Panel Presentations

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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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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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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Picasso and Africa: Are we asking the right questions?

Mario Pissarra, 14 May 2006

[Slightly revised version of a paper presented for a panel discussion at the Picasso and Africa seminar, Centre for the Book, Cape Town, 13 May 2006]

There is no doubt that Europe has stolen, and continues to steal from Africa. Thieves by nature do not usually disclose the sources of their wealth and therefore it is at times necessary to challenge and expose them. Personally I suspect that the Picasso & Africa exhibition attracted such high levels of interest and support on the part of our President and Minister of Arts & Culture precisely because here is one example where a case for Europe’s debt to Africa can be made. However I believe that centering the debate on the question of Picasso’s debt to Africa should not be the focus of our intellectual enquiry at this point in time.

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The African Renaissance: Confronting the Unspeakable

Randolph Hartzenberg, 26 March 2006

[Originally presented at the Design Education Forum of South Africa conference at the Cape Technikon, now the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, June 2000]

A plague wind has been sweeping across Africa, blowing across stagnant pools of absurdity, deception and attrition. The wind tears into the new millennium. Attempts at reconciliation are cast adrift. It is with disbelief, though not unexpected, that one encounters South Africans, who having chosen the supremacist path of the pre-1994 era, and having swallowed the “race” classification pill then, are now still slaves to that deception. It seems they believe that stagnation is viable, that locking themselves inside “die huis van die dowes” is still an option. It is against the backdrop of these absurd ironies that the inspiration for an African Renaissance programme has emerged. A plan for unity, for the renewal of Africa. A plea for the re-humanisation of this traumatised continent. President Thabo Mbeki, has, like Robert Sobukwe decades before him, with urgency, repeatedly spoken of his vision for progress that embodies the concept of an African Renaissance.

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Connecting Africa

Mario Pissarra, 18 February 2006

[Paper prepared for the “Reconnecting Africa” panel at the “Transformation/Growth/ Opportunity ” conference convened by the Visual Arts Network of South Africa, Hiddingh Hall Campus, UCT, 10 February 2006]

The title for this panel discussion should really be “connecting Africa ”. Certainly “reconnecting Africa ” is misleading if it implies that “ Africa ” was once connected, and that the restoration of this connection is currently on the agenda. A number of commentators, Ali Mazrui and Olu Oguibe (1993) among them, have made observations about the fictiveness of a united Africa, and how the term Africa has historically meant different things to different constituencies. Mazrui has argued that it was in fact western imperialism that inadvertently created the incentive for the notion of pan-Africanism to emerge, and pan-Africanism has been (and continues to be) more of an ideal than a reflection of actual relations between, on one hand, African countries; and on the other, between Africans on the continent and in the diaspora.

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