Up until six months ago, I didn’t know the meaning of the French word ‘vernissage’. Now I do and I’ve been to more than I can remember. I’m not sure of the best English translation, but it’s the sort of opening night/launch night of an exhibition, often in the form of a cocktail party. I’m sure they were going before I understood what they meant or participated, but I think it’s also true that there does seem to be something of a flowering of cultural events in recent months. Long may this continue, and it provides a good footing for my forth-coming abidjanito project.
Yesterday’s launch party for Ivorian photographer Joana Choumali‘s first solo exhibition was exceptionally good. Not only are the photos superb, but I felt I could count at least a quarter of the people there as friends, which made for a very pleasurable time. It’s been cool to develop closer bonds with a certain community of young artistic and creative types in the last year, which is really added to the enjoyment of living here. Especially so, as any foreigner deciding to stay for the long-run needs to move out of ex-pat circles, at least in part, to stay sane and get some roots.
In a city of 5 million people, most of them young, I of course only know a very small number of people here. That’s important to remember when you go similar events and see a similar crowd. The question I pose myself is whether this optimistic, creative and web-connected crowd can have a wider impact on Abidjan society, or just on themselves. I can attend events organised by one, see photos taken by another, on the website of another, promoted by another member of the crowd…but is this insular or is it the sort of critical mass of people that can prompt a wider revolution? I think the jury’s still out. There is a danger I think in doing things that get community respect in a self-referential way, but hardly make an impact on the wider society. Or perhaps this crowd are the young pioneers that will develop the services and platforms for the time when the 99% come online.