July 28, 2021

In Marseille, Nigerian artist Emeka Ogboh brings the public to the table

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The Nigerian artist Emeka Ogboh amazes us and the taste buds with the help of several African chefs for his exhibition “Stirring the pot”, at the Friche la Belle de Mai, in Marseille, until October 21, 2021.

Bananas simmer in a saucepan, onions sizzle in a frying pan, while skillful hands knead a dough. In the kitchen, the chef of Beninese origin Georgiana Viou prepares a focaccia of her own, in front of the lens of Emeka Ogboh.

The Nigerian artist was known for his fabulous sound installations, reviving the din of Lagos, where the cries of street vendors collide, impatient horns, and the endless barouf of parties. If the sound still dominates his exhibition, “Stirring the pot”, at the Friche la Belle de Mai, in Marseille, the Nigerian summons the other senses, especially the sense of smell, by disseminating scents of wet earth and spices.

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And even more taste in a video installation entitled Migratory Notes, retracing the circulation of food and flavors, from their collection in Ghana or Cameroon to their arrival in Marseille, and their transformation by an experienced African chef.

« The whole story of migration is also a story of food, explains Emeka Ogboh, 43, cut like a rugby player with his meter ninety unfolded. How to find the tastes we leave behind ? How to substitute them? What are we ready to give up? »

Spice up at work

These questions have tormented him since he put down his suitcases, ten years ago, in Berlin. Like all immigrants, Emeka Ogboh searched for the new ingredients of her life, crisscrossing the German capital in search of spices and fresh produce from Nigeria. Eating obsesses him then. He is passionate about cooking. Emeka Ogboh gradually learns to accommodate Western products, such as spinach, which he substitutes for the untraceable ugu.

In contact with his adopted country, the gourmet widened his palate, feasted on dishes less seasoned with spices and discovered other culinary traditions, notably Moroccan, which fascinate him today.

One of the installations of Emeka Ogboh, Nigerian artist, for her sensory exhibition around African cuisines and fusion,

From 2015, food literally feeds his work. At the Documenta de Cassel in 2017, he produced a dark beer called Sufferhead, promoted with this advertising slogan displayed throughout the city: « Who is afraid of black ? » [« qui a peur du noir »].

Nice subversion to violate a “Puritan law” Germanic, which, since the XVIe century limits the ingredients used in the composition and manufacture of beer, and so raise the question of purity. This drink brewed in Cologne, Emeka Ogboh wanted spicy, because ” when you ask Africans what they lack most is chili! “.

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In Marseille, Emeka Ogboh offers on the rooftop terrace of the Friche la Belle de Mai two new beverages concocted at the Castelet brewery, in Signes, in the Var, this time mixing herbs from Provence with spices from Nigeria. ” A very strong political act to fight against the globalization of taste and to respond to Heineken’s monopoly on brewing in Africa. », Comments the affable Fabrice Lextrait, president of the Grandes Tables, the original restaurant of the Friche la Belle de Mai, place of all gastronomic experiments.

“Culture of cooperation”

This entrepreneur is knowledgeable in culinary mixing, he who invited African chefs to grab his menu, to imagine ” a culture of cooperation rather than cultural cooperation “. On the occasion of the “Stirring the pot” exhibition, he invited several African chefs, such as the Marseillaise born in the Comoros Nadjatie Bacar, founder of Douceur piquante, located in the Panier district, as well as the great Malagasy cook Lalaina Ravelomanana, which promises some surprises, such as this ice cream made with caviar from Madagascar.

It was Fabrice Lextrait and Véronique Collard-Bovy, director of the Fraeme association, who had the idea of ​​bringing together Georgiana Viou and Emeka Ogboh. The Beninese chef knew nothing about the art of Nigerian, which itself was not familiar with Benin. But between these two bon vivant with hybrid tastes, the current goes.

« The kitchen does not need translation, sourit Georgiana Viou. We do not play smart in front of the food. Together, they concocted a dinner using the codes of Nigerian and Beninese cuisine. On the menu, in particular, beef kebabs accompanied by a Sub-Saharan satay (mixture of spices) made up of bay leaf, cloves, chili, ginger and anise.

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Cooking as a vehicle for mutual (re) knowledge and integration? ” The culinary scenes around the world owe a lot to the immigrant population », Echoes Emeka Ogboh. Yet, he adds, “Westerners are happy to have our spices, our chocolate or our coffee, but they don’t want people.”

Georgiana Viou, who skilfully adapts Provençal cuisine to dishes marked by her origins, could not say better. ” I’m not going to go to Benin every four mornings to bring back some products ”, quips this energetic woman, who has just taken the reins of the restaurant Rouge, in Nîmes. But, in Marseilles, she finds the vegetables of her childhood which acclimatize to the sky of Provence, like the chilli or the white sweet potato.

Today, Emeka Ogboh is convinced, one day he will have his own restaurant, a place where he will brew as many beers as he has ideas. And to let go, in a great burst of laughter: ” I’m preparing for this moment by pretending to be making art! »

“Stirring the pot”, until October 24, 2021, Friche la Belle de Mai, Marseille, www.lafriche.org