KUBATANA: An Exhibition with Contemporary African artists
Curated by Kristin Hjellegjerde
“He needed to hear Africa speak for itself after a lifetime of hearing Africa spoken about by others.”
For its spring 2019 season opening, Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium in Oslo is delighted to host a major survey show of contemporary artistic practice across the African continent. Curated by London-based Norwegian gallerist Kristin Hjellegjerde, Kubatanais the result of nearly two years of research, and brings together the works of 33 artists from 18 of Africa’s 54 countries across all four floors of the museum – one of the most expansive exhibitions of African art in Scandinavia to date. The variety of media and styles present – as well as themes and topics explored – reflect the immense cultural wealth and diversity of a continent home to multiple races, creeds, languages and cultures.
Kubatana (meaning ‘togetherness’ in the Shona language of Zimbabwe) invites us to discover the new and exciting ways in which African artists are working today, as well as reconsider the many stereotypes associated with Africa that still prevail. The last 10 years have witnessed a rapid growth in contemporary African art, leading to exponential recognition on the global art scence, as evidenced by major solo exhibitions at international institutions, art fairs such as 1:54 and the rising success of African art as a genre at major auction houses.
“My main impetus in bringing these artists together has been to show the varied interests and incredible expressions of art taking place all over Africa,” says Hjellegjerde. “These are artists across the continent, from West to East, North to South, producing profound narratives in unique and original artistic languages as they process and respond to the world around them.” The result, as shown in Kubatana, spans performance, installation, video, painting and sculpture.
One significant shift, Hjellegjerde notes, has been in the emergence of Africa – and its art hubs – as a contemporary artistic destination in itself. Where, previously, cities such as London or New York were seen as the places in which artists must emigrate in order to be on the global radar, the increased inclusion of African artists in international exhibition, biennale and residency programmes has invited curiosity from curators and collectors alike. This is where the notion of ‘kubatana’comes in, for, in staying increasingly closer to home, artists across Africa consolidate local networks, establishing galleries and studios and building their own communities. “From what I have witnessed during my travels in Africa, there is such a feeling of togetherness and support amongst artists,” says Hjellegjerde. “They work together, help each other, and build and share studios, mentoring their peers and inspiring their children and the next generation of young artists.”
The works Hjellegjerde has selected span multiple styles and eras, from photography dating back to the 1970s to new video works, wall pieces, textile works and paintings and sculptures. The themes they cover are just as diverse, from personal histories and collective mythologies all the way to freedom of speech, the investigation of colonial histories, and contemporary social and urban issues. These are particularly prevalent as African countries deal with new political and economic realities in the 21stcentury.
The exhibition also features a spectacular yellow wall hanging by Ghanaian Serge Attulowei Clottey, created in his village in Accra, which will partially cover the museum’s façade. Made out of cut-up water gallon containers, Clottey’s work brings material to the fore. This celebration of material is found across Kubatana, including textile work by Abdoulaye Konaté, the use of deactivated weapons of war by Gonçalo Mabunda from Mozambique, and the wooden wall mosaics of Nigerian Gerald Chukwuma.
“It was Umberto Ecco who asked: ‘How often have new creative modes changed the meaning of form, people’s aesthetic expectations and the very way in which humans perceive reality?’” says Hjellegjerde. “Ultimately, what I want to achieve through Kubatanais to change people’s ‘aesthetic expectations’ of Africa and its reality. This is such a diverse continent, and any show can only hope to scratch the surface, but at least here I hope the artists get to speak for themselves.”
Spanning an entire continent, the works of this diverse group of artists are united through an investigation of past and present that sees materials transformed and stories, histories and messages parsed and processed into a new visual language. Kubatanainvites you to discover it.
Dawit Abebe (Ethiopia), Aboudia (Côte d’Ivoire), Igshaan Adams (South Africa), Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou (Republic of Benin), Amina Agueznay (Morocco), Lhola Amira (South Africa), Joël Andrianomearisoa (Madagascar), Yassine Balbzioui (Morocco), Takunda Regis Billiat (Zimbabwe), Armand Boua (Côte d’Ivoire), Lizette Chirrime (Mozambique), Gerald Chukwuma (Nigeria), Serge Attulowei Clottey (Ghana), Ibrahim El-Salahi (Sudan), Gabrielle Goliath (South Africa), Eddy KamuangaIlunga (Democratic Republic of Congo), Cyrus Kabiru (Kenya), Abdoulaye Konaté (Mali), Gonçalo Mabunda (Mozambique), Ibrahim Mahama (Ghana), Troy Makaza (Zimbabwe), Zanele Muholi (South Africa), Wycliffe Mundopa (Zimbabwe), Niyi Olagunju (Nigeria), Sadikou Oukpedjo (Togo), Cinga Samson (South Africa), Amadou Sanogo (Mali), Ephrem Solomon (Ethiopia), SanléSory (Burkina Faso), Khadidiatiou Sow (Senegal), Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum (Botswana), Moffat Takadiwa (Zimbabwe), Billie Zangewa (Malawi).
Generously sponsored by Serge Tiroche and Africa First collection,
Gallery 1957 and Macaal Museum.