Questions & Answers

Ruth Feukoua

Installation artist Ruth Feukoua is the first Cameroonian to win one of the coveted Commonwealth Connections international art residencies. The programme, sponsored by the Commonwealth Foundation, is intended to foster a process of learning through exchanges with artists living in different Commonwealth countries. Global caught up with Ruth as she was preparing to take up her residency in Quebec, Canada. 

Global: How does it feel to be the first artist from Cameroon to win one of the Commonwealth Connections art residencies?

Ruth Feukoua: I am very happy to represent my country at the highest level in the Commonwealth. My nomination proves that there is not just football in Cameroon, but that there are also good artists. Unfortunately, artists are not well known in my country. I just hope that my example gives courage to other Cameroonians who love what they do. I tell them that perseverance pays. 

What will you be doing during your residency?

I have been invited to complete my art residency at Le Lieu, Centre en Art Actuel in Quebec in October. I’ll do an ecological project on the preservation of our natural environment. I will also make installations and [do] performances in collaboration with other artists -Serge Olivier Fokoua and Richard Martel. I will lead a workshop in a gallery with artist Nicole Fournier, and might make interventions with communities of people living in Quebec. 

Why do you feel that it is important to reflect environmental issues in your work?

The environment has become very fragile because of the barbaric industry and pollution. Nature is seriously threatened, and when I speak about nature it is not only plants and animals but also humans. We are a part of this environment that we are destroying; so let’s be careful not to hurt ourselves. The project I will do in Canada has the title: ‘Green destination’. 

When did you know that you wanted to be an artist?

I have been drawing and painting since I was little. Then later, I had visual art training. But I became a true professional artist in 2008, forging my work on concepts and powerful ideas. Since then, I have created my own style and my own way. It is also the same year I married the artist Serge Olivier Fokoua. With him I started a visual arts festival in Yaoundé. We worked on several art projects as a duo in several countries. 2008 was the starting point for a true artistic career for me. 

How would you describe your work as an artist? Are there particular themes that you like to explore in your practice?

I do not believe too much in different schools of art. I believe in what each person as an individual is able to do, spontaneously. Bringing something beautiful around them, giving hope to others. I approach my work through various subjects like love, nature, spirituality or social relationships. I work on all kinds of indoor and outdoor art installations. I love expressing myself with performance. I like the force that drives me when I myself become part of my expression. 

What is the art scene in Cameroon like?

The art scene of Cameroon is dominated by music. Visual and performance arts don’t have a large audience. So it is very difficult to be a professional artist in my country doing painting, sculpture or performance.

Many artists are forced to make an additional job to earn a living. To breathe new life into this area, my husband, some colleagues and I have created a collective of artists and a festival in Yaoundé. But our action is not enough. We need to be helped by our government. 

Is it especially difficult being a performance artist in Cameroon?

Yes, many in my country do not even know what performance art is. The practice is not always welcome, especially when done by a woman. Curiously, my performances are often better welcomed in Europe than in Africa. Last April, in Germany, I was very surprised to see people pay to enter a gallery to see my performance, which is difficult where I live. 

What did you do yesterday?

I did some shopping in preparation for my trip. I bought equipment for my art work – calabashes and seeds – and also clothes. I’ll be in Canada for the first time and people have told me it’s very cold there, so I’ve bought thick clothing to protect myself against the cold. 

Could you describe your home?

My home is very modest: it is a two-room apartment and my studio is on the veranda. We have one bedroom and a living room, a TV corner [and] a corner for the computer. We have blue carpet, blue chairs and blue curtains – I like the blue in furniture. My two-year-old daughter has toys and stuffed animals around the home. 

What do you do to relax?

I listen to American music, watch Brazilian films and go jogging. 

Who would you most like to meet and why?

Mary J. Blige, an American musician, to ask her how she remains so beautiful and so young-looking despite her age. 

If you could change anything in the world what would it be?

Selfishness. Many people do not think about others, they think only of themselves. When we look at this world, the rich are becoming richer and the poor are becoming poorer but the earth has enough resources to satisfy everyone. It is also because of the selfishness that people are destroying our planet – everyone wants to be the strongest, [the] most powerful. If people stop being selfish, we will have a better life for all. 

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Love what you are doing. Have confidence in the future. With God everything is possible.

About the author:

Ruth Feukoua is an installation artist and the first Cameroonian to win one of the coveted Commonwealth Connections international art residencies.


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