Yukiya Kawaguchi: Talking about the first exhibition of African contemporary art which I met, I have to return to Tokyo in mid 80s. In those days, Japan saw a kind of fashion called “Ethnic boom” in which foods, music and clothes from non-European cultures including Asian and African ones were attracting concern of younger people particularly living in urban area. In June, 1985, I visited a small one-man exhibition held in a small commercial-based gallery in central Tokyo. It was the exhibition of Antonio Mupata, one of the TingaTinga painters from Tanzania, with an ambiguous sub-title of “Urban Primitive”. It was the first encounter for me with works by a contemporary African artist. On my way back from the gallery, I began to feel that most of those Japanese, maybe including me, who saw this exhibition by accident in central Tokyo might take it a typical and representative African contemporary art, and also it would not take so much time for the visitors to have the conviction that all the African people produced such kind of paintings, playing with lions or elephants in the jungle.
The first exhibition on African contemporary art which I organized is An Inside Story: African Art of Our Time (the Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo, and other 5 museums of modern art in Japan,1995-96), through which I tried to introduce an historical overview and a general idea of what we call African contemporary art to the Japanese public, most of whom had not visited Africa, keeping in their mind stereotypical images of Africa such as lions, giraffes and elephants in the jungle.