The last quarter of the year is always a busy period for ART AFRICA as we partner with and follow an exciting lineup of international, mainly African focused art events – fairs, exhibitions and biennales.
The diversity of cultures, ethnic heritage, traditions, language, history, sense of self, and racial attitudes that constitute this large continent – provide a rich tapestry of theme and content; providing these events with a wealth of content to be presented, discussed and disseminated – but not without the associated challenges faced by many of these organisations and events.
Challenges around obtaining funding, media reach and communication, skills and audience development, and overcoming language barriers are amongst a few of the issues facing the viability of these events. A culture of community and collaboration needs to be encouraged – in fact actively pursued – to ensure more sustainable models; after all culture is one of the most powerful tools in our possession.
In this issue we focus, in particular, on two international art events taking place on the African continent – the 3rd Kampala Art Biennale in the east, and the 4th International Biennale of Casablanca in the north. Whilst quite different in nature, approach and theme; a common underlying intent is one of community building, empowerment, and knowledge and skills sharing.
Founder of the Kampala Art Biennale, Daudi Karungi, appointed Simon Njami as the curatorial force behind the event to imagine the theme and approach for the Kampala Art Biennale 2018 (KAB18). Njami’s experience was effectively tested in a city where the importance of art and culture is not widely understood by the general public or embraced by business and media, where the government provides little or no support for cultural events.
Njami’s gritty and material approach saw the biennale engaging the most important elements of an event of this kind, knowledge and skills transference; community engagement, development and collaboration. Young artists were partnered with established international artists as mentors during a series of workshops in the lead-up and creation of the artworks for the event. ART AFRICA travelled to Kampala as an invited media and publishing partner. Read more about the event in this issue.
The 4th International Biennale of Casablanca 2018, on the other hand – held in the cosmopolitan, financial capital of Morocco – assumes the benefit of a more sophisticated infrastructure and audience. Close proximity to the European art market reinforces this perception. In reality, both events shared similar stumbling blocks. The artistic director of the 4th International Biennale of Casablanca, Christine Eyene, also engaged creatively with a wide range of cultural ecologies to produce the latest edition of the event where ART AFRICA was tasked with convening the Round Table Talks programme for this year’s edition.
Speaking at the ‘ART AFRICA Round Table Talk’ was N’Goné Fall, who introduced the ambitious programme of Season Africa 2020. An initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron, Fall is appointed as general commissioner for the ambitious 2020 programme. Fall understands an event needs to be truly multicultural, she says, “… the idea is to have a programme that is 100% pan-African, 100% multidisciplinary, and 100% focused on contemporary creativity and innovation. I don’t want people to propose a project that focuses only on a single country, a single region, a single language, or a single ethnic group.”
We also speak to Sanaa Gateja, Ugandan artist and entrepreneur, about his community-based practice of employing women to help him create the recycled paper beads and materials that are the trademark of his work. Mozambican Lizette Chirrime and Ugandan Helen Nabukenya are artists who similarly support the women who sew and knit their large fabric artworks and installations. They share their experiences on how their practices support their extended communities.