Thursday, 22 February 2007

Cama Cama Chameleon: TransCape Reconfigured.

Once again changes are afoot at TransCape. The biennale that doesn’t want to be considered a biennale was becoming a biennale that became an exhibition is now a process driven project. Confused? don’t be. The latest announcement on the website indicates that due to lack of funding rapid ‘reconceptualisation’ had to take place close to a month of opening date.

When I read the information a smile came to face as I thought about how it would have been dealt with in Nigeria. Anybody who has done anything here will know that Nigerians are famed for their fire brigade attitude to delivering events. You plan it - on paper - for 2 years and with or without most or even any of the funding in place you organise the event in 9 hrs, step back and pat yourself on the back for your heroic effort and then learn from your mistakes but also how to organise a large event better next. Are the Capetonians trying too hard to get it right the first time? It seems more flexibility may be the team's trump card.

Nonetheless the changes have resulted in what Cape Africa director Mirjam Asmal-Dik states ‘is a unique opportunity to challenge old methods, to bring together inspiring thinkers and cultural producers, and to ask what new forms art events can assume in order to foster a new sense of local and cultural relevance. It’s a chance to create a new starting-point towards developing a sustainable model for presenting contemporary art in Africa.' It is good to learn that most of the artists are up to the challenge and willing to participate in what could be a turning point for the biennale curatorial model.

Until further notice Transcape takes place from 24th March - 4th May 2007 in various venues in Cape Town.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Venice Biennale

CheckList has been selected to represent African contemporary art in the Artiglierie space of the Arsenale. The winning project will be curated by Fernando Alvim and Simon Njam, and will be drawn from works in the Sindika Dokolo African Collection of Contemporary Art (Luanda, Angola).

The 52nd International Art Exhibition (running from June 10 to November 21, 2007) will host in the core of its international section a special area dedicated to AFRICA. The main purpose of the project, which will be seen in spaces made available to it by the Biennale in the Arsenale Artiglierie, is to present an informed and distinctive perspective on current art from Africa and the African Diaspora. In making their selection, the jury not only praised the project’s curatorial strengths and those of the Sindika Dokolo Collection overall, but sought to draw attention to the Sindika Dokolo initiative as a signal undertaking within the context of art patronage in Africa generally.

The Sindika Dokolo African Collection of Contemporary Art was created in Luanda (Angola) in 2004 by the Congolese businessman and art collector Sindika Dokolo, together with the Angolan artist Fernando Alvim. The Collection’s aim is to promote the knowledge of the contemporary art scene throughout the African continent. The Sindika Dokolo Collection is comprised of 500 works by 140 artists from 28 different nations. Every year about 100 works are purchased in order to update and improve its holdings.

The panel of experts invited by Director Robert Storr consisted of Meskerem Assegued, Ekow Eshun,Lyle Ashton Harris, Kellie Jones, Bisi Silva.

Culled from the website

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

More Residencies

Pro Helvetia Cape Town

Artist in Residence Programme

Pro Helvetia Cape Town has been running an Artist in Residence Programme in both directions, since 1999. The objective of the residency is to stimulate creative exchange between artists from Switzerland and Southern Africa and between artists in the different countries of Southern Africa. The artists are encouraged to develop their practices in a climate of cultural diversity.

Hurry up as a deadline is coming on the 1st of March 2007.

Thami Mynele

Established in 1992, the Thami Mnyele Foundation runs a unique three month artists-in-residence program in Amsterdam. The main objective of the Foundation is to advance cultural exchange between artists from Africa, the Netherlands and Amsterdam in particular. To this aim, the Foundation engages African artists of all disciplines of contemporary visual art (painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, video, film, audio and multi media) to work for three months in the Thami Mnyele Foundation studio, located in an old school building in the centre of Amsterdam. The Thami Mnyele Foundation artists-in-residence-program is therefore an ideal opportunity for concentration on work, reflection, research and discussion.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Cape Town artmix

Nontsikelelo 'Lolo' Veleko Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder series 2004
After the inspiring events at the Africa Centre launch, I had planned to spend 3 extra days in Cape town to interact closely with some artists. With a brilliant schedule devised by colleague and friend, curator at the Goodman Gallery to be opened in March this year, Storm Janse Van Rensburg I got to meet some interesting young artists including some of the rising stars such as Nontsikelelo Veleko, Dale Washkansky, Mikhael Subotsky. Recent graduates Hassan Essop, his twin Hussain Essop and are the ones to watch over the coming 12months. I reconnected with Thando Mama since our first meeting at the Dakar Biennale in 2004. And TransCape co-curator Gabi Ngcobo introduced me to emerging artist Nomthunzi Mashalaba who explore the cultural and political significance of black hair in her.

The topic has been an ongoing research project of mine for over 15 years. My first project as the result of the project was HairDaze:The Cultural Politics of Black which brought together in London the work of artists, film-makers and cultural critics thorugh a series of short films, talks and discussions which explored the way in which hair has played an important part in the history of the black experience. Also a research interest of Gabi, we will be collaborating to develop the topic together.

Mikhael Subotzky, Cell 33, E2 Section, Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison|2004
After a meandering walk around Long Street on one of the hottest days 43c in summer with Nandipha Mntambo we finally arrived at her studio 4 hours later. Nandipha is preparing for her MA final exhibition in June and I got a sneak preview of the early stages of the work.

Nandipha Mntambo in her studio at Michaelis School of Art, Cape Town.
I also keen to keep up as much as possible with what some of the emerging curators who participated in the workshop on Robben Island in November are doing. I also wanted to see the work of Abdul and especially his photography projects. Turns out that he has all hands on deck as the launch of MOPP begins in abut 2 weeks. However he takes time out to show me one of the venues and also talk about his work. Abdul is a cool hardworking young man who just gets on with it. I am sorry that I won't be around during MOPP as it promises to reveal alot of young photographers who not yet on the 'mainstream' art radar.

Don't forget to visit the MOPP blog to keep up with activities during the event.

Monday, 12 February 2007

Websites on Artists Residences.

It goes without saying that residencies constitute an important aspect of the professional development of many artists living in Africa. All the more so as in some countries there exists little or no formal art education at tertiary level. I will try and add some to the blog as I come across them.


Trans Artists is an independent foundation that informs artists of any discipline about international artist-in-residence programs and other opportunities for artists to stay and work elsewhere 'for art's sake'.

The information of Trans Artists is also intended for organizations that are involved in offering international residency opportunities or are interested to become involved: residential art centres, providers of guest studios, art initiatives, cultural institutions and governmental organisations.

Res Artis i
s the largest existing network of artist residency programmes, representing the interests of more than 200 centers and organisations in 40 countries worldwide that offer to international artists facilities and conditions conducive for making art.

More on the way soon.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Africa Centre, African Dream

Once again I am in South Africa within 2 months of my participation in the pioneering curatorial workshop for emerging South African curators organised by VANSA The current trip is at the invitation of the Spiers Art Trust in Stellenbosch for the official launch of an even more pioneering and ambitious project called the Africa Centre. The premise of the project as summarized by the reference group which met over a 3 year period states that ‘Africa enters the 21st century without a major, international museum or research institute dedicated to its arts continent-wide. The Africa Centre seeks to remedy this situation. Its aim is to create a space where the visual, performance and intellectual cultures of Africa, south and north, present and past, are celebrated and studied, brought to life for diverse audiences in innovative ways, through a wide range of approaches.’

Spiers has a large contemporary art collection displayed throughout the hotel

The first project within the En/Tangled Nations theme (outside of the reference group meetings) brings together over 60 cultural workers – artists, performers, musicians, dancers, singers, poets, curators, academics, filmmakers from within the continent and the diaspora to discuss, debate and create a possible way forward for the Africa centre. The format for the launch departed from the norm. Eschewing the usual come and chop (as we say in local parlance) – although there was a lot of that - with the good, the great and the beautiful, it was a cocktail of debate, dialogue, artistic production, live performances all hinged together with cutting edge technology and satellite links to other venues such as The Bag Factory in Johannesburg. This all took place in superb settings which was stellenbosch and its beautiful natural environment, the Spiers 5*hotel complex and the southbank side of the vast estate which will be the physical location for the Africa Centre. The organisational professionalism on all levels from the caterers, the guides to the technical team and the facilitators needs to be highly commended.
Work time Break time
We were divided into 4 groups of approx 15 people with no set deliverables or format except a guiding theme En/tangled Nations. Within our individual groups we were encouraged to discuss our understanding of En/tangled nations in which the final result could be a play, film, performance, an artwork. Throughout the 3 days our deliberations were recorded and made available for viewing later in the day. In the evenings we were treated to collaborative sessions by musicians, singers, performance poets and dancers and visual artists some rehearsed others improvised. It really demonstrates the power of culture. And maybe in a zone so badly scarred by war, famine and political mismanagement, the Africa Centre signals hope for the future. The first publication of the centre and on the working sessions of En/tangled nations will be available within the next 12-15 months.

Live performances.

Ray Lema gave an moving performance to round off the launch programme.

Saturday, 3 February 2007

Lagos Calling

Tunde Aboderin performing the'living dead singalong' at the Goethe Institute, Lagos

Finally I touch base in Lagos for the first time in 2007. With only 5 days before heading out again I catch up with ‘real’ life things such as family and friends. I also attend the opening at the Goethe Institute of an usual project – by the standards of the Lagos art scene. The project ‘performing anthropology’ was the result of a collaborative workshop project between the Berlin based performance group 2ebureau and 9 Nigerian artists they invited for a 5 day workshop. The idea of the project was to bring together actors, writers, singers, visual artists and filmmakers to create an interdisciplinary production on common theme called ‘zombification’ which 2ebureau state ‘describes the role of perception within intercultural encounters’.

Whatever the pretext, it was a brilliant opportunity for young artists to explore different dimensions to their work, try out something new and collaborative – another rare initiative in a country where the different disciplines are strictly separated and hierarchical. Amaraichi Okafor (above) a visual artist who works mainly with installation presented a performance piece with video component Zombification:Make Op that explores some of the mind numbing things young girls do to get money. Abraham Oghobase, (below) a prominent member of the new photographic collective Black Box showed on his digital cameria a force that controls you… from his sleep series. He is an emerging artist to watch.

At Tunde Aboderin’s table we are invited to participate as back up singers for his improvised song the living dead singalong. It was a really interactive opening and one could tell that the artists were enjoying themselves and as much as the audience. Gone are the stuffy private views with noses in the air and everyone counting how many red dots have been placed next to each painting. The result was a breath of fresh air in the staid moneydriven gallery scene in Lagos.

Friday, 2 February 2007

Bamako Blooming

Compared to Lagos, Bamako is like a big village. But I have always been enthralled with the thought of Mali. Its ancient history and traditional cultures capture my imagination and I like to sometimes get lost in the histories and fables about the Malian empire. On my first visit in 2001 for La Rencontre de la photographie Africaine (the African photography Encounters) I made sure I did a whistle stop tour of some important cities and cultural sites. In a jeep with 2 colleagues, in 3-4 days we covered over 900km to visit Bandiagara, the fabled Dogon country and on the way made brief stopovers in Mopti, Djenne and Segou.

It is in Mali you will witness the intersection of the traditional and the modern. One experience I won't forget in a hurry on this visit happened in near the centre of town. As we returned in a taxi to our hotel with its dodgy food, the next thing we noticed are 3 turbaned Tuaregs on their camels passing slowly by without a care in the world. Time stood still at that moment!!! Then my reaction was to take a picture for this blog but I was wisely informed that sometimes they don't want to be photographed. So we all behaved as it if was a daily occurrence and continued on our way. But it was a magnificent sight.

My visit wasn’t about tourism but strictly work with regards to
curatorial projects I am working on, especially the one at the National Museum of Mali (NMM). Samuel Sidibe, (left pic) the affable director of the museum was host to myself, Rachida Triki (Tunisia) and N’Gone Fall (Senegal).
An important development at NMM has been the committed effort to find ways in which to give the contemporary art sector a boost. This is an important catalyst for the revival of the visual art scene in Mali but also in neighbouring African countries. We are co-curators of the forthcoming inaugural exhibition of contemporary art from West and North Africa at the Museum’s new temporary exhibition space.

Sidibe states that ‘
the aim of the museum is to value local cultures, showing through contemporary arts, that they have always been in movement, have always been enriched by the diversity of influences through cultural dialogue, as the exhibition "Niger Valleys" has shown for historical heritage in the region. It is intended to fight against the increasingly idea that there has been a time when African cultures were "pure" and show, as said the Kanak leader Jean Marie Tjibaou that "the return to tradition is a myth.../...our identity lies ahead of us".’’ We are developing our project around the theme of mobility - of ideas, of people and of resources. Watch this space for more information.

Under Sidibe's directorship the NMM has been recognised for its scholarly exhibitions on African art but also for its work in actively ‘preventing cultural looting and trafficking’. It has made the museum a must visit place in any visitor to Mali whether a tourist, diplomat, business visitor or academic. Consequently NMM was one of the Laureates of the 2006 Prince Claus Fund in the Netherlands.

Rachida Triki in front of NMM. Bisi inside NMM grounds.