Interview with Diane Audrey Ngako

Passage Arts: Can you tell us more about yourself?

Diane Audrey Ngako: I'm Diane Audrey Ngako, 28, a creative entrepreneur divided between my job as Managing Director of my creative agency Omenkart and my passion for contemporary art . In May 2016, Forbes magazine named me as one of the 30 most influential young people under the age of 30 on the African continent. I started my career in 2012 at Africa N * 1 (Paris, France) where I spoke about culture. The same year, I became editorial manager of Roots Magazine, a print magazine dedicated to Afro-Caribbean culture. In 2014, I joined the editorial staff of Journal Le Monde to cover Africa. In 2015, I joined the TV5 Monde news team as a columnist. After 5 years in the media in France, I decided to return to settle in Cameroon, my home country. In 2017, I opened her agency in the heart of Douala, Akwa, which supports companies such as Oracle, WorldRemit, Pernod Ricard, Cimencam, Chivas, Ecobank or even Société Générale to develop their image on the continent. 

Aware that it is through culture that the continent will be structured, I created a publishing house in Cameroon which has published a book of 100 photographs “They Call It Africa We Call it Home” from the Instagram account of Visiterlafrique.com, a digital, interactive and collaborative platform, dedicated to tourism and culture on the African continent. As Malian photographer Malick Sidibe said: "Show the true face of Africa, of your brothers, because the world will not end now!" In 2018, I launched Douala Art Fair with Lise Toya and Viviane Maghela. 

PA: How did you get involved with art and art collecting?

DAN: My mother has always loved historical art from the continent and she used to acquire pieces and put them in our country house in France. She started buying paintings around 2003/2005. I therefore accompanied her in her acquisitions. Personally, I was first passionate about photography, I spent a lot of time on Tumblr. Thus In 2005 I started collecting old cameras (Canon A1, Olympus ...). I was browsing Flea markets in search of treasures. Then I started photography from 2009 to 2016. Only for passion! In 2007, I came across an artwork and I fell in love with it and since then I have not stopped appreciating and acquiring works. I especially started to have a large collection in 2016 when I got home Settled in Cameroon after having spent a good part of my life in France, Paris.

PA: What do you look for in an artist or a work of art?

DAN: I truly love and value the pieces that I purchase. When I go to a gallery or art space, I always stand in front of the art I'm thinking of purchasing. I ask myself how I feel: happy, soulful, nostalgic, thoughtful, excited? If i feel unhappy, intimidated, awkward, or angry I won't take it. I want to live with art and appreciate it on a regular basis. I have to connect emotionally with a piece. Sometimes I can buy a work because of the story behind it, like this photograph of James Barnor. As a collector, I enjoy the discovery journey more than anything, and I'm the first surprised and thrilled when I fall in love with a style or medium that I never would have considered before.

PA: You've built a wonderful community on Instagram @blackcollectors featuring Black artists and Black art collectors from across the diaspora. What inspired you to do that?

DAN: The art world of the '60s and '70s in general was a hostile environment for Black folks in America and I don't even want to talk about Africans. Black artists then were still embarrassingly absent from museums. And it's still the case. Last year, a study shows that American museums still have a long way to go in diversifying their collections, as they remain overwhelmingly white and male. The study found that 85.4% of the works in the collections of all major US museums belong to white artists, and 87.4% are by men. African American artists have the lowest share with just 1.2% of the works

In South Africa, before 1994, Black South Africans were barred entry to museums and art galleries where they could cultivate an interest in the arts and develop a sustainable relationship with it. Black people weren't even allowed into galleries and museums. Black artists were exploited, in terms of their pricing. Post-1994 there were no boycotts, but Black people were still not going to museums and galleries. I believe that more than 25 years later things are getting better. The blossoming of African or African-American art has a little interest if Black people (Africans and African-Americans) themselves don't buy it. This is why I created this account. 

PA: What are some things you've learned building a community @blackcollectors?

DAN: THAT many people were waiting for this account. I am thinking of releasing a website in the next few months.

PA: Can you tell us more about the role of @blackcollectors in the art world? 

DAN: I'm not sure if it's our role as Black collectors to make this art world more equitable. It's OUR work. However, Black art collectors are able to use their financial weight and positions on museum boards to increase exposure for overlooked Black artists and create new opportunities for emerging ones and I'M HERE FOR THAT!

PA: Who are some of your favorite artists and collectors right now?

DAN: I have many artists in mind but I'll say Matisse, Kehinde Wiley, Peter Uka, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Chéri Samba, Kerry James Marshall, Salifou Lindou, Hervé Yamguen, Jean David Nkot, Marc Padeu, Barthelemy Toguo... For collectors: Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys (the Dean Collection), Pamela Joyner, as a young Black woman I appreciate the collection of Everette Taylor and I love how Alain Dominique Perrin collects.


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