Another view of contemporary African art
Not the context but the work of art itself forms the basis for the Africa Remix exhibition of contemporary African art.
Head curator of the exhibition Simon Njami and his team selected
works of art by 88 artists from 25 African countries. The exhibition
tries to answer the question: 'What is contemporary African art?',
without seeking refuge in the usual ethnic or geographic classifications
or in the usual approach of grouping works by discipline.
This new approach groups the works into three combinations of
themes, namely 'identity and history', 'body and soul' and 'town
and land'. These themes are used to create interesting interconnections
between the rich diversity of ideas and forms, which range from
sculptures made from recycled materials to high-tech video installations.
Mthethwa, Zwelethu - Untitled, 2003 - Photographie, 80 x 103 cm
Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Jane Alexander's theatrical installation, in which grey people
with animal heads stand on reddish brown sand staring into the distance
without making any contact with each other, shows the tension present
in post-apartheid South Africa. Zwelethu Mthethwa (South Africa)
exhibits photo portraits of workers in a sugarcane field. Their
beautiful composition and colours make the photos a visual feast.
At the same time, the workers' expressions raise questions about
their situation and relationship to the landscape in which they
are standing. The humorous sketches by Abu Bakarr Mansaray (Sierra
Leone) show imaginary machines and designs, complete with all types
of calculations and surprising comments.
The exhibition's basic premise creates a different viewpoint,
one detached from an ethnic, exotic or political approach. In this
way too, questions about identity, the relationship between Africa
and Europe, social injustice and religion are succinctly raised.
The exhibition's basic approach of putting the context in the background
shows all the more that African artists can still connect with this
Africa Remix can be seen from 24 July to 7 November 2004 at the Museum Kunst Palast in Düsseldorf, Germany, from where it will move to London, Paris and Tokyo.