3rd Text Africa

3rd Text Africa (formerly Third Text Africa) is an open access, peer-reviewed journal that publishes contemporary perspectives on visual arts and culture, with a particular interest in facilitating and stimulating critical scholarship on and from the African continent. Third Text Africa was initiated by Rasheed Araeen, founding editor of Third Text, in partnership with ASAI. 3rd Text Africa has its own editorial structure and operates independently of the print journal.

Editorial Collective

Founding Editor: Rasheed Araeen, founder editor of Third Text, London

Editorial Board: 

Nirveda Alleck, Mahatma Gandhi Institute, University of Mauritius

Alda CostaUniversidade Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo

Christine Eyene, Liverpool John Moore's University, UK

Nomusa MakhubuUniversity of Cape Town & ASAI

Mario Pissarra, ASAI

Lize van Robbroeck, University of Stellenbosch & ASAI

Advisory Council:

Awam AmkpaNew York University, USA

Raphael ChikukwaNational Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare

Roberto ConduruSouthern Methodist University, Dallas, USA

Angelo KakandeMakerere University, Kampala, Uganda

Namuburu Rose KirumiraMakerere University, Kampala, Uganda

Abdellah KarroumL’Appartement 22, Rabat, Morocco

Yacouba Konate, University of Abidjan, Ivory Coast 

Kwame LabiUniversity of Ghana, Accra

Neo Matome, University of Botswana, Gaborone

Nicholas Mirzoeff, New York University, USA

Anitra Nettleton, Wits University, South Africa

William Bwalya Mikoindependent, Lusaka

Barbara Murray, independent, London

Jacqueline NolteUniversity of the Fraser Valley, Vancouver



We are currently preparing the next edition, 'Walls', guest edited by Thulile Gamedze. The CFP for next edition will be issued in July 2023.

Guidelines for submissions

Texts can be in the form of essays, interviews or reviews. Visual essays are also welcome.
Texts should not exceed 7,000 words, including notes.
Portuguese and English texts are welcome.
Contributors should comply with ASAI’s style sheet (available on request)

For enquiries:

Mario Pissarra mario@asai.co.za


What is 3rdText Africa? 3rd Text Africa (formerly Third Text Africa) is a peer-reviewed online, open-access journal that publishes themed editions on contemporary art and culture, particularly the visual arts, with an emphasis on scholarship on and from Africa.

Does Third Text Africa have anything to do with the journal Third Text?
Third Text Africa (as then known) was initiated by the founding editor of Third Text, Rasheed Araeen, in order to pursue the broad mandate of Third Text, namely “critical perspectives on contemporary art and culture” with a focus on African art and scholarship. 3rd/Third Text Africa has always operated independently (editorially and financially) of Third Text. The change in name to 3rd Text Africa serves to emphasize our independence. 

Is 3rd Text Africa a project of a University? No, Third Text Africa is produced by ASAI, an independent research platform based at the University of Cape Town, but is not funded by UCT.

Is 3rd Text Africa accredited by the Department of National Education, RSA?  No. This is not a platform designed for (South African) academics to earn subsidies for their institutions. 

Will 3rd Text Africa be offering a print version in the future? The emphasis is on publishing online, as this reaches a broader audience. Print versions would only be considered if funding is available for this purpose.

If 3rd Text Africa is an online journal, what format will it adopt to be viewed? Articles can be downloaded independently as pdfs.

Can I publish my article in other journals or does 3rd Text Africa demand exclusivity?
3rd Text Africa gives preference to original articles, but will consider previously published articles if it adds value to a particular issue. Articles first published online with 3rd Text Africa can be published elsewhere, provided that prior publication in Third Text Africa is acknowledged.

When do I hear from you? You will receive an acknowledgment of receipt within one week of sending your article. We aim to inform you of the outcome within six weeks of the deadline for the relevant issue.

Do all articles submitted get peer reviews?
Only articles considered by the editors to be suitable candidates for publication proceed to peer review. Articles considered unsuitable by the editors will not be sent to reviewers.

How does peer review work? Editors make an initial assessment of all articles and identify reviewers. Reviewers submit written reports to editors. These reports either recommend publication as is, publication subject to particular changes, or that articles should be declined. Editors consider reviewers reports before communicating to writers. The identity of writers is not disclosed to reviewers and vice versa.

What kind of people are asked to do peer review? A wide network of reviewers is used, including but not limited to the members of the editorial board and advisory council. Reviewers are typically professionals in high standing. These include academics, curators, educators and other art professionals. Postgraduate students with developed professional reputations are also invited.

Are contributors paid? Under normal circumstances writers, as well as reviewers, editorial board members and advisory council members are not paid for their contributions. The editor and/or managing editor are employed by ASAI.

What does the editorial board do? The editorial board acts as sounding board for the editors, and recommends themes and policy. Editorial members also contribute to peer review.

What does the advisory council do? The advisory council acts as a broad consultative and support network for the editors. Members also assist with peer review.

What kinds of papers are typically accepted? Papers that challenge orthodoxies and provide fresh perspectives. Papers that engage with the interface between art and broader social issues are particularly welcome.

What are the length limitations on papers Third Text Africa accepts? 3rd Text Africa strongly prefers articles of 5000-7000 words in length including text and footnotes, however we will except texts with less or more words. The strength of the content is privileged over word count


Informal meeting with Rasheed Araeen, organised by ASAI, Cape Town 2008. Araeen had been invited to give the keynote speech at the SA Visual Arts History conference, and it was during this visit that he proposed the establishment of Third Text Africa.

3rd Text Africa, No. 13, ‘Africa/Brasil’

Front Matter
Editorial: Africa/ Brazil [English], Roberto Conduru and Mario Pissarra
Editorial: Africa/ Brasil [Portuguese], Roberto Conduru e Mário Pissarra
The footsteps of the returnees/ Os passos dos retornados, Tatewaki Nio
Architecture, freedom and professional societies in Brazil in the 18th and 19th centuries: a prolegomena, Adedoyin Teriba
Arquitetura, liberdade e sociedades profissionais no Brasil nos séculos 18 e 19: um prolegômeno, Adedoyin Teriba [tradução] Reinventando máscaras e cabeças: Agnaldo Manuel dos Santos entre África e Brasil (1959-1977), Juliana Ribeiro da Silva Bevilacqua
Reinventing masks and heads: Agnaldo Manuel dos Santos between Africa and Brazil (1959–1977), Juliana Ribeiro da Silva Bevilacqua [translation] Exhibiting Afro-Brazilian Art abroad: Mestre Didi and the international rootedness of Blackness in Brazil, Abigail Lapin Dardashti
Expondo Arte Afro-Brasileira no exterior: Mestre Didi e o enraizamento internacional da Negritude no Brasil, Abigail Lapin Dardashti [tradução] An accented reading of the Bienal de São Paulo: Leonard Matsoso and the 12th (and 15th) Bienal, Nancy Dantas
Uma leitura acentuada da Bienal de São Paulo: Leonard Matsoso e a 12˚ (e a 15˚) Bienal, Nancy Dantas [tradução] Pedagogias e práticas artísticas na École de Dakar: um olhar a partir do Brasil, Sabrina Moura
Pedagogies and artistic practices at the École de Dakar: a Brazilian perspective, Sabrina Moura [translation] Laamb e Capoeira/ Laamb and Capoeira, Edu Monteiro
Bridging the Global South: art and the memorialisation of slavery, a perspective from Ouidah, Romuald Tchibozo
Criando pontes de reconciliação no Sul global: a arte e a memorialização da escravidão a partir da perspectiva de Ouidah, Romuald Tchibozo [tradução] TretaLetra, Wagner Leite Viana
O colonialismo oculto e a deslocação-de-si como possibilidades de radicalidade anti-racista e anti-colonialista: no território da arte implicada e da educação artística crítica, José Carlos de Paiva e Rita Rainho
Covert colonialism and the displacement of self as possibilities for anti-racist and anti-colonialist radicalism in the realm of engaged art and critical art education, José Carlos de Paiva and Rita Rainho [translation] O feminino na fotografia de Ricardo Rangel, Isa Bandeira, em conversa com Jorge Dias
The representation of women in photographs by Ricardo Rangel, Isa Bandeira, in conversation with Jorge Dias [translation]

Third Text Africa, No. 12, ‘Collectivities’

Third Text Africa, Volume 5, ‘Mozambique’


Third Text Africa, Volume 4, ‘East Africa’

Third Text Africa, Volume 3.1, ‘Localities’


Third Text Africa, Volume 2.4, ‘Re/centering Artists 2’

2,4 Third Text Recentering artists 2



This eighth edition of Third Text Africa concludes the first phase of this project. This phase has been modest. We have made 60 archival articles from Third Text freely accessible online to readers across Africa, and all readers have had access to the editorials that have attempted to bring into the present some of the issues associated with the archival articles. For making this possible we are grateful to Rasheed Araeen and his team at Third Text, and to Routledge for their support.

In consultation with Third Text a new, improved Third Text Africa is being formulated. It will seek to align Third Text Africa with the approach taken by Third Text Asia and Tercer Texto, Third Text’s other satellite projects that blend archival articles with original material. Just as it took a year of behind-the-scenes conversations to get the first phase online, so too the development of the next phase of Third Text Africa will take some time, and is provisionally scheduled to re-emerge online in 2012.

This edition continues the theme of re-centering artists in critical discourse. The argument for this was outlined in an earlier editorial (vol. 1 no. 4). Suffice to underline here that ASAI remains committed to facilitating spaces for artists to engage with critical issues, and for interested parties to engage critically with the work of artists. Here, readers should expect some changes as we grapple with the interface between real time and virtual time projects, but never losing sight of the pivotal agent, the artist.

Mario Pissarra
Editor, Third Text Africa

Publication & Copyright Information

Publication & Copyright Information

Valerie Cassel's "Convergence: Images & Dialogue: Conversations with Alexander 'Skunder' Boghossian" was published in Third Text no. 23, 1993, pp. 53-68

Leticia Cordero Vega's "Meeting with Rachid Koraichi was published in Third Text no. 25, 1993-94, pp. 61-66

Olu Oguibe's "El Anatsui: In the Public Space was published in Third Text no. 35, 1996, pp. 69-77

Jean Fisher's "Everlyn Nicodemus: Between Silence and Laughter" was published in Third Text no. 40, 1997, pp. 41-53

David A. Bailey's "Photographic Animateur: The Photographs of Fani Rotimi Kayode in Relation to Black Photographic Practice" was published in Third Text no. 13, 1990/91, pp. 57-62

Anthony Ilona's "Olu Oguibe: Recent Works" was published in Third Text no. 25, 1993-94, pp. 87-89

Paul O'Kane's "Johannes Phokela" was published in Third Text no. 43, 1998, pp. 103-104

All previously published texts appear in Third Text Africa with permission of Third Text and Routledge. Copyright resides with Third Text/ Authors. No article may be reproduced without the written permission of the Editor, Third Text.

Third Text Africa, Volume 2.3, ‘South Africa in Black & White’

2,3 Third Text south africa in black & white



When, in 1989, Albie Sachs presented his paper “Preparing Ourselves for Freedom”, he was addressing two audiences. In immediate terms, he was addressing his comrades in the ANC, in anticipation of a transfer of power and the concomitant shift from resistance to governance. But he was also speaking to a much broader audience, much of which was not present at the ANC seminar in Lusaka, namely the nascent, democratic South Africa.

Thus, while controversy centred on his provocative call for a ban on the slogan “culture as a weapon of struggle”, in retrospect the resonance of the paper perhaps lies more in its challenge to get beyond the oppressive binaries that shackle our imagination.

With the gini coefficient in freefall, binaries are very much a part of life in South Africa. But the one that dominates popular discourse is not class, but race.

For those who fought for non-racialism, it is surreal to find that in post-apartheid South Africa the same racial categories we were urged to reject have been retained for official purposes. The typical argument to retain them is that without them the wrongs of the past cannot be addressed. One can have some sympathy for this position, since the opposing argument that colour is irrelevant in the new dispensation rings hollow when studies confirm that whites still dominate the economy.

And yet, retaining four problematic racial categories as primary indicators of identity has consequences for the future. A whole new generation who were never subjected to the Population Registration Act (1950, repealed in 1991) is being asked to tick boxes: African, Indian, Coloured, White. Since many of these young people come from families and communities that have themselves accepted these identities, what hope is there of ever erasing them?

In everyday encounters it is alarming how the baggage associated with these racial categories, along with other once-legislated ethnic identities, affects perceptions of ‘community’ and of difference. Grand nation-building projects, like the 2010 Fifa World Cup, may manage to paper over the cracks, but the fissures are deep, wide, and many. And even if the rainbow nation prevails, nationalism has proven itself the all-too willing bedfellow of xenophobia... South Africa sits on several time-bombs, a country battling to redress the past and to inspire a vision of the future.

Fortunately for artists no-one expects them to solve these problems. If they have any inclination to address these issues the field is rich. At one end, critically examining the historical construction of racial identities reveals a process so riddled by political expedience and inconsistency as to feed an insatiable satirist. On the other end of the spectrum, the challenge to vision new identities presents boundless possibilities for the imagination.

So what does this have to do with Third Text Africa? The articles in this edition appeared in Third Text at the time that South Africa was beginning to emerge as a visible player on the international art circuit. They reflect burgeoning international interest in South African art. Since that time several South Africans have developed successful international careers. Indeed, even for those who have not emigrated, the leading galleries in South Africa acknowledge that their business is largely international.

Thus, with post-apartheid South African art being almost synonymous with the concept of identity one needs to ask: is the international community attracted to artists who provide insights into South African identity that cannot be gleaned easily by outsiders, or does it favour artists who are able to translate questions of South African identity into discourses that correspond with international understandings of race, and of South Africa? Why, for example, does the international art-world’s apparent interest in coloured identity often get conflated with the concept of mixed race, and seldom addresses the (once official) sub-categories of coloured identity that relate more directly to questions of indigeneity? Why is it that coloured artists who reclaim their African identity are seldom featured in international exhibitions?

Many have already reached the point with South African art that ‘identity-fatigue’ has set in. And yet one can ask how much of this work has even scratched the surface, helping South Africans make sense of their past and their future.

Most of the world cannot be reduced to black and white, and South Africa is no exception.

Mario Pissarra
Editor, Third Text Africa

Publication & Copyright Information

Publication & Copyright Information

Pitika Ntuli's "Fragments from Under a Telescope: A Responce to Albie Sachs" was published in Third Text no. 23, 1993, pp. 69-78

Okwui Enwenzor's "Reframing the Black Subject: Ideology and Fantasy in Contemporary South African Representation" was published in Third Text no. 40, 1997, pp. 21-40

Brian Keith Axel's "Disembodiment and Total Body: A Response to Enwenzor on Contemporary South African Representation" was published in Third Text no. 44, 1998, pp. 3-16

Ruth Kerkham's "A Deadly Explosive on Her Tongue: White Artist/ Black Bodies was published in Third Text no. 50, 2000, pp. 45-60

Shaheen Meerali's "Cape of Longing: South Africa and Kay Hassan" was published in Third Text no. 55, 2001, pp. 85-92

Liese van der Watt's "Making Whiteness Strange: White Identity in Post Apartheid South African Art" was published in Third Text no. 56, 2001, pp. 63-74

Tina Sotiriadi's "William Kentridge: A Process of Remembering and Forgetting" was published in Third Text no. 48, 1999, pp. 106-108

All previously published texts appear in Third Text Africa with permission of Third Text and Routledge. Copyright resides with Third Text/ Authors. No article may be reproduced without the written permission of the Editor, Third Text.

Third Text Africa, Volume 2.2, ‘Re/framed 2’



Any day now one expects the proclamation that ‘contemporary African art’ is dead. After all, its been rumoured for some time, but it seems that no-one will listen until someone with an ego bigger than a continent says so.
Odds are that the proclamation will say the following: “Contemporary African art is now successfully assimilated into international art. Retaining the label, and its attendant discourse, will unnecessarily restrict the work of artists, who just want to be artists.”

There will be some sympathy for the proclamation. After all, how many more ‘deconstructions’ of ‘authenticity’ can one bear? And is it not true that the discourse has been in a state of paralysis for some time, bound into a reactive cycle that, once the hypocrisies of universalism have been exposed, has typically led nowhere beyond the cul-de-sac of iconoclasm for iconoclasm’s sake?

And yet such a proclamation will be a tragedy. It will be a tragedy because in the countless curatorial projects that set out to problemmatise the notions of ‘Africa’ and ‘African art’ very little attention has been paid by the doyens of this discourse to artists working across the African continent, to addressing the prevailing and desired conditions for their practice. A lot of work still needs to be done to develop a discourse that makes sense of work produced in ‘developing’ contexts, such as those that prevail in most parts of Africa. Even more work needs to be done on the ‘pioneers’, of whom barely a monograph exists.

Instead the very idea of associating ‘African art’ with a continent has been trashed, in favour of artists with historical links to the continent but living elsewhere, for whom ‘contemporary African art’ was a necessary stepping stone to visibility in the west, and for whom that stepping stone now threatens to become a millstone. For such artists the proclamation is surely overdue.

Similarly, I suspect, for many South African artists being shackled to a continent that relatively few have demonstrated any interest in, must surely be a quiet torture - I mean, first the cultural boycott isolated us, now I must carry a pass that labels me ‘African’ when all I want to do is join the unfettered ‘international’ community of artists...

The articles featured in this issue of Third Text Africa continue the question of framing and reframing that made up an earlier issue. They date back to the emergence of this discourse, when the naming of ‘contemporary African art’ was in its infancy, and before there was a place for the admittedly cynical tone of this editorial. They highlight the earnestness that went into a valid critique of how Africa was portrayed through the prisms of ignorance and prejudice, and they represented a significant step in unmasking and shaming that misrepresentation.

By revisiting this material it is hoped that this edition will pose a valid challenge to us today: in what way did the critiques developed in the earlier writings on contemporary African art progress beyond those exemplified in these examples? Or did the discourse manage the illusion of breaking new ground, whilst being in effect frozen in a moment, on the threshold of developing new discursive frames that can elucidate both the particularity and universality of art produced across Africa, not only in the advent of globalisation, but also in the critical decades preceding and following political independence.

Has the work been done, or has it barely begun?

Mario Pissarra
Editor, Third Text Africa

Publication & Copyright Information

Publication & Copyright Information

Olu Oguibe's "In the 'Heart of Darkness'" was published in Third Text no. 23, 1993, pp. 3-8.

Gavin Jantjes' "The Artist as a Cultural Salmon: A View from the Frying Pan" was published in Third Text no. 23, 1993, pp. 103-106.

Everlyn Nicodemus' "Meeting Carl Einstein" was published in Third Text no. 23, 1993, pp. 31-38.

Denis Ekpo's "How Africa Misunderstood the West, The Failure of Anti-West Radicalism and Postmodernity" was published in Third Text no. 35, 1996, pp. 3-13.

Everlyn Nicodemus and Kristian Romare's "Africa, Art Criticism and the Big Commentary" was published in Third Text no 41, 1997-98, pp. 53-65.

Zeynep Celik's "Colonial/postcolonial intersections: Lieux de Memoire in Algiers" was published in Third Text no. 49, 1999-2000, pp. 63-72.

Johan Lagae's "Displaying Authenticity and Progress: Architectural Representation of the Belgian Congo at International Exhibitions in the 1930s" was published in Third Text no. 50, 2000, pp. 21-32.

Mario Pissarra's "Postcolonial Africa" was published in Third Text no. 57, 2001-02, pp. 106-108.

All previously published texts appear in Third Text Africa with permission of Third Text and Routledge. Copyright resides with Third Text/ Authors. No article may be reproduced without the written permission of the Editor, Third Text.

Third Text Africa, Volume 2.1, ‘Dis/locating Africas’



Dis/locating Africa/s, or how championing a cause lost a continent

Few could argue that it has been critically important to unsettle dominant notions of Africa. When Africa was widely reduced to a stereotype of backwardness, to an unchanging land without history and differentiation, it was imperative to challenge and counter this image by presenting imaginative and inspiring alternatives. In the main this was done by casting off the boundaries of continent and by turning the binary between the West and Africa inside out.

This intellectual exercise had some genuinely visionary moments. But like any new movement it generated an orthodoxy that now makes sifting the valuable moments from the swamp of tedious re-runs a tiresome affair. It has also been marked by a tendency to privilege iconoclasm to the point that it sometimes appears to be an end in itself. And it generated its own ironies: The dislocation of a fixed Africa and its replacement by a plurality of Africas has translated into a new regime where Africa’s hearts now beat most loudly in big cities off the continent. Pluralism, it seems, begins abroad. Convenient too, that the art capitals of the world can now engage Africans by dealing with those on its doorstep, or in their backyard, leaving the continent in some remote hemisphere, too distant to resonate for this beast called ‘contemporary African art’.

Through locating Africa as primarily in Europe and the USA, the idea that the international somehow excludes most Africans has been perpetuated. For Africans labouring under colonial complexes it appears to make good sense to look to the fiscally-rich world for developmental models. With tourist-friendly biennales proliferating across the globe, one may well ask why not Africa too? So what if most African countries have no properly resourced museums, and have populations who are largely disinterested in the visual arts? Can these problems be addressed through the biennale model, or through other kinds of programmes? Does the biennale model introduce its own benefits that makes such problems irrelevant? Will the money spent freighting works and pampering over-indulged curators be better spent elsewhere, or will it only be raised in the name of a biennale? Who are these biennales really meant to serve, and who actually benefits from them? Should the biennale model be adopted, adapted or rejected? And where is the space for such debate to take place, when to ask critical questions is to immediately paint one as a spoiler?

This edition of Third Text Africa consists primarily of reviews and reflections on African biennale’s. They capture both the promise that these exhibitions can work for art and artists in Africa, and the critique that they are all too often simply exotic platforms where marginalised curators and artists get a precious moment to pitch to the movers in the art-world, hopefully enabling careers where it really matters, which you will have to struggle to locate anywhere on this giant continent, which remains, for the foreseeable future, Africa.

This edition also includes a few accounts of artists’ workshops. Unlike the biennale, artists’ workshops are generally low-key affairs that attract little public attention, and almost no exposure in art journals. For their champions workshops are sites of experimental practice that facilitate qualitative exchanges between artists. For detractors there is often little to show for them. Interestingly both these institutional forms – the big spectacle and the hidden laboratory, inadvertently reinforce the idea that artists do, whilst the talking gets done by everyone else. While this model suits many artists, surely one needs to involve artists in designing projects that can relocate artistic practice as integral to human development.

And that goes for non-Africans too.

Mario Pissarra
Editor, Third Text Africa

Publication & Copyright Information

Publication & Copyright Information

Clementine Deliss' "The Dakar Biennale 92: Where Internationalism Falls Apart" was published in Third Text no. 23, 1993, pp. 136-141.

Bernd Scherer's "Johannesburg Biennale: Interview with Lorna Ferguson" was published in Third Text no. 31, 1995, pp. 83-88.

Candice Breitz's "The First Johannesburg Biennale: Work in Progress" was published in Third Text no. 31, 1995, pp. 89-94.

Bryan Biggs' "Dak’Art 96" was published in Third Text no. 36, 1996, pp.83-86.

Jen Budney's "Who’s It For? The Second Johannesburg Biennale" was published in Third Text no. 42, 1998, pp. 88-94.

Katya Garcia-Anton's "Dak’Art 98" was published in Third Text no. 44, 1998, pp. 87-92.

Bisi Silva's "Dak’Art 2000: The Millennium Biennale?" was published in Third Text no. 53, 2000, pp. 103-106.

Yinka Shonibare's "Jean-Michel Basquiat, please do not turn in your grave, it’s only TENQ" was published in Third Text no's. 28/29, 1994, pp. 199-200.

Clementine Deliss' "Reply to Yinka Shonibare" was published in Third Text no's. 28/29, 1994, pp. 201-202.

Els van der Plas' "The Ujamaa IV Workshop in Mozambique" was published in Third Text no. 38, 1997, pp. 81-86.

All previously published texts appear in Third Text Africa with permission of Third Text and Routledge. Copyright resides with Third Text/ Authors. No article may be reproduced without the written permission of the Editor, Third Text.

Third Text Africa, Volume 1.4, ‘Re/centering Artists’



This fourth edition of Third Text Africa compiles early texts from Third Text that address the work of specific artists. This act of validating earlier validations of artists introduces a set of its own questions. These questions apply more broadly to the related issues of visibility and validation than they do to the specific texts featured.

To what extent are the artists who are most visible privileged because of the specific interests of dealers, curators and academics? Do they necessarily represent the most interesting artists?

In an era where the value of art is often equated with investment, and where private galleries represent the primary vehicle for ‘representing’ artists, does the visibility that comes with promotion get conflated with critical recognition of artists? Do the commercial interests of dealers get lost in the public perception of them as ‘neutral’ agents, guided primarily by questions of quality and (perhaps) relevance? This is not to deny dealers and galleries their role, but to not lose sight of the capitalist framework that necessitates it.

In an era where curators frequently usurp artists as the main act, how many of them select artists who comfortably fit their curatorial interests? This is not to deny curators agency, since artists need them as much as they do dealers. It is to question to what extent are curatorial themes informed by substantive research into practice? Furthermore, it is to question how many artists have the confidence to critically engage curators, and how many bow to their sometimes flimsy curatorial concepts? Not least it is to question why some lusciously produced catalogues, complete with commissioned essays, fail to engage with the art featured in the relevant exhibition?

In an era where multidisciplinary approaches to intellectual enquiry create new horizons for art history, theory and criticism how many academics prioritise art that supports the hypotheses that they are developing? How many disregard those contradictory impulses embedded in many artists’ works that resist being harnessed to support an argument? This is not to deny academics agency, artists need to be critically challenged as well as ‘documented’, but how many artists remain silent knowing all too well that the ways in which they are being theorised does not tell the whole story?

If power resides in the intersection of critical validating agencies, not least the dealer (market), curator (exhibitions) and academic (publications), it also reflects global imbalances. It should come as no surprise that most artists featured here are based in the West. This does not reduce their value but it does raise the question of when will conditions in the periphery act as an adequate counterweight to this uni-directional gravitational pull? It also raises the question of the in/visibility of artists working on the African continent, and what will need to be done to support their practice in ways that not only play to globally hegemonic interests but also to advance the position of art on the African continent itself?

Ultimately these texts remind us that artists occupy the pivotal terrain in any discourse that seeks to make sense of art. It’s a discourse that is framed by power and powerlessness, by agency and apathy.

When artists become the object and not the subject, are they playing the system or is the system playing them?
Mario Pissarra
Editor, Third Text Africa

Publication & Copyright Information

Publication & Copyright Information

Hiltrud Streicher & Uzo Egonu’s “Reflections of Uzo Egonu”was published in Third Text no’s 8 & 9. pp. 173-182.

Ulli Beier’s “The Right to Claim the World: Conversation with Ibrahim El Salahi” was published in Third Text no. 23, pp. 23-30.

Lauri Firstenberg’s “A Stylist of Subjectivities: Interface in the Photography of Ike Ude” was published in Third Text no.46, pp. 53-60.

Olu Oguibe’s “Love and Desire: The Art of Ghada Amer”was published in Third Text no. 55, pp. 63-74.

Jaki Irvine’s “Zarina Bhimji: I Will Always be Here”was published in Third Text no. 22, pp. 107-110.

Olu Oguibe’s“Holding unto Own Space: Eight African Women Artists” was published in Third Text no. 23: 131-135.

Jacqueline Nolte’s “Jane Alexander: Sculpture and Photomontage” was published in Third Text no. 36, pp. 99-101.

Richard Hylton’s “Yinka Shonibare: Dressing Down” was published in Third Text no. 46, pp. 101-103.

All previously published texts appear in Third Text Africa with permission of Third Text and Routledge. Copyright resides with Third Text/ Authors. No article may be reproduced without the written permission of the Editor, Third Text.

Third Text Africa, Volume 1.3, ‘Surveying South Africa’



This third edition of Third Text Africa comprises selected articles on South African themes published in Third Text between 1991 and 2000. Each comprises a survey of sorts – whether a critical account of South African art practice or a review of an exhibition that was panoramic in scope. Since Third Text only covered a small fraction of such material generated during this period, this edition could be seen to be a random sample of a random sample.

However, in other respects this random sample is revealing. Firstly, it indirectly affirms that most surveys take the form of exhibitions. Secondly, it reminds us that most curated surveys are produced for an international audience, more specifically in the USA and a handful of European centres. Thirdly, the fact that Third Text has published more articles on South African topics than on other African or Third World countries highlights the relative dominance of South African art. Are these observations simply the way it is, or cause for concern?

The need to move beyond survey exhibitions has been argued by, among others, Sylvester Ogbechie. Ogbechie has consistently argued that without detailed studies of individual artists African artists will not gain their deserved place within international art. Here again one can observe that South Africans dominate other African countries both in the number of international solo exhibitions held and the number of texts on individual artists. Notably most of these individual studies comprise catalogues , thereby affirming the quantitative dominance of exhibitions in developing intellectual capital.

With interest in South African survey exhibitions being sustained a lot longer than may have been expected, one has to ask why it is that there is apparently less international interest in survey exhibitions of other African countries? Is South African art really more interesting? Why is the art world interested in exhibitions centred on identity in South African art but seemingly less interested in what, for example, Nigeria or Egypt have to say about the subject? Does South Africa really have more or better artists than other African countries? Is it that South Africa has a more developed infrastructure for art? What does history, politics, and resources have to do with the relative prominence of South African art compared to, for example, the relative invisibility of artists in the Southern African Development Community? Does race have anything to do with it?

The irony is that it is critical surveys, both national and transnational, that can assist in answering some of these questions. Yet, it must be said, this will require a paradigm shift. Commercial interests, particularly those of publishers, galleries and artists, determine that many of our exhibitions and publications are little more than glorified marketing. Colin Richards’ essay, which may have been the first to identify identity as a key theme in South African art, was motivated by a genuine desire to make critical sense of practice within the transition from apartheid to democracy. Can the same be said of most writing on South African art?

Mario Pissarra
Editor, Third Text Africa

Publication & Copyright Information

Publication & Copyright Information

Colin Richards’ “About Face: Aspects of Art, History and Identity in South African Visual Culture “ was published in Third Text, no.s 16/17, 1991, pp. 101-133.

Gabriel Perez-Barreiro’s “Earth and Everything: Recent Art from South Africa” was published in Third Text, 1997, no. 38, pp. 92-94.

Jacqueline Nolte’s “Contemporary South African Art 1985–1995” was published in Third Text, no. 39, 1997, pp. 95-103.

Biko Agozino’s “The Globalisation of Apartheid: Representing Power” was published in Third Text, no. 42, 1998, pp. 95-99.

Mario Pissarra’s “Cross Currents: Contemporary Art Practice in South Africa” was published in Third Text, no. 52, 2000, pp. 95-102.

All previously published texts appear in Third Text Africa with permission of Third Text and Routledge. Copyright resides with Third Text/ Authors. No article may be reproduced without the written permission of the Editor, Third Text.

Third Text Africa, Volume 1.2, ‘Re/framed’



“Jerry Jones is a soul singer.”

That would be an innocuous sentence, except that, as Jones assures us, “Still waters run deep.”

Jerry Jones is a soul singer, but you won’t find her on an anthology of soul music. This may seem strange, particularly since Jerry Jones was a black, Alabama born singer who released albums in 1970 and 1971, i.e. when soul was entering its mature phase - Marvin Gaye was about to release Motown’s first ‘protest’ album (What’s Going On) and Curtis Mayfield was beginning his solo career.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Jerry Jones recorded in Jamaica with Studio One. Perhaps if she’d hung around Detroit and had a girl’s name, something like Diana, Martha or Mary. Perhaps.

Studio One is to reggae what Tamla Motown is to soul. A foundational recording studio and record label. But you won’t find Jerry among the five Jones’ listed in The Rough Guide to Reggae. This may seem strange, particularly since every Reggae afficondo knows that soul had a profound impact on the evolution of Jamaican music.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that with the emergence of militant Rasta Reggae in the early 70s Studio One was temporarily displaced as a central force in Jamaican music. Perhaps if Jerry had arrived in the mid 60s she would have had a good run with Rocksteady, the Jamaican equivalent to soul. Perhaps you’ll find on a budget compilation in the future titled “Jamaican Soul”, along with Chicago Soul, Northern Soul, Philly Soul, and anywhere but nowhere soul.

The fact that Jerry’s timing was out of sync with Jamaican trends and recorded an ocean apart from US soul does not make her a less competent or interesting artist. It just means that she becomes invisible.

The irony is that while Jerry Jones does not fit comfortably into rigidly defined musical genres, she was not an iconoclast. She did what made sense to her, namely singing soul music. She was not a lyricist, and never ventured into the creative wordplay and patois that has become synonymous with Jamaican culture. However, like many descendants of the transatlantic slave trade she did appreciate the wisdom in proverbs, as “Still Waters” attests. She also may not have sung any ‘militant’ songs, but there is a strength of character and resilience of spirit that does come across in her work.

I was told that “Jerry Jones is a soul singer” by a Rasta record dealer in Camden. As a statement it is a simple descriptive fact, just listen to her and that much is clear. It also has an evaluative dimension. It means that she is a good singer, Jerry Jones has ‘class’. Certainly “Still Waters” turns a pedestrian Temptations song into a sublime statement. Working with top musicians like Ernest Ranglin didn’t hurt, but the voice is all hers.

I begin this editorial for the second edition of Third Text Africa with some thoughts about an obscure singer because they highlight the importance and impact of the conceptual framing that ‘locates’ or ‘defines’ art and artists. This framing has both benevolent and malevolent aspects. Benevolent in the sense that it is by identifying and applying relevant terms of reference that one can enrich the process of generating ‘meaning’. Malevolent in the sense that misleading, restrictive or exclusive frames of reference act to limit possibilities and inhibit the ‘movement’ of ideas. ‘Framing’ an artist can have a devastating affect, rendering them irrelevant and marginalising them, or it can serve to assert their importance, elevating their prominence.

Framing is fraught with tension, even contradictions. At one level many artists resist being labelled. However many artists, often including those who resist being labelled, privilege issues of race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, culture, sexuality, age as key concerns. At times this appears contradictory, especially when absolute positions are articulated, inevitably to be contradicted by practice. This revives the old debates between privileging the work as a purportedly autonomous entity and imposing the broader context as a deterministic force. Ultimately both these polarities have to be explored, and the interpretation of the work occupies a dynamic space that mediates these binaries.

The archival essays contained in this edition of Third Text Africa are all concerned, explicitly or implicitly, with the development of critical frameworks that illuminate the interpretation of art produced in African contexts, including those, such as North Africa, which have only comparatively recently been reframed as part of that polyglot signifier ‘Africa’. Mostly they are concerned with deconstructing frameworks that have been developed within dominant cultural frameworks, reflecting ‘western’ interests. They are themselves informed by both ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ perspectives, positions that are seldom crisply delineated as distinct, but which inevitably reflect earnest struggles to locate ‘meaning’. Ultimately, they highlight the need to develop flexible frameworks that reflect the particularities of practice and the contexts of these practices. These contexts are local, but they are also global. Few artists do not see themselves as part of a global imaginary. These global imaginaries are many. They may usually rotate around centres of power, with dominant centres exercising proportionate influence, but it would be foolish to ignore their plurality.

Framing is inevitable – it is part of the process of making sense of particular acts by placing them within discernible patterns. At its most basic level it enables a level of recognition and comprehension that introduces comparative and evaluative dimensions. But when does framing stand in the way of deeper, more critical readings? When we find ourselves casually making sense of one artist by thinking of another, of reading meaning that is based on ideas developed in their own specific contexts, we risk losing sight of the particular qualities of specific works and artists. We may want to see the big picture, but let us not loose sight of the specificity.

I’d like to return to Jerry Jones. Consider the words of the title of a cover song she made all her own: “Compared to what?” Consider the impact of reframing this as compared for what? Such a shift highlights the purposes and consequences of framing. Some of us may ultimately not be primarily interested in art and artists: these are simply points of departure for our own understanding of the world. So what if the theories I develop impact on others, including the artists who prompted my thinking, so long as I get my platform! For others the artist and her work remain central. We accept the invitation that is extended to us in the opening words of "Still Waters": “walk with me/ take my hand...” Whatever our orientation, one thing is certain: we need to generate a culture of producing new readings.

Mario Pissarra
Editor, Third Text Africa

Publication & Copyright Information

Publication & Copyright Information

Gareth Stanton’s “The Oriental City: A North African Itinerary” was published in Third Text, no’s. 3 & 4, 1988, pp. 3-38.

Jane Cousin’s “The Making of Zimbabwean Sculpture” was published in Third Text, no. 13, 1990/91, pp. 31-42.

Rhoda Rosen’s “Art History and Myth Making in South Africa: The Example of Azaria Mbatha” was published in Third Text, no. 23, 1993, pp. 9-22.

El Anatsui’s “‘Sankofa: Go Back an’ Pick’: Three Studio Notes and a Conversation” was published in Third Text, no. 23, 1993, pp. 39-52.

Everlyn Nicodemus’ “Bourdieu Out of Europe?” was published in Third Text, no. 30, 1995, pp. 3-12.

Eugenio Valdes Figueroa’s “Africa: Art and Hunger, A Critique of the Myth of Authenticity” was published in Third Text, no. 31, 1995, pp. 3-8.

Michel Oren’s “Worlds Envisioned: Alighiero e Boetti and Frederic Bruly Bouabre” was published in Third Text, no. 33, 1995/96, pp. 95-97.

Richard Hylton’s “Re-Framing Africa” was published in Third Text, no. 50, 2000, pp. 122-124.

All previously published texts appear in Third Text Africa with permission of Third Text and Routledge. Copyright resides with Third Text/ Authors. No article may be reproduced without the written permission of the Editor, Third Text.

Third Text Africa, Volume 1.1, ‘Mud Times’



Welcome to the first edition of Third Text Africa, a partnership between ASAI and Third Text. This partnership has been made possible through the vision and initiative of Rasheed Araeen, founding editor of Third Text, and a patron of ASAI, as well as through the generosity of Routledge, publishers of Third Text.

As ASAI we share a common vision with Third Text, that art can be an agency for social change, and that to facilitate a liberatory discourse of art it is necessary to bridge the gulfs in public intellectual discourse that have been artificially constructed between academia (art historians) and the world ‘out there’ comprising artists, art professionals (particularly curators, and writers) and cultural activists. Third Text serves as a beacon of inspiration to ASAI, demonstrating that it is possible to traverse these worlds. Further, Third Text affirms that the spirit of genuine, independent criticism, unfettered by fears of loss of patronage or of breaching unwritten codes of professional etiquette that mitigate against outspokeness can and does exist in art discourse. This spirit is motivated not by personal position but rather by deeper concerns that art does matter, and that it is through free and open discourse that art can attain its potentially emancipatory character. Not least, ASAI shares with Third Text the concern to reach a wide audience, and in particular to address the shortage of materials accessible to many African readers.

Third Text Africa takes the form of a quarterly online journal featuring material previously published in Third Text, grouped around particular themes. In the first phase of its implementation Third Text Africa draws on ‘vintage’ material predating the publication of Third Text by Routledge, a partnership that came into effect in 2002. Regrettably, at this stage Third Text Africa is only accessible to African readers, as it has been presumed that readers on other continents have easier access to Third Text through their institutions, or through personal subscription. While for those of us who champion open access this is not an ideal situation, we have needed to strike a balance between ensuring greater access and securing the rights of publishers, without whom Third Text would not be able to sustain itself as a print publication.

It should also be noted that Third Text Africa forms part of a series of such partnerships initiated by Third Text. A second edition of Third Text Asia, a print publication, is about to be published. Spanish and Portuguese medium publications are also planned.

For this inaugural issue of Third Text Africa I have focused on the critiques of neo-primitivism that developed in the wake of Magiciens de la Terre in 1989. This critique is ably encapsulated in the content and tone of Rasheed Araeen’s seminal ”Our Bauhaus, Others’ Mudhouse”. John Picton vividly characterised this curatorial trope as ‘neo-primitivist exotica’. In more recent times Sylvester Ogbechie has characterised it as the ‘Pigozzi paradigm’, after the collector inspired by Magiciens.

While such critiques have had limited impact on the broader public they have been extremely influential within the discourse of contemporary African arts. In engaging with this material today one should not only go back in time to a specific set of circumstances that necessitated the emergence of this critique. One should also consider the consequences of this critique on subsequent practice by artists and curators. Not least, in my view, one should critically question whether this critique has had unwitting consequences, inadvertently serving to further marginalise many of Africa’s artists, particularly those who continue to use media and forms all too easily dismissed as primitivist, regardless of their actual terms of reference.

This is not the place to engage the legacy of the neo-primitivist critique in any detail. That place must and will be found. The point here is simply to assert that this first edition of Third Text Africa does not only feature archival material that is of consequence in interpreting the past. Rather that, twenty years later, the critique of neo-primitivism is alive and kicking, perhaps even in more directions than it originally intended!

Mario Pissarra
Editor, Third Text Africa

Publication & Copyright Information

Publication & Copyright Information

Rasheed Araeen’s “Our Bauhaus Others’ Mudhouse” was published in Third Text, no. 6, 1989, pp. 3-14.

Cesare Poppi’s “From the Suburbs of the Global Vilage: Afterthoughts on Magiciens de la Terre” was published in Third Text, no. 14, 1991, pp. 85-96.

John Picton’s “In Vogue, or The Flavour of the Month: The New Way to Wear Black” was published in Third Text, no. 23, 1993, pp. 88-98.

Everlyn Nicodemus’ "Art and Art from Africa: The Two Sides of the Gap” was published in Third Text, no. 33, 1995, pp. 31-40.

Tanya Fernando’s “The Distance from ‘Primitivism’ “ was published in Third Text, no. 49, 1999, pp. 73-82.

Richard Dyer’s “Out of Africa” was published in Third Text, no. 22, 1993, pp. 111-112.

Sean Cubitt’s “'Vital': Three Contemporary African Artists “ was published in Third Text, no. 34, 1996, pp. 86-88.

All previously published texts appear in Third Text Africa with permission of Third Text and Routledge. Copyright resides with Third Text/ Authors. No article may be reproduced without the written permission of the Editor, Third Text.