Letter from the Editor
At the end of Apartheid – in the time between Nelson Mandela’s release and the first election – I threw a red clay brick through the window of the Market Theatre Gallery. It was a protected space of protest and a bastion of the cultural wing of the anti-apartheid movement, a space of hope and revolutionary expectation. The red clay brick, a sign of eurocentric Minimalism and the biblical symbol of our flesh, was re-cast as a cultural weapon in the name of African art. The smashed vitrine was liberated and the African Mask could dance once again, moving through the streets in the masquerade that never rests, can never be defined, is always shifting and changing. You cannot understand the dance unless you are the dancer and you have no right to wear the mask unless you understand its power. The history of African art is intertwined within the context of its contradictory histories, the complexities of its politics, identities, communities, struggles, culture, and faith. The AK47 is as integral to African identity as the mask, wax print fabric, and the mobile phone, yet these incongruous elements are rarely understood as inextricably interconnected.
The issue of the magazine that I have been invited to guest edit has been conceived of as an exorcism, breathing spirit back into matter through an interrogation of form and content. Black Americans, White Africans, European Arabs, indigenous and immigrant, all of us – whether from the continent or the ever-growing diaspora – are authentic and curious. African art, culture, and the fluidity of identity are rooted in the social, political, and spiritual communities of artists whose work opens our eyes to truths we are otherwise blind to see. The work of art exists at the intersection between flesh and spirit, between politics and identity, at the sharpest edge of the anvils of experience. “Politics, it goes without saying, is closely related to the social. The latter is to the former as the artist’s hand is to his mind… The [African] service will have been to contribute, with other peoples, to remaking the unit man and World: to binding the ﬂesh to the spirit, man to his fellow, stone to God. In other words, to binding the real to the spiritual surreal – through man not as the centre, but as the point, the navel, of the World.” (Leopold Senghor)
“A luta continua – A vitória é certa”
– Kendell Geers, Guest Editor