Meschac Gaba Draft Room From Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997 – 2002

Meschac Gaba
Draft Room
From Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997–2002
Installation at Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, 29 August – 15 November 2009
Photo: Nils Klinger © Meschac Gaba

The Draft Room was the earliest completed section of the Museum of Contemporary African Art, introducing the aesthetic approach and many of the conceptual concerns of the following rooms. It was created in 1996–7 during Gaba’s residency at the Rijksakademie inAmsterdam.

For Gaba, food embodied all that was new and foreign about the Netherlands, and it features prominently in this room. A fridge/freezer is filled with whole ceramic chickens; round ceramic breads glazed gold are displayed on a white shelving unit; and red ceramic fruit and vegetables lie heaped on the floor. In capitalist economies, production frequently outweighs consumption, and food is regularly frozen, discounted or left to rot.

While Gaba’s preoccupation with food stemmed from having to adapt to a different cultural context, he had long been concerned with systems of value as symbolised by money. Many of his early works produced in Benin were made from decommissioned banknotes. In the Draft Room plastic bags filled with dots cut from banknotes and cylinders of compressed shredded money are carefully arranged on pieces of fabric on the floor. Gilded pebbles are displayed together with piles of banknotes weighed down with small stones on a rough wooden table. Gaba uses money because he wishes to confront society with devaluation, to question the underlying structures that mediate our relationships with each other and with the environment in which we live.