The works exhibited in About Now #1 belong to the series of drawings presented by Carl-Edouard Keïta for his graduation from the New York Academy of Arts. In it, he explores, 100 years later, black figures emblematic of the period known as the Roaring Twenties, of which Paris was then the epicentre. It includes performances by the performer Josephine Baker, the dancer Feral Benga and the dancer Melka Soudani. The stories of these three artists reveal the complex relationships that existed at the time in France with regard to the figure of the Other, and particularly the African Other.
Between exoticism, fascination and admiration, the bodies of Joséphine Baker, Feral Benga and Melka Soudani were eroticized, shaped by the gaze of the white man, and fetishized according to codes they had to play with in order to free themselves. They are nevertheless central figures of these years of liberation, of the cabaret scene and of live performance in France. Joséphine Baker became the icon of the Roaring Twenties, and Feral Benga opened the Rose Rouge cabaret, which became an intermediary for young Africans wishing to succeed in this milieu in France.
The works of Carl-Edouard Keïta reveal the ambiguity of the place of these artists in post-war French society, and convey this admiration for bodies and movements. Between cubist inspiration and the influence of African primitive arts, Carl-Edouard Keïta’s works question the sharing of our heritage between tradition and modernity, between Africa and Europe.