Meschac Gaba Library From Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997 – 2002 on display at Tate Modern 2013

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

The Library includes more than 1600 art-related publications and children’s books displayed on a range of simple shelves. These books are all stamped with the Museum of Contemporary African Art logo and replace the original books which now form the basis of an art library in Cotonou where Gaba has established an artist’s residency space.

The overall aesthetic of the Library recalls that of a West African market, with palettes of books, reading tables made from truck tyres and plywood tops and roughly constructed A-frame bookshelves. The Library inventory can be searched on computers attached to the front of two black bicycles, a playful take on the portable computer and reference to the interrelationship between technology and knowledge. A large table covered with banknote dots and a selection of books dubbed the ‘curators’ table’ occupies much of this room. The books were all written or edited by curators Gaba has worked with in the past. Two chandeliers, made of burnt books and wrought iron, hang above the curators’ table, recalling the African proverb ‘when an old person dies, it is like when a library burns down.’

In the corner of the room a coffin contains an audio recording recounting the story of Gaba’s life. The text was written by Gaba and imagines what his father would have said about him from the grave.