!Kauru African Contemporary Art Project 2013

The !Kauru African Contemporary Art project 2013 Cultural Brokerage: Africa Imagined (Act 1) exhibition will open at the Pretoria Art Museum on 24 May 2013.

This is the second year of this South African-initiated project which aims to stimulate conversations in Africa and internationally to facilitate a change of perceptions about the continent using the vehicle of contemporary art.

Explaining the exhibition title the curator, Melissa Goba says “the notion of ‘Cultural Brokerage’ within an African context received critical attention with Sylvester Ogbechie’s 2010 essay ‘The Curator as Cultural Broker: A Critique of the Curatorial Regime of Okwui Enwezor in the Discourse of Contemporary African Art’ (2010). It would appear that contemporary African culture holds a currency or value that is defined differently in Africa and the West. The ‘brokerage’, dissemination and interpretation thereof has seen the development of a discourse about African cultural production outside of the continent. The term ‘Cultural Brokerage’ when referred to in the context of ‘Popular Culture’ becomes problematic given the intersection and hybridity of cultures as expressed through television, internet social sites and other media.”

Kudzanai Chiurai, Revelations I, 2011, Edition of 10 + 1 AP, 120 x 180 cm, Ultra chrome ink on Innova photo fibre paper

“The exhibition, Cultural Brokerage: Africa Imagined (Act I) therefore intends to firstly situate the dialogue about this currency that is the African cultural product within the continent. This first act or instalment of dialogue through the exhibition, educational programme and catalogue begins in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and intends to grow throughout the continent, perhaps even finding context in the African Union,” says Goba.

The exhibition is scheduled to celebrate Africa Day on 25 May 2013 as well as commemorate the 50th anniversary of the African Union (AU). The exhibition will run from 24 May to 30 June 2013. Through a series of talks, walkabouts, lectures, seminars and other programmes aligned to the exhibition, the project aims to sensitise and mobilise audiences in Africa, the rest of the world and the media in the appreciation of contemporary African visual arts. Art is seen as a means to promote inter Africa /Diaspora cultural exchange in a direct and meaningful way. In addition, this project can also establish a network and create visibility for the participating artists, art promoters and institutions – all of which will help promote the future sustainability of the sector.

Goba has been involved in curatorial roles including the MTN New Contemporaries 2008, SPace Currencies in Contemporary Art 2010, Curatorial Exchange 2009, in Visby, Sweden. She has produced and contributed to catalogues and publications, including MTN Art Talk, MTN New Contemporaries, Standard Bank 25-year celebration, Sam Nglengethwa’s 2006 Monograph, and Johannes Phokela’s KZNSA Exhibition Catalogue.

!Kauru provides a platform for African contemporary artists and cultural practioners to engage around a showcase of contemporary art from the continent, which will travel to five regions of the African continent. The strategy aims to incorporate all the regions of Africa over the lifespan of the project, which began in 2012 with artists from the SADC region. This region once again is the focus for the 2013 project season. Contemporaryvisual artists from the SADC ‑ which includes Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritius, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe ‑ will be invited to participate. The exhibition will promote mid-career artists and will showcase the exceptional wealth of talent to be found in this region.

The word !Kauru is indigenous to the Khoi people of Southern Africa. The concept is best described as looking at oneself, out of oneself, seeing other people and things across borders. The exhibition will invite the public to participate in its dialogue and the debate will primarily address issues related to our cultural diversity. It incorporates the idea that art is beyond words and hence beyond language. This concept invites us to ask: Who is talking? Who are we talking to? What are they saying? Are we listening? Why are we talking? And most importantly, what are we saying? The project grew from Mohlala’s own experience of the way that Africa’s different cultures, countries and regions view and engage with one another.

In support of the objectives of the AU and to foster co-operation between all the African states, !Kauru is supported and endorsed by theDepartment of Arts and Culture ‑ International Relations.

According to project director Tshepiso Mohlala of Back2Back Experiential Marketing, her “vision is for this project to become a biannual event which will showcase the artworks of top African contemporary visual artists, starting with the SADC region, thereafter touring five other regions of the continent. Ultimately the long-term plan will be to tour these exhibitions internationally”, she says.

“Arising from these often narrow attitudes appears a lack of confidence in the way our visual contemporary art is viewed; both by ourselves and by others. It is still the default view to see ‘African Art’ as primarily tribal, ethnic, traditional, crafty and ‘naive’ in genre. This therefore undermines the relevance and importance of our contemporary artists and the sophistication of their practice”.

Goba is currently running Assylem Atelje – a project and site based arts initiative andalso serves as the Chairperson of the Arts and Culture Trust (ACT).

!Kauru 2013 will open on 24 May and will run until 30 June 2013 at the Pretoria Art Museum, corner of Francis Baard and Wessels Streets, Arcadia Park, Arcadia, Pretoria.