The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, in conjunction with its own grantmaking nonprofit Le Korsa, which focuses on Senegal, has announced plans for a new museum in Senegal that will serve as both a community center and of exhibition space for art. Bët-bi, as the institution will be known (the name means “eye” in the local Wolof language), will also serve as a conduit for repatriated objects from museums around the world as they return to their rightful homes. The museum will occupy 10,700 square feet and is designed by Atelier Masōmī, the architecture firm founded by Mariam Issoufou Kamara. The structure is expected to be completed in 2025.
Kamara said the museum, which will be created using traditional building methods and with input from local artisans, will respond to the heritage of the region, especially that of the Serer and Mandinka peoples. The former are known for their mystical religion based on the natural elements, the latter for their desire for empire and for their monumental architecture, which Kamara named as a touchstone in the design of the museum. The museum is to include five triangular structures connected by a walkway and will be located on an island near the historic town of Kaolack in Senegal’s southwestern Senegambia region, known for its stone megaliths. In addition to hosting exhibitions of contemporary and historical African art and housing a library, the institution will offer tours of the megaliths. The institution is also supposed to create jobs and provide an economic boost to local residents: more than half of the country’s inhabitants live in poverty.
Aware that many locals have never visited an art museum, Kamara said The Art Diaryr that “Bët-bi is first a public space and then an exhibition space”, further noting that she saw the possibility of conceiving the museum as an opportunity to break with the “typology” of Western institutions, that she considers unsuitable for most parts of the world. “For too long, our region has been a place where cultural wealth is plundered for the benefit of museum collections,” Kamara noted in a statement. “This project is an opportunity to design a new type of space that draws inspiration from the region’s roots and spiritual heritage. It’s a chance to push the boundaries of what defines a museum in the 21st century.
The museum is the latest addition to Senegal’s burgeoning arts and culture scene, following Black Rock Senegal, painter Kehinde Wiley’s closely guarded artist residency program in Senegal’s capital, launched in 2019, and the Museum of Civilizations black. , which opened in Dakar the previous year and has itself already hosted repatriated objects. The planned launch of Bët-bi comes two years after that of a Goethe Institut outpost, designed by Senegalese Pritzker Prize-winning architect Francis Kéré and currently under construction in Dakar.