Bansoa Sigam: Anthropologist Paying Tribute To Her Father

As an anthropologist, soon to be a museologist, the artistic affiliation of Bansoa Sigam is not surprising as she was born to Cameroonian parents who also loved the African art. Consequentially, Bansoa grew up seeing and learning from the various exhibitions of her parents. But it was not until she began her university studies that she began to understand the civilizational contributions of the people of Africa.

Very few institutions offer specialisation in African art. Therefore the anthropologist enlarged her knowledge by reading and analysing pieces at home. “African art is a generic form of art that reflects the realities of the diversity of the ranging works of art that exists" she says. "African art touches everyone, and is part of life! African art could include all the common things you’re familiar with like poles, attic doors, or spoons. All of this is inserted in thedaily life of the people traditionally!”

Bansoa's father's venture of collecting African Art began slightly after he established his own practice in Switzerland. Although he was famed for being the first African doctor to do so, however, being an African, he still felt marginalised. 

It was once suggested at church in the 80’s to raise funds for the “little Africans who live in the trees.” This act triggered the establishment of the Pan-African Association for Art (APA) in 1991 to democratise a dense cultural heritage. This association was created to be the vehicle that will drive home the knowledge about African works of art. This association as it African art became the key for Dr. Martin Sigam to regain his self-confidence. Other African intellectuals joined the association, and APA grew stronger from there, forming a strong stance of the African art in foreign countries.

Today, Bansoa chairs the association, and she doesn’t take it lightly. As part of the APA activities, Bansoa and her father decided to put the art pieces he had collected over time to good use – thus the birth of the Sankofa exhibition. – It became an African traditional art exhibition trilogy to explore spectacular works that dates back to more than 2000 years of the history of the cradle of humanity. Sadly, however, Bansoa’s father died in May 2016, and she decided to transform the exhibitions that should be just thematic exhibitions into a narrative tribute exhibition around the life course of her father.

1st exhibition – Journey to the Land of the Ancestors

The first Sankofa exhibition took place in November 2016. This exhibition begins at death, as Dr.Sigam was believed to be dead at his birth. Traditionally, Bamileke people usually put the deadbodies in the millet granary to dry before proceeding with the funeral rite. Hence, the exhibitionstarted in the millet granary, and it is an imaginary journey where Dr. Sigam navigates through theland of the ancestors while finding his rightful place there. But the new-born woke up in the milletgranary. That’s why he got called ‘Sigam’, which means ‘God has spoken’ – God has decided that hehad to live.

2nd exhibition – Back to Life: Birth and Creation

This exhibition is about birth and creation, and it was born out of the idea that Bansoa’s father was somehow born twice. The first birth was when he came out of his mother's womb, while the second was when he was born socially. It has been on showcase since September 17, 2017, and will run for a month.

3rd exhibition – Traditional African Art and Medicine

This exhibition is expected to be showcased in 2018. It will tackle a topic that was dear to Dr. Sigam as far back as 1996. APA organized the first Symposium on Traditional African Medicine in Geneva, and got awarded UNESCO's "Decade of Cultural Development" label for the quality of its work.

More from aKoma