In Benin, art is often seen as luxury to be enjoyed only by the wealthy few. A new app is about to turn this notion on its head. Benin does not have an abundance of art galleries, and those that exist are in the larger cities such as Cotonou and Porto Novo. As rural inhabitants form the majority of the population, and transport networks are not fully developed, there has been little opportunity for the ordinary person to observe great art. Until now.
Wakpon is a new app that seeks to bring art directly into the homes of Benin’s people, wherever they may be. It means ‘come and see’ in the Fon language, and it was developed in Cotonou, Benin’s cultural capital and largest city.
The Zinsou Foundation created the app, and it is run by Marie-Cecile Zinsou, the daughter of Benin’s prime minister. The app was designed with the aim of bringing people closer to art, and it does just that. On the Wakpon app, there are a total of 44 art pieces. These were created by ten artists, and are all available to download as part of the Zinzou collection. Once downloaded, these pictures can be printed onto A4 paper, and hung on the wall as if they were paintings. But this is not all. The app also provides detailed information about each piece. Rather than simply show a caption beneath a photo on the screen, the creators took a more imaginative and interactive role.
Once the artwork is printed and hung, users can point their phone or tablet cameras it its direction. The app recognises the image, and pulls up the relevant photo, and displays information about the art. In doing so, Wakpon will help people to understand the history, meaning, and background of art pieces, which would undoubtedly making for a richer experience.
A key feature of Wakpon is that it does not require an internet connection once it has been downloaded, broadening its reach to areas without strong cellular or wireless networks.
Zinsou started the foundation in 2005, and since then it has become key in Benin’s art world. The foundation’s free showroom in Cotonou has played host to artists from around the world, and was the first venue in Africa to show the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. The Zinsou Foundation opened an art museum in the coastal city of Ouidah, a former slave trading port. Since 2005, over five million people have visited the museums. With the arrival of Wakpon, visits are set to increase even further.[via Times of India, Voices of Africa]