Mario Pissarra

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Art & Decolonisation: Small Steps Towards a Global Art History

Mario Pissarra, 1 February 2011

Introduction

On 14 January 2011 I convened two sessions of a panel on “art as an act of decolonisation” for an international colloquium convened by the South African Visual Arts Historians (SAVAH).(1) The panel comprised ten papers selected from 25 abstracts submitted in response to my call.(2)

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De-segregating the Audience: Race & the Politics of Exhibitions

Mario Pissarra, 23 August 2010

This was prepared for a panel discussion with the same title, held at the Centre for the Book, Cape Town, on 19 August 2010. The panel formed part of the “Beyond the Racial Lens” conference, which was itself  part of the “Bonani 2010 Festival of Documentary Photography” convened by SAHO. Thembinkosi Goniwe and Kwezi Gule were also part of the panel, which was chaired by Farzanah Badsha.

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Doing things differently: the promise of Africa. cont

Mario Pissarra, 20 May 2010

When Jose Antonio Fernandes Dias, visual arts advisor to the Gulbenkian Foundation, was asked by the Mayor of Lisbon what he thought of the idea of a museum for contemporary African art in Portugal, an idea that came from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dias said that it was not a good idea. He told the Mayor that museums risk becoming static places and would keep the “ghetto of contemporary African art” alive. Something more dynamic was needed. Dias was asked to come up with a proposal. That was in 2007. Today he is heading the establishment of a new multi-disciplinary organisation, Africa.Cont, which will be housed in a new building, designed by David Adjaye, to be completed in 2012. A mildly edited version of this appeared in Art South Africa vol. 8 no. 2, 2010, p. 76.

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Portugal as a place for Africa.cont

Mario Pissarra, 11 January 2010

This was presented at a meeting of Africa.cont (www.africacont.org) held on 5 December 2009 at the Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon. It was prepared for a panel discussion that was intended to address the possibilities and limitations of Portugal as a location for Africa.cont. Alda Costa, Barthelemy Toguo and Paul Goodwin were also on this panel, which was chaired by Roger Meintjes.
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Decolonisation of art in Africa: a post-apartheid South African perspective

Mario Pissarra, 26 November 2009

This was presented at the annual conference of the South African Visual Arts Historians at the University of Stellenbosch, 2008.

This is not a tightly argued paper, but more of a loose mapping of ideas that have preoccupied me for several years, ideas triggered by the implications of the concept of decolonization, specifically as it has relevance for the visual arts, within but not limited to the contemporary South African context. (1)

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Chalk and cheese, or yam and potatoes? Some thoughts on the need to develop a comparative critical practice

Mario Pissarra, 25 November 2009

This was prepared for an AICA/Vansa seminar on art criticism in Africa, November 2007.

Sometime in the very early 90s the Johannesburg based Afrika Cultural Center invited and hosted Ngugi wa Mirrii, the Kenyan born, Zimbabwe based theatre for development practitioner. As the general secretary of the Cultural Workers Congress, western Cape, I took on the task of organizing a day-long itinerary for Ngugi so that he could meet with a range of community arts organization in Cape Town. One of the most memorable incidents occurred at the Community Arts Project, then located in Chapel Street, Woodstock. Ngugi, having been subjected to a series of presentations highlighting the lack of resources for NGOs said something to the effect that: “You South Africans don’t know how good you have it, in Zimbabwe we do most of our training outdoors under a tree”.

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Decolonising art in Africa: some preliminary thoughts on the relevance of the discourse on decolonization for contemporary African art, with particular reference to post-apartheid South Africa.

Mario Pissarra, 25 November 2009

This was initially presented at a lunch-time lecture at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2006. Some of these ideas have been further developed in subsequent papers. It is published here in its original form.

1. The construction and imposition of “authenticities”

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Creating New Conditions for Creativity: Mario Pissarra in conversation with Uche Okeke

Mario Pissarra & Uche Okeke, 10 July 2008

[This is an edited version of a recorded telephone conversation that took place on 10 July 2006. It formed part of a series of conversations conducted for From the Ground Up, the Reader developed for the Cape Africa Platform’s Trans Cape exhibition. Unfortunately, the publication of the Reader was held back indefinitely, as a consequence of the funding shortfall which saw Trans Cape being replaced by the Cape 07 exhibition. This version is identical to that which was prepared for publication. It should also be noted that Okeke has recently relocated to Lagos.]

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Re-reading Malangatana

Mario Pissarra, 6 January 2008

[An edited version of this essay appeared in Farafina # 11]

For more than 40 years Malangatana has been one of Mozambique’s best known cultural figures, and indisputably her best known visual artist. Since his first appearance in a group exhibition in Lourenco Marques (now Maputo) in 1959, Malangatana’s works have been shown in numerous countries across the globe. His trademark style- dense compositions contained within shallow pictorial space, consisting of simplified shapes, mostly figurative, often with pronounced eyes and teeth, and typically rendered with a bright palette and bold outlines- is instantly recognizable.

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The JAG is the SANG

Mario Pissarra, 13 October 2007

I have long argued that transformation of the South African National Gallery has been badly managed. Thirteen years into democracy it has failed to produce a demographically representative pool of curators. Perhaps more importantly, it has failed to re-orientate its Eurocentric origins by neglecting to prioritise developing relationships with other African countries. Instead, in the name of transformation, the SANG has been absorbed into a seemingly dysfunctional, costly bureacracy called Iziko Museums, a top heavy administration that has few admirers, even amongst its own ranks.

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