A slice of cultural life in Burkina Faso is being beamed live into Frieze London. Operndorf Afrika (opera village), a cultural and educational project in the West African country, was founded by the German artist, theatre director and film-maker Christoph Schlingensief in 2010, six months before he died. Since then, it has grown to encompass a primary school with 250 pupils, a hospital ward, four homes for hospital employees and several guest houses. Add to that an artist-in-residence programme that was launched at the end of 2015; the German artist Pio Rahner and the Burkinabé photographer Nomwindé Vivien Sawadogo are due to take up the second residency on 27 October.
At Frieze, Operndorf Afrika is being presented as a multimedia, participatory installation as part of the fair’s Projects section. A sculpture created by the German artist Andy Hope 1930 and Schlingensief’s widow, Aino Laberenz, entitled Burkina Tower (2013), serves as a live satellite between London and Burkina Faso. Skype conversations are being held daily with cultural figures including the choreographer Serge Aimé Coulibaly and the award-winning film director Gaston Kaboré.
Meanwhile, hut-like structures from the stage set of Schlingensief’s last theatre production, Via Intolleranza II (2010), are being used to display videos, including a work by Boubacar Sangare and Gideon Vink that documents the fall of the authoritarian regime of Blaise Compaoré in 2014. “The film shows how artists were part of the revolution that shut down the government,” says Tatjana Scheikert, a project manager for Operndorf Afrika. Another cabin will display videos of daily life, shot by employees at the village.
Now the village is expanding again. There are plans to enlarge the school by more than 50% by the end of 2016, when a further 50 children are due to be enrolled. The additional three classrooms being built at a cost of €95,000 will host lessons in music, theatre, photography and art—subjects that are central to the ethos of the school, which teaches 30% more creative subjects than others in Burkina Faso.
Funding has so far come from the German government, the Goethe-Institut and private donors including the German video art collector Julia Stoschek and the dealers Iwan and Manuela Wirth.
• One-day series of conversations based on Operndorf Afrika, Saturday 5 November, Goethe-Institut London