Black Portraiture[s] III: Reinventions – Jo’burg Conference, 17-19 November 2016

“BLACK PORTRAITURE[S] III: Reinventions: Strains of Histories and Cultures” is the seventh conference in a series of transnational and diasporic conversations about imaging the black body. It offers a forum that gives artists, activists, educators and scholars from around the world an opportunity to share ideas, from historical topics to current research on the 40th anniversary of Soweto. Presenters will engage a range of topics such as Biennales, the Africa Perspective in the Armory Show, the global art market, politics, tourism, sites of memory, Afrofuturism, fashion, dance, music, film, art, and photography.

image: Kudzanai Chiurai, Genesis XI, 2016
image: Kudzanai Chiurai, Genesis XI, 2016

The conference takes place November 17-19, 2016 at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, South Africa, and was planned in collaboration with the U. S. Department of State, U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, Patrick H. Gaspard, Goodman Gallery, Hutchins Center for African & African American Research/Harvard University, New York University’s La Pietra Dialogues, Tisch School of the Arts and the Institute for African American Affairs.

When the conference was first announced, the Dean of Tisch School of the Arts, Allyson Green,  said:

“The world will be greater because of the conversations and explorations that will be held when more than 140 papers and performances are presented on topics such as the global art market, activism, politics, tourism, sexuality, sites of memory, Afrofuturism, fashion, dance, music, film, and photography.”

Allyson Green, Dean – Tisch School of the Arts,
New York University

To view the full conference schedule and see a list of participating speakers, please visit the website http://www.blackportraitures.info/schedule/.

Film footage of keynote presentations from previous conferences in this series can also be viewed online at http://www.blackportraitures.info/live-stream/.

Continue reading Black Portraiture[s] III: Reinventions – Jo’burg Conference, 17-19 November 2016

Memory and Museums at “AfroEuropeans V” (University of Münster, Germany)

Earlier in September I was pleased to present a conference paper at AfroEuropeans V: Black Cultures and Identities in Europe (University of Münster, 16-19 September 2015) – the fifth biennial network event exploring socio-political issues and spatialities relating to histories of migration, diaspora formation, economic interdependencies and cultural links between Africa and Europe.

My contribution formed part of a diverse programme of speeches, panel presentations, structured debates and artistic performances that enabled participants to engage in wide-ranging, interdisciplinary dialogues about past and present-day life experiences of Africans and Diasporans in Europe, with a particular focus on the role of activism within academia.

Jamie Schearer (founding member of the European Network for People of African Descent) giving the opening keynote address at the AfroEuropeans V conference. 17 September 2015.
Jamie Schearer (founding member of the European Network for People of African Descent) giving the opening keynote address at the AfroEuropeans V conference. 17 September 2015.

The opening keynote address by political scientist Jamie Schearer (a founding member of the European Network for People of African Descent (ENPAD)) set an optimistic tone for the conference by outlining the many positive and tangible ways ENPAD was initiating effective advocacy and awareness-raising campaigns, publishing educational resources and providing safe spaces for discussing the many complex and challenging issues of race and racism(s) faced by Africans in Europe. Some of the most successful projects recently undertaken in Amsterdam, London, Warsaw and Berlin were foregrounded – including the Black Heritage Amsterdam Tours, the “# Ferguson is Everywhere” campaign, and wider political lobbying related to issues of police violence, racial profiling, and inequalities within systems of justice. Fittingly, we were reminded of key figures in German history and political activism who have made significant contributions to discourses on challenging  racism, xenophobia, stereotyping, anti-blackness, sexism and homophobia – not least the Afro-German poet and educationalist May Ayim (1960-1996), and the African-American writer and rights activist Audre Lorde (1934-1992). Continue reading Memory and Museums at “AfroEuropeans V” (University of Münster, Germany)

Debates about the “The War on Black Bodies,” situated in contrasting cultural spaces in New York and London

“How can we transform the ways in which identity is conceived so that identities do not emerge and function only through the oppression and subordination of other social identities?”
– Elizabeth Grosz (2011). Source: Becoming Undone: Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics, and Art (Grosz, 2011: 89)

“The War on Black Bodies” (Part 1) – the debate in New York

Schomburg-Debate-War-On-Black-Bodies
Schomburg debate – American Policing: The War on Black Bodies. Left to right: Khalil Muhammad, Claudia De La Cruz, Joel Diaz, Darnell Moore and Jelani Cobb. Source: http://new.livestream.com/schomburgcenter/events/3357875.

On the 9th September 2014 I went online to view the live stream of a panel discussion and Q&A about racialized policing in the USA – titled, “The War on Black Bodies,” held at the Schomburg (Center for Research in Black Culture) in Harlem, New York (see: American Policing: The War on Black Bodies)* The ‘Town-Hall-style’ forum was moderated by the Schomburg’s Education Associate, Joel Diaz, and featured contributions from Khalil Muhammad (Schomburg Center Director), historian and journalist Jelani Cobb, rights activist Claudia De La Cruz (Founder of Da Urban Butterflies) and activist Darnell Moore (organiser of the Black Lives Matter campaign).

Continue reading Debates about the “The War on Black Bodies,” situated in contrasting cultural spaces in New York and London

Black Portraitures II: Imaging the Black Body and Re-Staging Histories (Florence – 28-31 May, 2015)

Black PortraituresBlack Portraitures II: Imaging the Black Body and Re-Staging Histories (Florence, Italy, 28-31 May 2015) is the sixth in a series of highly successful conferences staged by New York University (NYU) in collaboration with Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research.

“This conference will bring together artists and scholars from an assortment of disciplines and practices… and will offer comparative perspectives on the historical and contemporary role played by photography, art, film, literature, and music in referencing the image of the black body in the West. In this context, “Black Portraitures II: Imaging the Black Body and Re-staging Histories,” will explore the impulses, ideas, and techniques undergirding the production of self-representation and desire, and the exchange of the gaze from the 19th century to the present day in fashion, film, art, and the archives.

Continue reading Black Portraitures II: Imaging the Black Body and Re-Staging Histories (Florence – 28-31 May, 2015)

Kinshasa: a ‘site of dreams’ for contemporary visual artists

“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.

Body Isek Kingelez , Project for the Kinshasa III e millennium 1997 Wood, paper, cardboard 100 x 332 x 332 cm Courtesy Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art, Paris
Body Isek Kingelez , Project for the Kinshasa III e millennium 1997
Wood, paper, cardboard 100 x 332 x 332 cm Courtesy Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art, Paris

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.

Photograph of the artist Bodys Isek Kingelez next to one of his architectural models.
Photograph of the Kinois artist Bodys Isek Kingelez, shown next to one of his architectural models.

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).

Photograph of Kinois video artist and installationist, Michèle Magema. Image courtesy of Africultures (http://www.africultures.com).
Photograph of Kinois video artist and photographer, Michèle Magema. Image courtesy of Africultures (http://www.africultures.com).

 

 

 

 

 

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).

Continue reading Kinshasa: a ‘site of dreams’ for contemporary visual artists