Art in the Time of Africa

Art in the Time of Africa: A post-colonial gaze on contemporary African art practice, criticism, publishing, theory and philosophy of art, within a Pan-African context, is a one-day colloquium taking place on 13 September 2018 at the Chinua Achebe Auditorium, APK Library, University of Johannesburg.

Art in the Time of Africa Absa UJ
Ashraf Jamal

Art in the Time of Africa is hosted by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture (FADA) and UJ Arts & Culture in association with the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA) and Absa. Financial support is provided by the UJ Division for Internationalisation and Absa.
     In line with Absa’s constant strive to ensure that L’Atelier contestants receive as much exposure and education in their industry as possible, the top ten contestants, who are from all over Africa, will be included in the audience at the colloquium.
     The conveners, Annali Dempsey and Gordon Froud, say, ‘We are excited at the prospect of the colloquium and see it as a necessary and relevant event in relation to our role as art educators and practitioners and timely in terms of post-colonial discourse in the Pan-African context. The timing too is pertinent with regard to the Absa L’Atelier Competition and the FNB JoburgArtFair, which will have taken place the week before.’

Art in the Time of Africa Absa UJ
Ernestine White-Mefetu

     A line-up of internationally reputable speakers has been invited for the colloquium, with the aim to offer a forum for interaction and exchange of information within the post-colonial discourse. The chairperson for the day will be Gordon Froud, senior lecturer (FADA, UJ), artist and curator.
     Johannesburg-based artist and curator, Usha Seejarim will present ‘Impressions of the Dakar Art Biennale as a winner of the Laureate du Prix sculpture award’. She will show a short trajectory of the process that led to the sculptural artwork exhibited at the Dakar Art Biennale and further share insights around what it means to be an artist on the African continent at this point in time. Thoughts reflecting the role of prizes and awards in the career of an artist will be touched on.
     Director of The Showroom, London, Elvira Dyangani Ose will talk on the topic ‘About Being Together’. Ose’s theoretical work has focused on the evolution of artists within new forms of environment, in the absence of conventional institutions and contexts as for within many cities in Africa. The pursuit of common space in the public and private sphere as well as sound and performance of tradition, together make up an affective context that is communal rather than concretely spatial. Ose is the Absa L’Atelier 2018 lead adjudicator, nominated by SANAVA.

Art in the Time of Africa Absa UJ
Usha Seejarim

     ‘Post-colonialism as reflected in the arts of Africa’ will be presented by Thabang Monoa (a PhD candidate in Art History, FADA, UJ), using the Absa L’Atelier as a starting point. The uniqueness of the Absa L’Atelier presents an opportunity to evaluate and perhaps even renew our understandings of the various, and often, intersecting issues affecting Africa. What is the current state of this postcolony? This presentation examines these issues, some of which are interrogated in certain artworks submitted for this competition, and hopes to attain some illumination on the state of Africa in this post-colonial epoch.
     Alicia Knock, Curator – Contemporary Art and Prospective Department, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France, will look at ‘Collecting for Africa’. Starting from a chronological survey of the acquisition policy of the Centre Pompidou regarding Africa, including the impact of the two iconic shows Magiciens de la Terre (1989) and Africa Remix (2006), Knock will share her recent involvement in the shift towards a more consistent strategy for African acquisitions. This analysis will naturally lead her to stress the close links between the acquisition strategy and the exhibition program she tries to implement, aiming at rooting African works into an inclusive history that challenges the Western modernist paradigm, still widely dominant in the collection.

Art in the Time of Africa Absa UJ
Alicia Knock

     Cultural analyst and writer, Ashraf Jamal’s talk examines ‘Authorship and the Art Book in Africa’. What does it mean to write on behalf of art? Whom does this enterprise reach? What is the basis for this enterprise – is it designed for a closed market? Does it merely speak to a critical cognoscenti? Who and what is the ‘African artist’ and ‘contemporary African art and culture’ on whose behalf the writer writes?
     ‘Platforms of Possibility: The relevance of art competitions in Africa’ will be explored by Ernestine White-Mefetu, Curator of Contemporary Art: Iziko South African National Gallery. This talk will attempt to interrogate the relevance of art competitions on the African continent and to identify the possible short and long-term effects of entering or winning on the artists’ personal and professional development.
     To attend the colloquium, please RSVP to Annali Dempsey at aedempsey@uj.ac.za before 6 September 2018.