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This Friday, the Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts (GIPCA) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) launches a weekend-long festival of events, colloquia, performances and visual art titled The Exuberance Project. Convened by Michaelis lecturer Raél Jero Salley and GIPCA Director Jay Pather, this project is a central component of UCT’s Africa Month celebrations.

According to the project’s originator, Salley, The Exuberance Project will investigate “what is abundant, enthusiastic, overflowing, unrestrained and joyful in contemporary creative and performing arts of Africa.”

The project contests Africa’s historical representation in cultural discourses as perched on a threshold between inadequacy and potential. It also contests representations of Africa according to its deficits, political and economic problems, and deviance from European cultural conventions.

The Exuberance Project proposes turnaround in the enactment of all that emerges from the African continent. It embracing themes that shift from lack to abundance, from Afro-pessimism to exuberance, from myths of a dark and brooding continent to vibrant, dynamic realism. The Exuberance Project programme includes a symposium, panel discussions, performances, exhibitions and film screenings.

Salley explains: “Exuberance is an abounding, ebullient, effervescent emotion. But it is also a shining, flickering, fragile state”. He notes that despair has found more sympathy with artists and scholars than has joy, so the world Africans occupy is seen and described by a view that is relentlessly grim. Africa and its people fare poorly in representations from global media, academic scholarship, and creative production. The Exuberance Project hopes to encourage different views, generate new energy and opportunities, while alerting us all to change and possibility. “The Exuberance Project endeavors to enchant its public so we can make better sense of the complex effervescence of Southern Africa’s places and spaces, ideas and passions, ” he says.

The Exuberance Project exhibition will take place at the Mandela Rhodes Gallery, and will be accompanied by a project in public space titled The Callings, which involves the projection of artworks onto buildings, sound installations and performances.

Participating artists and artist collectives include the Centre for Historical Reenactments, Mohau Modisakeng, Tracey Rose, Ala Hourani, George Mahashe, Zanele Muholi and others.

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