Run by artist Ras Sankara, Togo’s self-supported performance art festival has become a vital space for artists to showcase their responses to pressing social and cultural issues.
Between June 21 and July 1, 2023, the 5th edition of the Emomé Art Festival happened between the Togolese capital of Lomé, and the mountainous terrain of Kpalimé, located in the Plateaux Region of the West African country. Testament to the steady growth of this seven-year-old festival, which is principally a street and performance art affair, participating artists arrived from across West Africa, as well as from Asia and America. This is following years of exceptional dedication to the art of performance art by Ras Sankara Agboka, performance artist and festival director of Emomé.
Ras Sankara, as he goes by, is not the first artist to advocate for performance art in Togo; albeit only a handful, there have been predecessors—like the late Assiongbo Kaliko, to whom Ras Sankara dedicated his 2023 Ellipse prize win, along with his mother. But prior to his emergence on the Togolese performance art scene, there was no ecosystem to speak of. He thought it was an unsound situation, and so committed to building something viable. "When I got into the scene actively, between 2015 and 2016, there was no structure — no festival, no gatherings; and there were no people who scheduled me for shows. So I had to organize things on my own,” he tells OkayAfrica. “But I also came to realize soon enough that if this artform really needs to grow and evolve in my country, a project or structure must be established.” Read more