundé (Cameroon). He is an artist and editor of DiARTgonale, an English / French art magazine dedicated to contemporary art in Africa founded in 2007. Lionel Manga is a writer and cultural critic based in Douala. He studied economics in Paris. In this conversation, he announces that his next book might bear the title ‘Next Level’. They both were in Holland on the invitation of Lucia Babina and Zoë Gray for the project Talking About!.

Our tour with Achillekà and Lionel along the harbour of Rotterdam starts in the renovated historic harbour in the city centre and continues along the north side of the harbour area of Schiedam and Vlaardingen. At Maassluis we take the ferry to the south side, to Rozenburg and take the Europaweg to the Maasvlakte. Lionel and Achillekà are interested to see the famous Rotterdam harbour. In Cameroon, a new deep sea port will be developed in the town of Kribi, and in Rotterdam they can take a look at what could be their future. They both are shocked to see the totally designed and ‘post-human’ Dutch urban landscape with designed nature, giant oil tanks, black mountains of coal, and the smell of the petro-chemical industry. They ask themselves ‘where is the nature?’, ‘where are the people’ and ‘what about the quality of life?’, and finally ‘do we want to reach this state?’.

In Station Maasvlakte we get a history lesson on Cameroon, and the rise of an art scene in Douala. In 2010, its 50 years of independence will be celebrated. ‘But what have we reached so far?’ says Lionel, ‘There is corruption and in a land with 20 million only 1 million people have running water.’
Achillekà talks about the art scene in Douala, and about a group of artists working with conceptual and research based art. He tells us about their practice and strategies in a place with no financial support nor local art market, and about the importance of this work and discourse in a place where the de facto dictatorship* had a strong impact on the intellectual community and on the space left for critical thinking.

We also talk about the role art can have in relation to the Maasvlakte area, and we conclude for the moment: the role of art here is merely to ask questions.

*Cameroon is ostensibly a democracy, but the same party has been in power since independence and the premier, Paul Biwa, shows little sign of stepping down.

DiARTgonale is distributed in Cameroon. It is published by ARTCE (Association Art pour la Conscientisation et l'Education) with the support of Lamia MEDDEB, Suisse.

This summer Talking About! invited six artists and cultural producers from Cameroon to visit the Netherlands: Ruth Belinga (artist, curator, Yaoundé), Goddy Leye (artist, founder of artist’s initiative Art Bakery, Douala), Hervé Youmbi (artist, member of the collective Cercle Kapsiki, Douala), Achillekà Komguen (artist, editor of newspaper Diartgonale, Yaoundé), Lionel Manga (writer and cultural critic, Douala), Achille Atina (cultural mediator, Douala).
iStrike Foundation is officially registered and based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, but operates at an international level as a collective subject.