Lard Buurman, Clock Tower Ground, Kampala, Uganda, 2009 / 2013

Reading list: special focus on Africa

Issue no6
Dec - Jan 2021
Vijf interviews - Depot
Lard Buurman, Clock Tower Ground, Kampala, Uganda, 2009 / 2013

With a special focus on African art this week, we accumulated a reading list that is by nature incomplete and fragmented. We hope these books, blogs, magazines and websites will provide entry into further reading and exploration.

Chimurenga
Chimurenga (‘Struggle for Freedom’) is a pan African publication of culture, art and politics based in Cape Town. Founded by Editor Ntone Edjabe in 2002, it provides an innovative platform for free ideas and political reflection by Africans about Africa.

The journal is published irregularly in print, online and through themed performances called Chimurenga Sessions. The current print edition is the Chimurenga Chronic (October 2011) – a one-time only edition of Chimurenga in the form of a speculative newspaper set in May 2008.

Other Chimurenga projects include the Chronic – a quarterly pan African gazette; Chimurenga Library – an online archive of pan African, independent periodicals; Pan African Space Station (PASS) – a cyber-spatial exploration of pan-African sounds from ancient techno to future roots; African Cities Reader – a biennial publication of urban life, Africa-style; the Power Money Sex (PMS) Reader an online research space exploring the interwoven relationship between power, money and sex; and Pilgrimages - 14 African writers visit 14 African cities to explore the complexities of our disparate urban landscapes.

PROJECT 1975. Contemporary Art and the Postcolonial Unconscious
Project 1975 discusses globalisation in art and the relationship between the Dutch postcolonial predicament and contemporary art by its institutions.

The book is the result of a two-year programme of exhibitions, commissioned essays, events and research at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (SMBA): Project 1975. This program studied the effects of multicultural society on the visual arts. Taking its name from the year that Suriname officially became independent from The Netherlands, the book offers answers to current social and political questions affecting the visual arts: Is the power position of the stereotypical European white male coloniser less strong these days? How has post-colonial theory contributed to a better understanding of artists from areas such as Suriname? Has the sophisticated art infrastructure of the West been instrumental in abolishing divisions between Western and non-Western art, or has it rationalised and maintained these distinctions?

Project 1975 approaches these questions from a variety of perspectives, to open up the discussion and provide suggestions for future approaches. Contributors include Jelle Bouwhuis and Kerstin Winking from the Stedelijk Museum Bureau, art critic and historian Sven Lutticken and Ashley Dawson. Interviews, texts and illustrations accompany the essays, alongside photographs of the works displayed in the Project 1975 exhibitions at the Stedelijk.

Africa Junctions. Capturing the City by Lard Buurman
In African cities, life takes place on the streets, where public and private spheres blend. A sidewalk inconspicuously becomes a family kitchen or is suddenly transformed into a shop. A traffic jam might mean delay for one and work and a lucrative income for the other. Metropolises in Africa are characterized by informal structures and the art of improvisation; their colonial pasts have left marks that continue into the present in the form of social inequality and bad governance.

The photographs by Dutch photographer Lard Buurman capture the African city as a site of permanent change and incessant encounter. The images are the result of combining several snapshots in time into a single scene, enabling the viewer to take in vibrant urban space. The eighty photographs are accompanied by essays from different authors that reflect on the African city and on the work of the Dutch photographer from different perspectives.

Lard Buurman, Maroko Road, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria, 2009 / 2010

ACCRA [dot] Alt
ACCRA [dot] Alt is a cultural network that promotes the alternative work of young Ghanaian artists and emerging creatives across the globe. ACCRA [dot] ALT provides critical space for filmmakers, photographers, musicians, visual artists, designers, writers, academics, activists, and students to exhibit their work in imaginative ways.

In addition to their blog and tours, ACCRA [dot] ALT produces two annual festivals and a monthly discussion and film series on independent art-making.

ACCRA [dot] Alt has a simple mission: to provide an alternative. They advocate for art that is unconventional and outside the mainstream. ACCRA [dot] Alt is an initiative by artists working in the communities of filmmakers, writers, musicians, intellectuals, painters, performance artistes, activists, graphic designers and fashion designers who are united by their desire to be different. “To express ourselves on our own terms. To be as creative, daring and brilliant as we possibly can.” They pride themselves on being self-determined with a Do-It-Yourself approach to art—to inform, persuade and involve others in this dynamic process of artistic expression. They are happily independent—accountable only to themselves and each other.

Asylum of the Birds by Roger Ballen
Asylum of the Birds showcases the photographs of Roger Ballen, which were all taken entirely within the confines of a house in a Johannesburg suburb, the location of which remains a tightly guarded secret. The inhabitants of the house, both people and animals, and most notably the ever-present birds, are the cast who perform within a sculptural and decorated theatrical interior that the author creates and orchestrates. The resulting images are compelling and dynamic, existing somewhere between still life and portrait. They are richly layered with graffiti, drawings, animals, and found objects.

Roger Ballen was born in New York City, New York, USA in 1950. He has lived in Johannesburg since the 1970s. Beginning by documenting the small “dorps” or villages of rural South Africa, Ballen started photographing the inhabitants of these places in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Through collaboration on some of Die Antwoord's music videos, Ballen's paintings and sculpture have gained broader exposure globally.

The Artists’ Book in South Africa
This rich website consists of textual research conducted on the history, contemporary context and theoretical positioning of the artist's book; interactive digital catalogues of major exhibitions of artists' books held in South Africa; a searchable database of all South African artists' books thus far researched; links to online resources and related sites of interest; news on book arts events as well as featured artists' books.

Return to the Postcolony. Specters of Colonialism in Contemporary Art by T. J. Demos
In the wake of failed states, growing economic and political inequality, and the ongoing US- and NATO-led wars for resources, security, and economic dominance worldwide, contemporary artists are revisiting former European colonies, considering past injustices as they haunt the living yet remain repressed in European consciousness.

With great timeliness, projects by Sven Augustijnen, Vincent Meessen, Zarina Bhimji, Renzo Martens, and Pieter Hugo have emerged during the fiftieth anniversary of independence for many African countries, inspiring a kind of “reverse migration”—a return to the postcolony, which drives an ethico-political as well as aesthetic set of imperatives: to learn to live with ghosts, and to do so more justly.

Return to the Postcolony is published by Sternberg Press

Another Africa: blog on african art, culture, photography, fashion, heritage, design and music
Missla Libsekal founded the rich and varied blog Another Africa in 2010, from the belief that, as its name proclaims, another dimension to Africa exists. "This continent, the second largest in the world is most often spoken of in terms of all the woes and troubles faced by its peoples, inhabitants and descendants. It is hard to imagine what could be inspiring or inspired if all that we heard was negative. At Another Africa, we are optimists not that we are necessarily a bunch of blithe, slightly sappy whistlers in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage and kindness. What we choose to emphasise in this complex history will determine our lives."

"In our case, it is to showcase the creative tour de force of its peoples and supporters, however removed. It is about restoring a respect for the wealth of knowledge stored in its varied cultures and peoples of different colours, races, ethnicities and tribes. It is not about division but rather inclusion. It is about genuine inspiration, shared knowledge and experiences, dialogue, it is about specificity. No longer is it good enough to speak of Africa in monolithic terms, especially in a globalised world. This change begins first and foremost amongst Africans to recognise that there unique histories and cultures are not in competition."

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Magazine
Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 6 — 2021