29.04 - 26.06.2021
Meshac Gaba’s series ‘Citoyen Du Monde’ series serves to underscore and illustrate the growing impact of globalisation and the merging of cultures worldwide – from the perspective of the African Diaspora. The series is comprised of multiple works, namely Globalballoon (2013), Ensemble’(2013), Project voyage (2012). This review will focus on the three aforementioned works respectively, in order to explore Gaba’s use of the national flag as means to represent the divisions of the global north and global south. The use of the worlds national flags connotates a witty and funny take on the common archaic view of the nation-state, while also clearly revealing Gaba’s political agenda. Moreover, this reveals the underlying thread which connects the artworks in this series as the combination of old flags propose a new flag – one which is global and internationally inclusive. Thus Gaba’s instillation proposes unity and togetherness in a world-state.
Globalballoon and Ensemble both make use of the aforementioned flags as artwork, Gaba fuses flags of western Africa with those of the European colonist nations such as England, thereby questioning the production and borders of states. This serves as a semiotic means of questioning what it is to be a citizen or to belong to a nation, thereby illustrating not only the archaism of these ideals but also the negative impacts implicitly associated with them. Moreover the underlying motif which Gaba communicates so powerfully is that the singular appearance and rhythm of each national flag is lost to a new found rhythm and appearance of the combined ‘world-state’ flag. Thus the national is consumed, digested and regurgitated as the international, a practice through which the continued intermingling of previously isolated cultures and identities produces new amalgamated versions of both respectively.
Project voyage continues this thread of migration and the global citizen, but serves to comment on the humble means by which many such migrants escape the harsh realities of their home nations. This is evidenced by the artwork mainly being comprised of wooden pallets and sticks which can be seen to represent the informal means by which rafts are often constructed and the sea is used as a means of travel. Furthermore, these have been combined with the Israeli, Tibetan, Russian, Chinese and UN flags to name a few. This serves not only to comment on the desperation of many of these migrants but also to commemorate those who have been lost on their voyages from war torn states across the ocean to lands which present the opportunity for a new beginning.
Thus Gaba is trying to communicate the crisis of the individual man or woman rather than the collective of the nation they have escaped. Moreover, this is evident as Gaba is questioning how globalisation and migration shape and inform all of our identities. Gaba himself has undergone this process himself in his own lived experience, having been born in the African nation of Benin and later being situated in Holland in order to pursue his studies and artistic career. Therefore Gaba questions the individuals global migratory experience as not all cultures, ethnicities and religious groups are received equally abroad and often have to overcome social pressures foreign from their homelands.