Memento Mori in Toulouse

While strolling through the streets of Toulouse, and striving to venture off its beaten tracks, I ran into this art gallery last week. The «l’Atelier» gallery is currently running an exhibit on Memento Mori… With a twist.

Pieces of contemporary art, pictures have been matched with African art and make up an interesting scenography. «Memento Mori» is a Latin phrase, translated as «Remember that you are mortal». The expression developed with the growth of Christianity, which emphasized Heaven, Hell, and the salvation of the soul in the afterlife. The artistic or symbolic creation related to this phrase, which has often been misused and overused, vary widely. However, they all send out the same message: they remind viewers of their own mortality which makes so much sense today in a world still dominated by inflated egos.

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Many cultures in West Africa today continue to practice their traditional animistic religions. Many objects of the physical world are given spiritual significance. West African cultures have varying ideas and rituals concerning the dead, but they are united by their beliefs in the afterlife and in the notion that spirits of the departed influence the world of the living.

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West African cultures have secret men’s societies that facilitate contact and appeasement of ancestors through offerings, prayers, songs, and divination. They manipulate objects, such as masks and sculpture, in religious ceremonies to interact with ancestors. The masks, also worn with elaborate headdresses and costumes, transform the wearer from an ordinary person into a spiritually charged character. Male participants also use sculpture to invoke ancestral spirits into the ceremonies. The production of masks and sculpture is ritualized, and specially-trained male artists create the objects in sanctified areas.

Corinne Deniel, a photographer, uses floated waste and jericans for still lives which resemble and echo with the African art pieces showcased.

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Jean Marie Lambert also does mesmerizing contemporary art sculptures that seem to have come right out of a salted lake.

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Connoisseurs, beauty lovers, dreamers, this exhibition will take you into a different world!  

Galerie l’Atelier – Michele Gondebeaud.
17 rue St Aubin, 31000 Toulouse / michele.gondebeaud@gmail.com

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