INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP - New Spaces for Negotiating Art (and) History in African Cities

New Spaces for Negotiating Art (and) History in African Cities
March 14-17, 2012 Point Sud, Centre for Research on Local Knowledge, Bamako, Mali Deadline: October 31, 2011

Prof. Dr. Kerstin Pinther, Art Historical Department, Arts of Africa, Free University Berlin Dr. Larissa Förster, Center for Advanced Studies “Morphomata. Genesis, Dynamics and Mediality of Cultural Figurations”, University of Cologne

In most African countries, cultural institutions like museums and art galleries, archives and art academies were established either by the colonial state or in the context of postcolonial nation building. Hence, the cultural field has often been shaped according to national aesthetics and/or thematic concepts and guidelines. Although many artists and activists have repeatedly criticized and distanced themselves from state-initiated cultural politics – as, for example, community archives and community art centres in Apartheid South Africa or initiatives like the “Laboratoire Agit-Art” in post-independence Senegal – from early on, it seems that particularly during the last two decades a series of new spaces and initiatives were created. They set themselves apart from municipal and/or state-affiliated institutions as well as from commercial (art) markets and created alternative models and platforms for negotiating art (and) history, reflecting upon and archiving art, visual culture and (cultural) history. Cases in point are the Contemporary Image Collective (Cairo), Doula’art (Douala), the District Six Museums (Cape Town) or Zoma Contemporary Art Centre (Addis Ababa), to name but a few.
Some of these initiatives aim to establish self-organized, non-hegemonic and experimental fields and orders of knowledge, others deliberately question institutions established by the postcolonial nation state, still others attempt at filling in where public institutions are undermined. In many cases, scholars, cultural practitioners, curators and artists as well as activists join to collaborate in these spaces. New forms of south-south- cooperation and transnational networking – including diasporic communities – are developed. This inter- and transdisciplinary workshop intends to take these independent spaces and initiatives as a starting point to discuss and analyze the expanding and diversifying field of cultural production and reflection in African cities.
We invite scholars and practitioners (founders, members and users of such spaces as well as artists and curators) to present case studies or comparative analyses with one or more of the following (research) focuses:
1) Histories
Against which historical backgrounds must the emergence of such spaces be read in different countries? How did they develop in different fields (art, culture, history), and in which ways are their histories connected?
2) Modi operandi: approaches, (curatorial) practices and strategies
How are these spaces organized and maintained? What curatorial practices, scientific and/or aesthetic strategies do they employ? Which media do they work with?3) Addressing and archiving the past
How do they reflect upon history? How and to what end do they acquire and work with (historical) collections and build (historical) archives?
4) Questioning canons
In what ways do such spaces comment on or even question canons of historical and art historical knowledge, e.g. established historical narratives or boundaries between art and (popular) culture etc.? Which theoretical and/or methodological debates do they draw upon or feed their work into?
5) Urban spaces and urban publics
How do these sites relate to the specific urban spaces and situations in which they have emerged? How do they engage with the broader urban public, with different audiences and groups of interested users and/or contributors? How do they affect the access and use of public space in African cities?
6) Revisiting state and municipal institutions
How do these initiatives position themselves vis-à-vis, relate to or collaborate with municipal or national institutions?
At the end of the workshop, possibilities and perspectives for a long-term cooperation between the workshop participants in the field of African Studies, Visual Culture Studies, Art History, Museum and Archive Studies will be explored. A publication of the workshop proceedings is envisaged.
We particularly encourage younger scholars and practitioners to submit a short CV and an abstract of no more than 500 words by October 31, 2011 to and Papers can be given in English or French. Contributors to the workshop will be asked to additionally chair one of the resulting 6 panels. Keynotes will be given by five invited speakers (t.b.a.) and will partly focus on alternative spaces in other regions than Africa. The project, which runs under the name “Programme Point Sud” of the German Research Foundation, will cover travel expenses and accommodation for all speakers.

22.09.2011 | por joanapires | african cities, Art, workshop