Open Letter to the Board of Trustees of Black Umbrella Concerning the Dismissal of Rasheed Araeen

Mario Pissarra & Lize van Robbroeck, 2 June 2012

Open letter to the Board of Trustees of Black Umbrella, concerning the dismissal of Rasheed Araeen as executive director, and the consequences of this action for the future of Third Text, as well as for Third Text Africa.

On the 25th June 2012 Rasheed Araeen, founding editor of Third Text, sent an email to a number of persons associated with Third Text. The letter detailed his dismissal as executive director of Black Umbrella, the non-profit organisation founded by Araeen which established Third Text as its flagship project.

Read More

Why Post- Apartheid UCT Needs the Centre for African Studies

Concerned CAS Students, 15 March 2011

As Concerned CAS Students and CAS supporters we respond here to the Faculty Forum held on Friday 25 February 2011. We reiterate and explain our opposition to any closure, disestablishment or downgrading of the University of Cape Town’s Centre for African Studies (CAS) either as an interim measure, or as the first step in a two-stage process towards establishing a new Centre.

Read More

Does Post-Apartheid UCT Need a Centre for African Studies?

Concerned CAS Students, 14 February 2011

As students and indeed clients of the University of Cape Town (UCT), we have chosen UCT for its reputation as a world-class African university.  Prior to and during our time at this world-class institution of higher learning, we invest our time, energy, financial resources and intellect, not only to our own work and careers, but to enriching the faculties, departments, clubs and organisations to which we belong. Of course, this is how educational institutions function, which is why were are baffled, appalled, angered, enraged and deeply disappointed by the university’s administrative decision to disestablish the Centre for African Studies without our input or consultation.

Read More

Gender DynamiX Speaks Out Against Xingwana’s Bigotry

Gender DynamiX, 10 March 2010

Gender DynamiX is deeply concerned about the policing of bodies by the State.  A very large part of our work is centred on examining the practices of the Department of Health (DoH) and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and their unethical activities towards Transgender people.  We are now faced with the question whether this is becoming a government trend.

Read More

Statement on the Violence Against Foreign Nationals

Artists for Africa, 28 May 2008

If art were to mirror our society right now, it would reflect the rainbow as a tattered farce, the African Renaissance as a bad stand-up comedy routine, the notion of ubuntu as a horror movie, and our much-admired constitution as a satire on what we have become.

Given where we have come from, with Madiba’s inaugural “never again” speech still ringing in our ears, and with the dream that we would be a beacon of humanity, dignity and tolerance, there can be little excuse for the sheer brutality in the violence wreaked against foreign nationals in the last few weeks.

Read More

ASAI Enters a New Phase

ASAI, 18 March 2008

From its modest inception as a website a little over two years ago, the Africa South Art Initiative (ASAI) has emerged as a bona-fide organisation with a mission to develop critical resources on art in Africa.

The ‘early’ ASAI was a private initiative. However, the project always contained a collaborative element, and it was envisaged that ASAI would grow into a ‘proper’ organisation. That time has come. On the 21st February 2008 ASAI was registered as a Section 21 Company.

Read More

Booing It, Badly: A Response to Sharlene Khan

Mario Pissarra, 15 April 2011

In response to Sharlene Khan’s sequel to her earlier “Doing it for daddy” piece, I would like to briefly make a few observations. Firstly, there is much I agree with. I concur that there is “stagnation in transformation”, although I have my doubts whether it was ever really underway. I also concur that race, gender and class and their relationship to power is still critical to consider, not least in the visual arts. I also despair at the lack of engagement of the DAC with transformation, particularly in the visual arts, although I do think we should be wary about their ability to lead on this issue, given their dismal record. Like Khan, I welcome Riason Naidoo’s appointment at Iziko SANG.

Read More

Modernist Primitivism & Indigenous Modernisms: Transnational Discourse & Local Art Histories

Anitra Nettleton, 28 March 2011

Editor’s note: Anitra Nettleton was discussant for “Modernist Primitivism and Indigenous Modernisms: Transnational Discourse and Local Art Histories”, a panel convened by Ruth B. Phillips (Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada) for “Other Views: Art History in (South) Africa and the Global South” at the University of the Witwatersrand, 12 – 15 January 2011.[i]

Read More

‘Ownership’ of the Community Arts Project (CAP), 1976-1997

Jacqueline Nolte, 18 February 2011

This essay was written in 1997 for a publication that was planned to commemorate 21 years of the Community Arts Project. Since none of the publishers approached thought that there was a market for a book on CAP, this essay is published here for the first time.

Read More

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)

Read More

Art, Censorship & the Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe

Sokwanele, 17 September 2010

This report was issued by Sokwanele on 15 September 2010 and it appears here with their permission.

This article is the first in a series that will look at forms of freedom of expression in Zimbabwe. Politics has so infiltrated our lives that the personal, social and cultural are all political, and as always with Zimbabwe, it is impossible to talk about one without referencing the other. What we hope to do is to encourage people to think beyond the minutiae detail of political immediacies, and to debate who we are as people in this maelstrom, how do we define ourselves, where do we want to be going, how can we get there, and is there space for this richness of identity to be defined and celebrated in Zimbabwe today?

Read More

Art in Tunisia: A Visibility in the Making

Mohamed Ben Soltane, 14 September 2010

This has been translated from French. To read the original version click here.

One of Tunisia’s paradoxes is that it is among the wealthiest African countries economically, and the most socially stable, but is also among the least visible from a cultural point of view. This invisibility is reaching worrying proportions when we speak about contemporary art.
If North African artists  have been recognised  within the African and international scene, such as the Algerians Adel Abdessemed and Zineb Sédira, the Moroccans Mounir Fatmi and Yto Barrada, and the Egyptians Moataz Nasr and Ghada Amer, in Tunisia it is difficult to speak of two artists who have achieved a comparable reputation. Even if North Africa is not very well represented in the catalogued events of ‘contemporary African art’, Tunisia registers a significant absence in comparison with its neighbours.

Read More

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.

Read More

The Curator as Culture Broker: A Critique of the Curatorial Regime of Okwui Enwezor in the Discourse of Contemporary African Art

Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie, 23 June 2010

Prologue

I presented this essay recently at the University of California Santa Cruz, at a conference titled The Task of the Curator. The general audience reception to my presentation showed me that the issue discussed here is being very much debated in the field of African art history. However, few people have written about it. I think formal critical analysis of our work and positions are very important for a field to grow. I am posting it here in the hope that it allows us to start discussing the important issues it touches on.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.
Read More

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)

Read More

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”.

Read More

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”

Read More

Africa’s Interlocutors: Lize van Robbroeck in conversation with Sylvester Ogbechie

Lize van Robbroeck & Sylvester Ogbechie, 13 September 2008

This is an edited version of an email exchange that took place in 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. The first and latter part of this conversation have previously been published by Prof Ogbechie on his blog, but has hitherto never been published in its entirety.

Read More

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.]

Read More

Making History: Gavin Jantjes in conversation with Rasheed Araeen

Gavin Jantjes & Rasheed Araeen, 10 July 2008

This is an edited version of a recorded telephone conversation and email exchange that took place in 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, inclusive of references to the original context.

Read More

On the Need to Consume: An interview with Manthia Diawara

Jessica Levin Martinez & Michael Tymkiw, 27 April 2008

This interview was originally published in the Chicago Art Journal and is reproduced here with permission from Manthia Diawara.

Manthia Diawara is Professor of Comparative Literature, Film and Africana Studies at New York University, where he also serves as Director of the Institute of African American Affairs. He has written extensively on literature and visual culture, and some of his best-known books include We Won’t Budge: An African Exile in the World (2003), In Search of Africa (1998), and African Cinema: Politics and Culture (1992). Diawara is also an acclaimed documentary filmmaker whose credits include Who is Afraid of Ngugi? (2006), Conakry Kas (2004), Bamako Sigi Kan (2002), Diaspora Conversation (2000), and Rouch in Reverse (1995).

Read More

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.

Read More

The stakes of art criticism in Africa

Yacouba Konate, 4 November 2007

[This article originally appeared in Gallery No. 19, March 1999, pp. 14-15; and appears here with the permission of the author and the publisher. Initial interest in republishing this article stemmed in part from the need to highlight the critical contribution of publications produced in Africa – Gallery was published from 1994 to 2002 by the Delta Gallery, Harare, Zimbabwe. On the occasion of the forthcoming AICA/VANSA seminar (8-10 November 2007) it seemed a good time to make Professor Konate’s article accessible, and to pose the question: have there been any substantive changes since this was written? MP]

Read More

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.

Read More

Imbacu [exhibition review]

Mario Pissarra, 31 August 2007

From the outset I welcomed this exhibition since exile (‘Imbacu’ in isiXhosa) has received scant attention from South African curators and art historians, despite being perhaps the earliest form of resistance practiced by our artists. I was also curious whether Loyiso Qanya’s curatorial debut represented a shift within the SANG, an institution that has done little to create meaningful curatorial opportunities for trainees.

Read More

Shaping Art Education in Africa: Face-to-Face Dialogues on Curriculum, Teaching – Learning and Assessment

Barthosa Nkurumeh, 14 July 2007

Deliberating Access to Quality Art Education in the 21st Century

Greetings! Or ndewo, as it is said in one of the Kwa language groups. The following are the proceedings of the panel, Shaping Art Education in Africa: Face-to-Face Dialogues on Curriculum, Teaching-Learning and Assessment at the14th Triennial Symposium on African Art organized by the Arts Council of African Studies Association (ACASA) and the University of Florida (UFL), Gainesville held at UFL on Friday, March 30, 2007 from 2:00 to 4:00 PM in Room 2 of the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Read More

“Made in Africa” Biennale: Afrika Heritage and the Politics of Representation

Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, 13 June 2007

The baggage of post-coloniality continues to weigh-in strongly in the discourse of contemporary African art, moreso when this discourse is coloured by the politics and economics of representation. In the 1990s, the contest that ensued in the global art space with regards to African art was one of representation and authorial spokesmanship that was engendered as a result of the seminal but hugely controversial Les Magiciens de la Terre exhibition of 1989 curated by Frenchman Jean-Hubert Martin. The blockbuster show undoubtedly reconfigured the reception of modern African art in the West. But beyond that, it helped to facilitate the emergence and acceptance of contemporary African art on a large scale in major cultural institutions of the West. This to borrow from Olu Oguibe, set the tone for reclamation of author-ity and reversal of imposed anonymity on the native, perpetrated by ethnography that effectively bars claims to subjectivity and normativity.

Read More

Dirty Laundry: Can we think beyond Venice?

Mario Pissarra, 7 June 2007

I have previously argued that Africa’s representation in Venice is irrelevant when compared to the need to develop alternatives at ‘home’. In essence my argument is that we should not judge the success of South African art (or African or ‘non-western’ art for that matter) by its presence or absence in the prime venues of the ‘international’ arena, of which the Venice Biennale is both a leading example and symbol. The health of a country’s art should not be judged by the number of international ‘stars’ it generates, since this may provide a false picture of the state of art in that country or region. Rather it should be evaluated on the quality and extent of its art practice, galleries and museums, art education, publishing, patronage, and all the critical components of art infrastructure that are essential for the development of art.

Read More

Atelier Alexandria International Artists Workshop 2006: A Report

Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nwezi, 13 January 2007

The AAW International Artists Workshop 2006 provided me with an important opportunity to visit the historic country of Egypt and the city of Alexandria. Workshops provide an enabling space for artists from diverse ethnic backgrounds to commingle, network and learn from each other, and the AAW workshop was no exception.I arrived in Egypt on November 17, two days before the actual start of the workshop and this afforded me the opportunity to spend two days in Cairo.
Read More

Beyond current debates on representation: a few thoughts on the need to develop infrastructure for art in Africa

Mario Pissarra, 20 November 2006

The discourse on contemporary African art is a comparatively recent one, and has to a large extent been dominated by issues of representation: what image of Africa is or has been communicated to the world, and to itself? Who is or who should be representing Africa? And who and what is Africa? Much of the discourse has been led by Africans in the diaspora. This generation of intellectuals has taken on the critical need to address negative, sometimes racist constructions of Africa that have been dominant, particularly but not exclusively in the West. This need to address negative perceptions of Africa, coupled with the present location of a critical mass of African artists, academics and curators in the USA and Europe goes some way in explaining why there has been an emphasis on interrogating ‘Africa’ as a concept, and why issues of representation have been fore-grounded.

Read More

Open the Gate

Olu Oguibe, 9 October 2006

[This letter was initially written in response to a letter from Salah Hassan and Okwui Enwezor to Robert Storr, Artistic Director of the Venice Biennale. It was copied by the writer to interested parties and is reproduced here with his permission.]

To Dr. Salah Hassan
Forum for African Arts

September 19, 2006

Read More

Targeted Candidate II [Iziko’s response to Goniwe]

Jatti Bredekamp et al, 11 September 2006

[On 1 September 2006 Jatti Bredekamp, CEO of Iziko Museums, responded to Thembinkosi Goniwe’s concerns about the South African National Gallery’s notice for the position of trainee curator. Goniwe’s intervention was initially communicated by email to Emma Bedford of the SANG on 28 July (See “Targeted Candidate”). Bredekamp copied Iziko’s response to 27 persons, most of whom received Goniwe’s original mail. On 4 September I emailed Bredekamp requesting permission to reproduce Iziko’s response online. Later that day Khwezi Gule added his voice to the debate, followed by Mokgabudi Amos Letsoalo, who had been one of the first to comment on the issues raised by Goniwe. Subsequently Mark Hipper joined the debate. The discussion of Iziko’s response went online on 11 September, without Bredekamp’s letter since I had not received a reply to my request. Some of the respondents to the debate were familiar with Iziko’s letter, having been on the initial list of recipients of the email exchange; others were not. Permission to post Iziko’s response online was finally granted on 16 October 2006. MP]

Read More

Targeted Candidate

Thembinkosi Goniwe, 29 July 2006

Dear Emma Bedford,

Please consider my concerns regarding your advertised Trainee Curator at the SANG. I am wondering how many potential candidates “from historically disadvantaged groups” that would apply given the stipulated required “Minimum qualification: BA Degree in Fine Arts or History of Art”? I am thinking of young black art practitioners who have no university or college qualification as required, for example graduates from Community Art Projects (now Arts and Media Access Centre), Ruth Prowse, FUNDA, etc – from community driven initiatives or organisations!

Read More

Veneziano: Ventriloquizing Venice- a response to Malcolm Payne

Gavin Anderson, 04 July 2006

[Written in response to  “Viva Venice… Viva… Long live!” where “Malcolm Payne takes issue with Mario Pissarra’s objections to an emphasis on the importance of the Venice Biennale”, ArtThrob June 2006]
‘Veneziano’ is the local Venetian dialect, which ‘does not descend from the Italian language but has its own morphology, syntax and lexicon.’ (Wikipedia)
Malcolm Payne’s recent extraordinary and irascible contribution to ArtThrob regarding Mario Pissarra’s view of biennales deserves a brief informal response.

Read More

Venetian Blind: A response to Malcolm Payne

Mario Pissarra, 18 June 2006

[This is a response to Malcolm Payne’s “Viva Venice… Viva… Long live!” (ArtThrob, June 2006). Payne’s piece was a response to my “Death to Venice” (ASAI, May 2006), which was a response to Marilyn Martin’s companion pieces “Death in Venice” and “Faultlines and Fumblings” (ArtThrob, September 2003), as well as to Sue Williamsons remarks on the Venice Biennale (ArtThrob, July, 2003).] [i]

Read More

Partial Revisionism: How the British Museum’s re-framing of Africa reflects its own institutional interests and cultural bias. A review of John Mack (ed) Africa: Arts and Cultures

Mario Pissarra, 4 June 2006

[Africa: Arts and Cultures edited by John Mack, British Museum Press, London, 2000, 135 colour & 9 b/w plates, 5 b/w maps, index, bibliography, 224pp, £16.99  An edited version of this review was published as “Defining African Art” on www.cloudband.com in 2001, but is no longer available. Apart from the title no changes have been made to the original text]
Read More

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.

Read More

Death to Venice! A South African perspective on the irrelevance of representation at the Venice Biennale

Mario Pissarra, 07 May 2006

[This previously unpublished piece was originally submitted to the arts editors of leading South African newspapers in October 2003]

In a recent paper (soon to be published in art journals here and in the UK) I raised the questions as to whether South Africans are capable of making a paradigm shift away from a world view centred on the West, and whether we are able to develop an inclusive vision of Africa.[1] Reviews by Marilyn Martin and Sue Williamson on the Venice Biennale amplify the need for these issues to be debated.[2]

Read More

I Don’t Like Cricket, I Hate It! How the Minister’s Imbizo resurrected suppressed childhood memories and hurled me into the horrors of the present

Mario Pissarra, 16 April 2006

After five years at the local, whites-only government school I was sent to a private, then boys-only, Catholic boarding school. Sending your children to be educated by strangers with a penchant for corporal punishment was entirely consistent with the child rearing ethics of the post slavery/colonial plantation class. Where the school stood apart was that it was more liberal than most- it was modeled on Thomas More, the English chancellor who chose to lose his head rather than his principles, and the school adopted his motto of “truth conquers all”. In 1977 I attended my first ever political meeting, called by the Black Sash to protest against deaths in detention, dressed in my Sunday Best. One prize-giving ceremony a few years earlier we were treated to the Chief Minister of Kwa Zulu, Mangosuthu Buthulezi who arrived with a fleet of black Mercedes’ with number plates one to six.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

“Not Just Another Biennale”?

Susan Glanville-Zini (CEO of Cape Africa Platform) and Julian Jonker (Coordinator of Sessions Ekapa) in conversation with Mario Pissarra, 28 November 2005, Cape Town

The Cape Africa Platform promises to deliver a mega-event that will be “not just another biennale”. The first major element in their plan is a conference, Sessions Ekapa, which takes place in Cape Town from 6-8 December 2005. The conference theme is “(re)locating contemporary African art” and will be followed with a multi-disciplinary “Manifestation” in 2006.

Read More