Our last day in Bamako

We’re completing the complex business of checking 18 people out of the hotel and settling the bills. Those of us who are ready and packed meet in the lobby. In a short while we should start with the evaluation of the trip.

The evaluation has started!

It’s around 4:30 now, we’re back in the lobby of the hotel and just heard that our flight has a delay of 7 hours and that it might get worse. Haco rushed to the airport to find out what is going on and what we should do hotel-wise. More on that later I’m sure.

But let me get back to the evaluation. I want to start by saying that the whole group was really impressed with how well the trip was organised by Haco and Dilara. They did a great job in terms of making the program not too heavy, creating space for individual appointments with artists, making sure all went smoothly along the way and creating the perfect rhythm: Istanbul was fast-paced with a full schedule, Lagos was an intense two days and then finally Bamako was more relaxing. And of course, the rising temperature from one city to the next, sort of forced us to slow down. There is only so much one can do in 40+ degrees. The major achievement of course, is that you feel you have a sense of the art scene in these three very different cities. We all feel like we have an overview of the art scene, what goes on and what it means to be an artist in the three cities. Everyone thought the group was well-balanced and that the international guests and the people from Ghana made a huge difference in terms of perspective, depth of discussions and interesting exchanges. Also, the program was more interdisciplinary this year which was much appreciated. For many of the participants, traveling in a group is not something they do often or consider as the best way to see new places. However, traveling with international arts professionals turned out to be very rewarding because you can exchange expertise within the group. Besides praise, there were also a few suggestions for the next trip.

The main suggestions were:

– the participants felt that it would be good to have a few hours of plenary discussion on each city. General impressions, issues that came up during the visits, questions and remarks could then be dealt with in the group rather than individually or one on one.

– most people would have liked to know a bit more in-depth what everyone in the group was involved in. Of course, you talk a lot on the bus, waiting for the plane, during breakfast and dinner, but nevertheless it could be interesting to have a sort of pecha kucha style evening with short presentations that briefly outline the core of what everyone does, where they work, what their main interests and current projects are. It would be good to do this halfway through the trip when people know each other already a little bit.

– as is the case every year, this year as well there was the artists versus organisations -discussion. The focus of the visits is very much on organisations and art institutions. It is hardly possible to meet artists with such a large group. People agreed that you have to do your own research before you go on the trip and make individual appointments with the artists you would like to meet (and some in the group did that). Another idea could be to involve artists more closely in panel discussions, like the one we had with curators in Istanbul. Such a round tabel discussion could be held in every city; the discussion in Istanbul was very useful and insightful. Also, it was suggested that it could be good to have someone from the city you visit travel with the group in that city. That way you can ask questions as they come up and discuss issues more in-depth. The group from Ghana that joined us functioned much in that way and they introduced the perspective of a knowledgeable outsider.

Finally, I would like to stress again that it is very important that we all keep each other informed on projects that result from this trip. The follow-up is extremely important. As Rosina formulated it so beautifully, the real trip will begin once we get home.

– Maaike Lauwaert


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