In this issue of ART AFRICA, themed TREASURING HERITAGE, we look at how artefacts end up in museums – specifically at how Julia Friedel and Vanessa von Glyszczysnski, the curators of ‘Collected. Bought. Looted?’, have interrogated the colonial and Nazi-era collecting practices of the WeltKuturen Museum in Germany. The exhibition is a critical review of the museum’s collection and provides a number of case studies to highlight collecting practices in the colonial context and under the Nazi regime. For many of the objects included in the museum, their provenance remains vague – with hardly any written records documenting their acquisition.
In light of the many discussions around the repatriation of art and artefacts to their rightful owners, ART AFRICA features an interview with Yinka Shonibare MBE about his return to Africa after 15 years of exhibiting off the continent. Shonibare discusses the complexities of the contemporary African art aesthetic and touches on the migration of individuals to city centres, new countries and different cultures.
ART AFRICA also sat down with Athi-Patra Ruga to discuss his upcoming exhibition at Somerset House in London, in conjunction with 1-54. Ruga – who grew up in South Africa as the ‘Rainbow Nation’ was emerging – interrogates this rainbow, and creates his own pantheon of gods and heroes to celebrate those largely exiled out of western history. He embraces both a personal and collective memory to provide a voice for the many silent and silenced narratives of South Africa’s past and uses performance, digital art and photography to communicate past the epistemic violence of art history and academia.
In COLLECTOR. magazine, traditional forms of art-making in Africa have been highlighted. ‘A note from the side-lines’ considers the African women ceramists who have largely gone unnoticed by the industry – considering their work to be examples of creative auto-ethnographies because it is through understanding the circumstances in which the works were produced that we learn more on how the artists defined reality in their everyday lives.
We also spoke to Sindika Dokolo about the importance of including classical African works in ‘local’ collections, as well as returning significant artefacts of African culture to their true place of belonging.
It is in the context of our historical and contemporary understanding that we consider this issue and the treasure that is Africa’s cultural heritage.