ASAI is a non-profit visual arts organisation that generates critical resources on art in Africa.
ASAI’s website serves as an online research platform, dedicated to the development of accessible archives and critical debate.
ASAI began in 2005, specifically concerned with the lack of engagement by South African artists, art historians and curators with the art of 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) developing 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 or affiliated to the university, ASAI sees its role as bridging academic and popular discourse, with artists being central to this process. ASAI’s achievements include developing archives on under-documented artists; the publication of the single most comprehensive index of South African artists; and the generation of critical debate on Africa’s preoccupation with representation in the West. Other achievements include the project management of Visual Century, a multi-authored series of books on 100 years of South African art; being selected as a national flagship project by the National Arts Council of South Africa; and being invited by Rasheed Araeen, founding editor of the international journal Third Text, to establish Third Text Africa, an online journal. Most recently, ASAI produced Against the Grain, an exhibition featuring five wood sculptors from the Cape, accompanied by a 64 page catalogue, and DVD.