• gerard van weyenbergh

Symbol of colonialism moved into center of African Art .

Lome, Togo - It is a scenic walk along the driveway leading to the entrance of Lome's new center for the arts. The sun glints through the branches of centuries-old trees, lining a path set within thousands of square meters of lush parkland.

The constant chirping of birds and the dull thud of my feet against the packed red earth are the only sounds to be heard within the vast compound. It is not long before the canopy of boughs and path give way to a large gravel clearing. A grand, white, two-story vision rises from the ground, gleaming against the blue sky.

Set on an elevated foundation, a wide stone staircase leads up into the whitewashed arcades of Palais De Lome in Togo's capital. At its heart is a courtyard garden - an oasis of smooth white cement walls, decorative wood columns, and splashes of green trees and ferns.

Past the crisp white walls and pivoting, glass doors are the exhibition spaces - a blank canvas for African art by painters such as Emmanuel Sogbadji and Edwige Aplogan and sculptures by Sokey Edorh. A vaulted, wood-ceilinged corridor on the first floor leads to a room filled with a panoply of artifacts sourced from the region. There are intricately woven ceremonial gowns and beaded headdresses worn by chieftains and West African kings.

The center's remit is not limited to the promotion of pan-African art and culture, according to its Togolese director, Sonia Lawson. Spread across some 2,400sq meters (26,000 square feet) of land, Palais De Lome will showcase the country's natural resources. The site's varied landscape includes a garden of sea plants from the coastal city's sandy shores, grass savannah with vegetation as diverse as palms, cacti, and flowering plants, and forests populated by trees and vines. Lawson says the institute expects to attract between 100,000 and 130,000 visitors each year.

It is hoped that the $3.6m transformation of the former colonial building into a center for the arts and culture will help boost tourism and aid the recovery of the small West African nation's struggling economy.

"It was important and necessary to have such a public institution in Togo because we lacked that kind of infrastructure," Lawson explains. "We want to be a cultural hub and attract talent from the rest of Africa. We believe culture is important in the development of a country." continue reading on website Al Jazheera , article written by Ijeoma Ndukwe https://www.aljazeera.com/profile/ijeoma-ndukwe.html