Cyrille bela Bienvenu
Anthropo-stylistic study of Fang-Beti-Bulu objects (South Cameroon, North Gabon and North-East Equatorial Guinea).
THE POST-DOCTORATE PROJECT
African art studies of the late 19th century and early 20th favoured an aesthetic approach and thus biased the information. Although this was related to a strong attraction for exoticism, this situation can be explained by the feebleness of investigations in the field.
The objects from the Beti-Bulu-Fang area were no exception. Ever since they were first collected, they have been subject to serious confusion often fuelled by problems of semantic and cultural nomenclature relating to the terms “Fang” and “Pahouin”. Similarly, connections have been falsely and excessively drawn between objects from populations that have distinctly different origins and artefacts. These gaps in knowledge are often reflected in numerous museums in which the ethnonym “Fang” appears (falsely and excessively) as a habitual reference for objects from this region.
This project has two main objectives:
- The first is to construct a dossier that is pertinent and more faithful to historic reality, objets d’art and the craftwork of the Fang-Beti-Bulu people housed at the musée du quai Branly.
- The second is to establish the history and geography of the styles developed in the region.
The study should include at least three phases: An initial phase devoted to documentary research, and second phase devoted to investigation in the field, and finally a third phase devoted to actual analysis of the objects.
Particular care should be taken to explain these “out-of-context” objects. Short of being able to demonstrate the context in which they were produced or their original use, a description that is both exact and detailed is essential.
Furthermore, the specificity of each piece should, ideally, be considered by performing a detailed analysis. The analytical approach envisaged in no way excludes the individual’s immeasurable sensitivity to the beauty of the object.
CAREER AND WORKS
After training as a historian and geographer at the Ecole Normale Supérieure of Yaoundé (a prestigious teacher training college), where he obtained a secondary level teaching diploma in 1994 (his studies focused on architecture and ceramics in the Cameroon Central Province), Cyrille Bela took the opportunity train in ‘Visual Arts and History of Art’ at the newly-opened department at the University of Yaoundé I, in 1992. He obtained a masters degree and a DEA and then chose the Institute of Art and Archaeology of the Université de Paris 1 to continue his studies and broaden his field of knowledge. His DEA and thesis at the Université de Paris I focus on the “beti” statues of South Cameroon and sculptural expression in fang-beti-bulu country (South Cameroon, North-Gabon, North-East Equatorial Guinea) respectively.
Cyrille Bela taught secondary education between 1994 and 1998.
In 2001 he obtained tenure and has since been teaching History of Art in the Department of Arts and Archaeology at the university of Yaoundé I.
He is largely inspired by ethnomorphological and iconological approaches and the African aesthetic creative approach and, owing to an analysis of some 1000 objects spread across African and Western museums and collections, he has succeeded in gaining recognition for the “beti style” formerly eclipsed by the wider known “fang style”.
Following on from the research lead by Louis Perrois these last 30 years or so, Cyrille Bela aims to improve the general knowledge of arts from this part of Central Atlantic Africa.