Artists carry the most subversive force that we have on the continent,” says Adama Sanneh, a man of many hats with a penchant for contemporary African art, who is influencing the art and education industries from Milan to Africa.
Even though Sanneh is Italian and identifies as “first-generation, black Milanese”, he is talking about Africa. As a proud mix of Italian, Senegalese, and Gambian, Sanneh has always seen the intrinsic power of art as a multifaceted tool in personal expression, culture, and education — an insight which led him to enter the world of education, and, most recently, open C-Gallery, a new gallery of contemporary African art in Milan.
“Africa is producing some of the most interesting art internationally, but what we see is just the tip of the iceberg, so it’s up to our generation to push it further by really engaging the art space and building a new way to make use of the art medium,” says Sanneh, and he is doing just that by broadening the African art space in Italy.
As a child, Jean-Michel Basquiat was one of his favourite artists, and Frances Goodman and Simon Njami are his good friends today. Sanneh recalls the persistent, powerful impact art has had on his life, as he has navigated the complexities of having multiple identities, languages, and nationalities. “I’m very engaged in the African art space because it is new in Italy and there are narratives that have to be built, not only for people to realise that black Italians exist, but to fundamentally stretch the concept of Italianness. There are all those emotional, political, and intellectual tools that you need to build your own sense of freedom and identity and art is a great part of this,” he says.
Sanneh, who frequently travels the world for work, has carried his love for art through his career. As co-founder and chief operating officer of the recently launched Moleskine Foundation, he promotes art as an important element of education, and is working to disseminate innovative and quality education that leverages the power of the art and cultural narratives of Africa.
“What Simon Njami likes to say is that Africa is the perfect metaphor for the world. Everything that is happening here is happening everywhere else, and vice-versa. But, at the same time, Africa is the youngest continent in the world and this makes it the perfect laboratory to set new standards and create new narratives,” Sanneh says.
When you’re next in Milan, be sure to visit C-Gallerycgallery.it