Cosmogony: Who’s curating who?

Black Achievement Month

Programme editor
Programme editor
In cooperation with

Photo: Ishola Akpo, Iyà Nlà, 2020 (Serie AGBARA Women) © Courtesy of the artist

The Eurocentric view is dominant in the contemporary art world. Who decides what is art and what is not? And what criteria do European curators apply to select art from the African continent? During the Black Achievement Month, artists, curators and critics discuss the representation of contemporary African art in Europe.

This fall, the Cobra Museum exhibits works from the art collection of the Zinsou family: a selection of 130 works from 37 African artists, such as Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Mallick Sidibé, Chéri Samba and Zanele Muholi. Does this exhibition, titled ‘Cosmogony’, increase insight into the vibrant contemporary art scene across the African continent? And in what ways can curators foster a more inclusive notion of art?     


Marie-Cécile Zinsou is the chair of the Zinsou Foundation. With the Zinsou Foundation, she aims to promote contemporary African art and to create a space for dialogue between artists and the public. Marie-Cécile Zinsou sees a real movement on the African continent: “there’s something happening on this continent, from north to south and from east to west, which we are trying to express in the collection.”

Pascale Obolo is an artist, film director, researcher and curator. Her current research examines the acquisition policies of museums, relating them to opportunities to decolonize institutional practices. Her artistic work is activistic, focusing on matters such as identity, exile, invisibility and racism. Obolo: “We have to write our own histories of contemporary art. We can’t miss the boat this time.” (The New York Times)

Arthur Kibbelaar is diplomat of the Ministery of Foreign Affairs. Throughout his earlier career, he worked for the Netherlands Embassies in Madrid, Managua, Belgrade and Bujumbura. Alongside his career, he has consequently been involved in various international art foundations. Kibbelaar: “I am committed to collecting art, culture in broadest form and to foster cultural diplomacy. In this respect I have in particular dedicated myself over the years to exploring contemporary African art.”

Lara Khaldi is a curator and artist. She is a member of the artistic team of documenta fifteen. She has been recently appointed director at de Appel Arts Center, Amsterdam and will start in January 2023.

Gertrude Flentge  is a cultural practicioner involved in developing collaborative artistic and funding practices. She is a member of the artistic team for documenta fifteen. Since 2008 she was program manager of the international cultural programme of DOEN Foundation, after having developed the RAIN artists initiatives network at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten.

Emo de Medeiros is a Beninese-French artist and lives and works in Cotonou (Benin) and in Paris. His work has been shown internationally, in France (Centre Pompidou, Palais de Tokyo), in Germany (MARKK Hamburg), Brazil (Videobrasil Contemporary Art Festival São Paulo), Nigeria (LagosPhoto), United Kingdom, Japan, China, in the biennales of Marrakech, Dakar and Casablanca. His practice hinges on a single concept he calls contexture, a fusion of the digital and the material, of the tangible and the intangible, exploring hybridizations, interconnections and circulations of forms, technologies, traditions, myths and merchandises. He investigates the new perspectives and conversations happening in a novel space: the current context of the post-colonial, globalized and digitalized world of the early 21st century. 

Cosmogony – COBRA Museum

This exhibition offers a selection of works from the collection of the Zinsou family. At its founding, Marie Cécile Zinsou chose in 2005 to establish a venue casting light on contemporary art in Cotonou, in one of her two countries of origin: Benin. Her aim was to share the creativity of the African continent with a wide audience.

Home to over 1000 works, this collection is regularly presented at the Ouidah Museum-opened in 2014 by the Fondation Zinsou, but also in various exhibitions throughout the world. This october starts the exhibition in Cobra Museum.

Cosmogonies present more than 130 works (sculptures, photographs, paintings, and installations) of 37 artists of different generations- some already art standards, such as Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Cyprien Tokoudagba, Malick Sidibé or Chéri Samba, others present in the most important of contemporary art events, such as Joël Andrianomearisoa, Sammy Baloji, Emo de Medeiros or Zanele Muholi, and lastly emerging artists, such as Ishola Akpo or Aïcha Snoussi.


Marie-Cécile ZinsouPresident of the Zinsou Foundation (foto: Jean Dominique Burton)
Pascale OboloArtist & Filmmaker
Lara KhaldiCurator and artist
Gertrude Flentge Cultural practicioner