Advance notice and call for papers, re. the Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting in Chicago, USA (April 21-25, 2015)
Geographers are increasingly contributing to understanding the multiple functions museums serve, much like their colleagues in history, anthropology, and museum studies. In her 2010 article “Museum Geography: Exploring Museums, Collections and Museum Practice in the UK” Hilary Geoghegan writes,
“Museums and collections offer geographers exciting sites and subjects for research and teaching… [and] that it is now time to consider museum geography more closely” (p. 1472).
“It is a site of dreams, where dreams encounter each other and become a single body. However, on the level of our own experience of that urban environment, once one plunges into the life of the city and participates in it, it inevitably diversifies and becomes multiple.”
– Extract from an interview with Vincent Lombume Kalimasi (February, 2004). Source: Kinshasa: Tales of the Invisible City (2004: 260)
When Congolese writer Vincent Lombume Kalimasi said these words more than a decade ago he was celebrating the creative vibrancy of city life with specific reference to his place of birth, Kinshasa – a ‘site of dreams’ that has grown in significance over several decades to become one of the most important centres for contemporary visual arts on the African continent, as regularly illustrated in the futuristic cityscapes of Congolese sculptor and installationist Bodys Isek Kingelez.
My awareness and appreciation of Kinshasa’s importance as a hub for creativity and innovation was initially sparked as a result of travelling to Paris in the summer of 2005 to see Simon Njami’s survey exhibition of contemporary African art – Africa Remix. L’art contemporain d’un continent (Centre Georges Pompidou, 2005) – where I noticed that more than 10% of the artists displaying work in Paris at that time had connections (either by birth, family or residence) to the DRC’s capital city.
The most high-profile of the Kinois men and women selected by Njami to present work at the Pompidou that year included the afore-mentioned Bodys Isek Kingelez (shown left), pop artist Chéri Samba (see here) and his fellow visual satirist Joseph Kinkonda (known internationally as Chéri-Cherin).
In addition to these established figures, some emerging new talents from a more recent generation of Kinshasa-born contemporary artists were also given an opportunity to make their mark on this global stage – specifically, the conceptual artist Francis Pume (shown below) and the video installationist, photographer and performance artist Michèle Magema (shown right).
Professor Françoise Vergès and Dr Shihan de Silva will be speaking at a forthcoming ICS symposium on Wednesday 29th October 2014 (9.30am-6pm) at Senate House (Room 349, 3rd Floor), University of London.
This FREE event – titled, ‘Across the Indian Ocean’– is being organised by the Race in the Americas (RITA) Group, in partnership with Kavyta K. Raghunandan (University of Leeds, Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies [CERS]) and will focus on an exploration of the “politics of the present” across the Indian Ocean region – re. Mauritius, Seychelles, Réunion Island, Comoros and Madagascar.
In the event programme, the title of Françoise Vergès’ presentation is ‘Imagining a Museum of Intangible Culture in the Indian Ocean’, and Dr Shihan De Silva will address colonial history and its legacies throughout the region in a talk on ‘Difference and Inequalities’.
After reading Sean O’Hagan’s thought-provoking preview of the ‘Return of the Rudeboy’exhibition at Somerset House in London – titled, ‘Rude Boys: Shanty Town to SavileRow’ (The Guardian/Observer, 24th May 2014) – I placed this event quite high on my list of top 10 “must see” summer showcases, and managed to get along to view it several months later at the start of its closing week on 18th August.
O’Hagan’s article led me to assume the exhibition would be a largely superficial photographic and soundtrack-based audio-visual presentation about the cultural aesthetics of ‘Rudeboy’ (or ‘Rudie’) fashion. It gave the impression that Return of the Rudeboy would be rich in contemporary illustrative content about people whose fashion today echoes the types of clothing trends and styling associated with the ska music genre in Britain from the late 1970s through to the 1990s. But at the same time (reading through the lines) it also implied that the exhibition would be quite limited in its documented historical and socio-cultural contextualisation about the Caribbean origins, hybridisation and changing identity politics of ska, ‘Rudie’ and ‘2-Tone’ subcultures spanning those decades.
In reality, however, the exhibition proved to be much more complex, layered and rounded than had been described in the Guardian/Observer piece – for several reasons:
Earlier this year an article by Tom Devriendt was posted to the online discussion forum ‘Africa is a Country’to commemorate the life and work of French filmmaker Alain Resnais (1922-2014), who passed away on 1st March (Devriendt, 2014). The central focus of this piece was to celebrate the achievements of Resnais and his co-director Chris Marker (1921-2012) in creating a ground-breaking film from the early 1950s about African art and French racism, Statues Also Die [Les statues meurent aussi] (Resnais and Marker, 1953) – commissioned and produced by the Parisian-based publishing house Présence Africaine. What is interesting about the film is the way it features a complex mixture of commentary on French museum practices from the 1950s, the history of French colonialism in Africa, and the public’s changing attitudes in the mid-20th century towards African art – referred to throughout the documentary as ‘black art’.