Animal-rights campaigners smashed windows and threw blue paint on the work space of Aboubakar Fofana in Athens, where the Malian artist is participating in the Greek leg of Documenta 14 (until 16 July). The anonymous assailants had previously disrupted the artist’s performance, which featured live sheep, in the Greek capital in late April.
The group addressed Fofana in a blog post after the attack on 19 May, writing: “You choose to say nothing about [the sheep’s] confinement, nor the massive murders of the industry, and you added to the humiliation [by using them] as objects in the spectacle.”
Fofana’s piece, Ka touba Farafina yé (Africa blessing) (2017), features 54 sheep—one for each country in Africa—that have their wool dyed in different shades of indigo. It deals with the “tragedy of migration”, Fofana says, using a sheep’s quest for new pastures as a symbol of humans risking their lives in search of a better one. Indigo, which Fofana extracts himself using ancient West African techniques, features in many of his works. He says that the dye is 100% organic and non-toxic.
“I’m not treating [the sheep] badly,” Fofana says. “I’m not putting chemicals on them; it’s more like dyeing hair. In my culture, we use indigo and henna to dye hair black.” Fofana, who describes the attack as “very violent”, says he believes that the criticism is particularly misplaced as he was raised to believe that all living beings—including plants—are created equal. “Every time we eat, the first thing we do is thank all the living beings who gave their lives to give us energy,” he says.