In order to present various dimensions of the work of African artists and artisans worldwide, The Global Africa Project is organized around several thematic ideas. These include: the phenomenon of intersecting cultures and cultural fusion; the branding and co-opting of cultural references; how art and design is promoted in the international market and the creative global scene; the use of local materials; and the impact of art-making on the economic and social condition of local communities.
Per the South African Journal of Photography Ernest Cole, South Africa’s first black photojournalist was born as Ernest Levi Tsoloane Kole. He started out his photography career as a studio assistant to a Chinese photographer; it took off when he asked Jurgen Schadeberg for a job at Drum magazine. It was while taking a correspondence course with the New York Institute of Photography that the staff there encouraged/helped him to start taking pictures of life under apartheid in South Africa. By tricking the government to reclassify him as a colored (enabled by the name change to “Cole”) he was able to get access to places other blacks would not have had. As a colored he was also able to sneak his images out of South Africa, that were made into the book “House of Bondage”. He never returned to South Africa, dying in exile and isolation in New York in 1990 a week after Nelson Mandela’s release.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Greg Constantine: Slum Warriors: Kenya’s Nubians. Kibera’s 100,000 strong Nubian community has lived there for over 100 years on land give them as compensation for fighting in the Kings African Rifles. “Nubian” is not officially recognized as a Kenyan tribe, so unless they are “vetted” at age of 18 to get Kenyan ID cards they become essentially stateless.
PHOTOGRAPHY:: Zwelethu Mthethwa: Inner Visions. Studio Museum in (the sweet village of) Harlem brings together a number of Mthethwa’s large scale images. Go see.
Zwelethu Mthethwa: Inner Views brings together three series by South African photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa (b. 1960). “Interiors” and “Empty Beds” document the domestic lives of migrant workers around Johannesburg, South Africa, while “Common Ground” focuses on the shared experience of natural disasters in urban areas, featuring houses in New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa, after wildfires.
See Also: Talk between Mthethwa and Okuwi Enwezor last year at Aperture gallery at the launch of Mthethwa’s monograph.
ARCHITECTURE: Tanzanian-born star-chitect David Adjaye has a show at London’s Design Museum. Urban Africa contains over 2000 images that he has taken over the last 10 years of the civic/commercial/residential architecture of all of Africa’s 53 capital cities. In a BBC interview he talks about how people have strong visual connections to the wild landscapes of the continent, but are a little baffled when told about about how cosmopolitan the cities are. The show’s goal is to redress this situation.
I wish I could go see this show. These days when I go back to Nairobi, I see the architecture in a different way. There are many old buildings that intrigue me (designed to address a certain notion of africanness and local climate needs) and new ones that leave me aghast (designed to mimic some bland, uncreative notion of modernity).
“There is a wonderful Malik Sidibe picture in our show of a couple dancing at a Christmas party, a barefoot girl in a full-skirted party cress looking like the most gorgeous model dipping, with one of her legs raised, and a guy totally dapper guy, just grooving,” said Vince Aletti, curator of “This Is Not a Fashion Photograph,” currently at the International Center of Photography. “When you think about an image like that, you hope that there is some better sense of Africa available to people than some romanticized colonialist, stuck in amber, image of bracelets and long necks.
Herewith, a randomly ordered year end list of stuff of note from 2008 here at casa forota.
1. MUSIC: Post everything music: BLK JKS, Esau Mwamwaya, Santogold, Vampire Weekend, Radioclit, Diplo, et al found new ways to mash up musical, cultural, epochal influences to create music influenced by everywhere, but of nowhere. Brilliant soundtracks for our rootless time.
2. PHOTOGRAPHY: Most Favorite Image: “Blue Print, Rio” at Sartorialist. Not sure why but I kept coming back to this image.
3. PHOTOGRAPHY: Second Most Favorite Image: “Kwaito in the streets of Alexandra” by Krisanne Johnson from FADER 52. Another image I cannot get enough of.
4. POLITICS: Obama vs Palin. A vote for the open, interconnected, inclusive future vs the insular, backward looking, divisive past. Choice was pretty clear.
5. MAGAZINES: Vogue Italia: A Black Issue. Proved it is still an issue to be black in the beauty business if one needs an issue for black people. Intriguing step forward, though.
6. BOOKS: Chemise by Malick Sidibe. Hipsters, on perusing Sidibe’s images: “Oh look, African hipsters from long ago!”
7. RACE: Black but not Black: Rising Black American middle class, emergence of “Afropolitans” or second generation African immigrants, growing awareness among Afro-latinos is rendering the label “Black” and its connotations pretty obsolete. See also: The End of the Black American Narrative by Charles Johnson.
Screenshot from “Cross River Nigeria” image series from Phyllis Galembo’s web site
Phyllis Galembo has an extensive series of portraits documenting the masks and costumes worn by priests and priestesses for religious rituals in Nigeria, Benin and in the diaspora from candomble in Brazil to voudou in Haiti. Her work is currently on show at the Steven Kasher Gallery in Chelsea.
MoMA: New Photography 2008, Mikhael Subotsky. The 2008 edition of the New Photography series at MoMA features new documentary work from South African Magnum photographer Mikhael Subotsky. “Beaufort West” features images inside and outside the prison of a small town in the Karoo Desert along the busy route between Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Hugo is one of a new generation of savvy young photographers who have emerged from post-apartheid South Africa with work that challenges our preconceptions about their country. Alongside the likes of Guy Tillim and the young Magnum photographer Mikhael Subotsky, Hugo represents what might be called a new photographic consciousness as regards the representation of Africa to the West.
Screen shot from Mobolaji’s Dawodu’s portfolio site FASHION: Mobolaji Dawodu: Stylist. Nigerian-born, NYC-based Dawodu is a contributing style editor at The Fader magazine (and frequently stylist for Andrew Dosunmu and Marc Baptiste). He is also an up and coming designer.
Wiley is known for his stylized paintings of young, urban African-American men in poses borrowed from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European figurative paintings, a practice he started in the early 2000s while an artist in residence at the Studio Museum. Over the last two years, Wiley has expanded his project by living and working abroad; he temporarily relocates to different countries and opens satellite studios to become familiar with local culture, history and art. His “The World Stage” series is the result of these travels.
New York Times slideshow of Jamel Shabbazz’ images PHOTOGRAPHY: Chronicle of Urban Life: More Jamel Shabbazz goodness.
New York Times slideshow of Alix Dejean’s images PHOTOGRAPHY: Harlem Lens. Haitian-born, Brooklyn resident Alix Dejean has been taking pictures of Harlem’s residents for decades.
Screenshot of “Empire Strikes Back” images FASHION: The Empire Strikes Black: Part-time Malindi resident Naomi Campbell shoot around New York City with photographer Mario Sorrenti for V magazine. [via ffffound]
Creole. The result of the collision of Africa and Europe. In music, that collision has created what John Ryle called the soundtrack of modernity, which links the Swedish middle-aged man who loves Miles Davis with the Japanese youth who wants to be a b-boy. The result of that collision along with the almighty dollar now form part of the DNA of this thing we call global culture.
Is it the need to reconcile the technological and the human, tradition vs. modernity, civilization vs. primitivism, the seemingly mutually exclusive past and present that gives the culture created by africans all over the diaspora its vitality (soul) and its universality? Whatever, but as the sampling of the media i have been consuming in the last couple of weeks shows, the results are always interesting.
Q (“Interviewer”): Do you consider yourself a painter or a Black painter?
A (Jean-Michel Basquiat): Oh, I use a lot of colors, not just black …. It’s more a Creole, you know … what I mean by Creole is that … it’s a mix of Africa and Europe … you know in much the same way an African in Haiti speaks French.
cover of “BEYOND DESIRE” exhibition catalog
Inherent in all desire is a measure of fantasy, which guides our eye and forms or deforms our image of the ‘other’. Here fashion is a superb gauge. It is accessible, driven by unlimited fantasy, free from any form of politically correct thinking, decorative and superficial, yet, at the same time, it is deeply rooted in our cultural and social subconscious. BEYOND DESIRE shows how two cultures can each adopt the visual language of the other as their own and how their respective longings are projected through fashion and clothing in their fantasy image of this ‘other’.
gnarls barkley: going on
the styling of this video is a kind of “DRUM/soweto” meets “london working class/punk” aesthetic. the look was actually inspired by an, um, inspired fashion spread created by brooklyn photographer clayton cubitt and stylist rene garza called lagos calling
there is an non-pixelated/cleaner version of the video here.
jorge ben: ponta de lanca africano
Jorge Ben drew from the sambas of the hillside slums of Rio de Janeiro and American rhythm and blues to create an original style. He created the most organic fusion of North and South American forms of African music. This affinity is being demonstrated again by the enormous popularity of rap music in the slums, and only in the slums, of Rio. Jorge Ben was also a highly original lyricist who combined street language with images drawn from African and Christian mythology and esoteric literature.
Arto Lindsay in liner notes for “Beleza Tropical”.
Afropolitanism is the modish tag for new work made by young African artists both in and outside Africa. What unites the artists is a shared view of Africa, less as a place than as a concept; a cultural force. This idea, or something like it, lies behind “Flow” at the Studio Museum in Harlem, a fine-textured survey of 20 artists who, with a few exceptions, were born in Africa after 1970 but who now live in Europe or the United States.
i checked out the exhibition last weekend. the works stand on their own as contemporary art that happens to address african themes and subject matter, which frees the work from the “ethnic” connotation that would otherwise diminish its relevance beyond africa. highlights include mustafa maluka‘s post-modern, urban/pop culture inspired paintings, as well “lolo” veleko’s landmark street portraits of jo’burg fashionistas”beauty is in the eye of the beholder“.
if you are in the NYC area or plan to be, take that trip uptown. this is a must-see art show.