"It was October 2005 when we commissioned this immense artwork entitled Tribute to Traditions for an exhibition in Rome. An imposing and magnificent wall space at the location of the exhibit seemed to implore me to find an equally splendid contemporary painting that would do justice to it. It was precisely this quest that led me in a miraculous way to the artists of the Poto- Poto School of Painting in Brazzaville, on the shores of the Congo River, in the heart of Africa. I had heard of this art center but I was sure that the artists had parted ways long ago. Surprisingly, I found the painters still at work in their workshop.
“During our one month stay in Brazzaville, the school became our point of reunion. We had brought from Italy a little treasure of great value : two bags of oil colors, twenty meters of treated canvas, and brushes of all kinds. Later, on the vigil of our departure from Brazzaville, the artists organized a ceremony to celebrate the official announcement of the painting's commission and the gathering of all the precious materials. Music and songs of happiness accompanied this wonderful ritual as the first rains fell powerfully after many months of drought. The crowd of artists and students felt that the pouring rain was a divine blessing for the project.
“For the theme of the commissioned painting, I had made a point of giving carte blanche to the artists. However, a single condition was imposed on them: they should find their inspiration from their Bantu traditions and their country’s history. They had nine months to complete the artwork.
“Back in Italy, months passed, an entire winter passed, and no news came from the artists, not a word. We were aware of the local conditions, the poverty and the prevailing social environment that affected their lives. In March, an employee of the Italian Enbassy in Brazzaville wrote, advising me to start thinking of alternative solutions for the wall in the exhibition space. He announced that little work was taking place in the Poto-Poto worshop.
“I felt confident that soon some good news would arrive from the artists. But probably, deep down in my unconscious I was indeed worried, because one night I had a dream.
“In the dream, I saw a painting before me like a huge explosion of colors. It was magnificent, filled with a range of symbols and shapes I had never seen before. The colors were like rainbows melting into one another and dancing around four guardian spirits that emerged from the colors and disappeared only to emerge again: there was the legendary Téké king, Makoko Iloo I, with the explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza; and the brave Senegalese hero Malamine; and also Pierre Lods, founder of the Poto-Poto School of Painting. It seemed as if they were visible and invisible at the same time.
“It was the stunning beauty of this vision that woke me up. Like a sleepwalker, I moved to my computer and wrote to the artists at once, narrating my vision, and describing the painting in detail. Their reply came a few hours later. ‘Yes, Madame Idanna... We have seen and understood your dream. And now, our ideas are much clearer. Our doubts have vanished… Thank you!'
“When the exhibition opened in Rome in September 2006, the African light seeemd to shine across the canvas, unveiling the immense artwork to a deeply moved audience. A sense of stonishment ran through the crowd as the explosion of colors, born from a dream, embraced everyone in a shared experience. The four ancestors were there, embedded in the canvas, visibile and invisible at the same time. The painting was the exact replica of my nightly vision."