Niger Buildings

Artist: Not Vital
Location: Agadez, Niger
Year of completion: 2007
Researcher: Vera Tollmann

In 2000, Swiss-born sculptor Not Vital moved to Agadez, Niger, where he bought land amongst the local, nomadic Touareg people and began building sculptural houses and other buildings.

The first building was a house called TheMekafoni. He later built two schools, TheMakaranta, in the form of step pyramid, where for 450 local children sit on the steps during school rather than going to an indoor classroom. The school thus serves a social function in addition to a sculptural one. Other buildings on Vital's land include a house designed for the observation of the sunset over the Niger desert and a cinema to which Vital invites audiences for the price of recyclable garbage.

Vital is a formalist and a minimalist. Working in the tradition of Land Art, Vital continued to work as a sculptor in the Agadez desert around the Aladab oasis until 2007, collaborating with local craftsmen on the construction of his projects. Each of his buildings is dedicated to one single purpose. In addition to the TheMekafoni and TheMakaranta, he built The House Against Heat And Sandstorms, The House To Watch The Moon, The House To Watch The Sunset, The House For 8 Brothers, and The 10th House. The buildings were financed by the artist himself.

More Below

To offer some detail, the House to Watch the Sunset (2005) has three floors, each with its own outside staircase. “The purpose of the structure invokes the 18th-century romantic sublime notion of allowing oneself to be totally absorbed within nature. To build a house whose sole function is to watch the sunset, the spectator moving from one level to the other with the changing height of the sunset, is poetic and transcendental. Furthermore, there exist ancient influences informing House to Watch the Sunset. The concept of the house, in contrast with the sophisticated minimalist form, is archaic and pagan in its almost worshipful dedication to nature, of the sun in particular,“ writes Alma Zevi.

Vital explores the potential of different materials, people, and places around the world. His curiosity for the world can be observed in particular periods throughout his career: he has spent time with third-generation Venetian glass blowers in Murano, Tuareg silversmiths in Niger, and papermakers in Bhutan. The juxtapositions found in relation to different places stimulate Vital's intense need to experiment with materials (conventional or otherwise) and new artistic practices and to see how other cultures create objects. Currently he is based in Beijing, China.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency