PPRC21 Forni & Youmbi

Serendipitous Intersections and Long Term-Dialogue

Art Making and Research as Collaborative Exchanges

by Silvia Forni & Hervé Youmbi

Panel: Cooperation Projects on Cameroonian Collections. Experiences and Perspectives
Tuesday, 22 June, 4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. (CET)


Art making and academic research tend to be conceived of as separate domains. Artists channel their reflections and inspiration in the making of an artwork. Researchers, in turn, analyze this work as specialized observers somewhat removed from the creative process. Yet, when it comes to contemporary art, boundaries are never so clear cut as interpersonal relationships create unexpected intersections that may transform both art-making process and research.
Our presentation reflects on over a decade of dialogue between an artist (Hervé Youmbi) and a researcher (Silvia Forni). While, in many ways, our relationship is hard to frame as a straightforward “collaboration”- in that we never really worked on a project together – our shared interest in unpacking and complicating the ideas of “tradition” and “contemporaneity” in art production meaningfully impacted the work each one of us does. In particular, we will reflect on the development of Youmbi’s ongoing series Visages des Masques, and how our common focus on the idea of contemporary traditions led us both to think about and work with artists and workshops in the Cameroonian Grassfields along parallel trajectories and occasional but always fruitful points of intersections.



Born in the Central African Republic in 1973 and raised in neighboring Cameroon, Hervé Youmbi is a visual artist working and living in Douala. He is a founding member of the Cercle Kapsiki, a collective of five Cameroonian artists, founded in 1998. His work presents African-centered reflections on the power of both internal and external frameworks, questioning the operations of political, economic, and cultural forces. Youmbi often integrates traditional Cameroonian sculpture techniques within his installations and into performance and video. This allows him to juxtapose indigenous African art traditions with contemporary global art conventions, and to destabilize what is regarded as “traditional” versus “contemporary.”

Hervé Youmbi

Visual Artist


Dr. Silvia Forni is Senior Curator of Global Africa, and Deputy Head of the Department of Art & Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Her research focuses on the significance of art objects and material culture both in local contexts and as part of global exchange networks. She is the author of numerous essays and book chapter. Among her recent publications is the volume Africa in the Market. 20th Century art from the Amrad African Art Collection. (2015) edited with Christopher B. Steiner, and Art, Honor, and Riducule: Fante Asafo Flags from Southern Ghana (2017), co-authored with Doran H. Ross

Silvia Forni

Senior Curator of Global Africa, and Deputy Head of the Department of Art & Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)