ASAI began in 2005, concerned with the lack of engagement by South African artists, art historians and curators with their peers on the African continent. Since then ASAI has begun to understand its role as both a pan-African project as well as an initiative located in the global south. The resources generated by ASAI represent a modest contribution towards the development of discourses rooted in (rather than imposed on) formerly colonised contexts, especially in Africa, in order that a more inclusive vision of international art and art history can emerge, informed from ‘below’. Based at the University of Cape Town since 2008, but not funded by or affiliated to the university, ASAI sees its role as bridging academic and popular discourse, with artists being central to this process.
RESEARCH – ASAI’s research focuses on artists working on the African continent, particularly those challenging or commenting on power relations, unsettling dominant perceptions and frameworks, and/or who have a history of being under-valued by the art world and society at large. Research also focuses on community arts organisations with their roots in the struggle against apartheid. In addition, ASAI provides a platform for publishing research on a wide-range of relevant issues.
RESOURCES – ASAI produces new and necessary resources on art and artists in Africa, and makes these resources accessible, mostly online. Resources serve a wide range of constituents, from students in schools to professionals and specialist practitioners.
ACTIVISM – ASAI’s emphasis on research and resources is rooted in activism, in conceiving of art as both a force for social change, as well as a site of struggle in its own right. Through critiques, discussions and debates, workshops and exhibitions, publications and social media, ASAI creates dynamic platforms that not only produce new resources, but also aim to generate new ways of seeing and doing.