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Exhibition at PAC in Milan explores African art
Georges Adéagbo, The revolution and the revolutions...! 2016, 11th Shanghai Biennale


MILAN.- Defining Africa today means being able to recount it. In an equilibrium between Occidentalism and Africanism, postcolonialism and migration, contemporary African art in reality poses essential, political, economic, religious and gender questions that affect the future of one of the most complex areas on our planet.

With the exhibition AFRICA. Telling a world from 27 June to 11 September 2017 Milan’s PAC continues its exploration of the continents following the route of art, with a selection of artists and narratives that not only live and entrench their African roots in the world, but who and which also experience its Diaspora. Retracing the emergence of their diversity, the exhibition will allow visitors an understanding of the universality of the contemporary Africa scene south of the Sahara.

Through photographs, paintings, installations, drawings and sculptures, from public and private international collections, as well as videos and performances, 33 artists who embody and represent the multiplicity of their social contexts today, offer visitors visual and narrative works which are sometimes apparently in contrast with each other. Frontiers of scientific thinking and the overcoming of technological boundaries; accounts of memory and its being surpassed; silences of the body and altars dedicated to the consumption of history; distortions of traditions and reconfigurations of myths; as well as unexpected transformations of the woman’s role and reinterpretations of an aesthetic of re-use, will define deserts and conurbations, densities and dilations of the non-linear languages of contemporary African art.

Promoted by the Milan Council Cultural Office and produced by PAC with Silvana Editoriale, the exhibition is curated by Adelina von Fürstenberg, with the video and performance section overseen by Geneva Bria. It aims to unveil the immediate and growing spirit in the continent south of the Sahara without hiding the violence and matching immediacy of the worlds that make it up, in order to provide a multifaceted image of it made up of many features.

With this exhibition, PAC adds another stage to its line of programming, born in 2015 with the Expo, which each summer explores the planet through contemporary art, a narration which has led to projects like CUBA Tattooing History (2016), the collective show on Chinese art in 2015, and which will feature Brazil in 2018.

The path through the exhibition of AFRICA. Telling a world offers a sensitive approach to contemporary African art and a quadruple reading of contemporary art in Africa south of the Sahara, through four themes: After Independence, Identity Introspection, Generation Africa, and The Body and the Politics of Distance.

The After Independence artists are masters of their art, very closely tied to their cultural universe. Their works are transpositions of African life, which ignore the demands of criticism. Their works transcribe with great serenity the African world at the threshold of change. At the same time, and as a reaction to the prejudices of purely Western exhibitions, at the end of the eighties, the first Biennals were staged, such as those of Dakar, Bamako and Benin, which overthrow the image of African art itself, turning, in particular to the art schools and orienting the choices of the works to the Western art system.

Artists: Frédéric Bruly Bouabré (Ivory Coast), Seydou Keïta (Mali), J.D. Okhai Ojeikere (Nigeria), Idrissa Ouédraogo (Burkina Faso), Malick Sidibé (Mali).

Marked by the system of international exhibitions and the ease of travel, the theme of Identity Introspection highlights a number of engagé artists. Creators and craftsmen who maintain a deep attachment to their origins, questioning through their works post-colonialism, wars and genocides, environmental issues, AIDS, poverty, political corruption, the oil issue, etc, which thus become the clear subjects of their works. Among these artists, modernity is not opposed to tradition, but, indeed, both are in constant evolution.

Artists: Georges Adeagbo (Benin), Abu Bakarr Mansaray (Sierra Leone), Romuald Hazoumé (Benin), Pieter Hugo (South Africa), Richard Onyango (Kenya), Chéri Samba (Congo), Abdelrahmane Sissako (Mauritania), Yinka Shonibare MBE (Nigeria), Barthélémy Toguo (Cameroon).

And it is precisely on the changes in society and the position of individuals that Generation Africa focuses, a “junction” generation, which affirms its active participation in the world, creating the unexpected. Mostly formed in Western art schools and with a presence at art fairs, this is a generation which is aware of their own identity, developed on the basis of a discourse that has multiple origins and oscillates across borders. The artists, dealing with the main urgencies of contemporary life in their work such as individualism, immigration, violence and gender issues, affirm the need to exist in the face of everything and everyone.

Questioning different aspects of African identity, that are syncretic, hybrid, and ulterior with regard to stereotypes, the artists of this section, mostly women, explore the possibility of being themselves and at the same time being multiple.

Artists: Malala Andrialavidrazana (Madagascar), Omar Ba (Senegal), Kudzanai Chiurai (Zimbabwe), Senzeni Marasela (South Africa), Billie Zangewa (Malawi).

The Body and the Politics of Distance, finally, presents the path of nine contemporary African artists who deal with the category of distance as a cognitive principle, and element of physical and gestural narrative which reveals the relationship of the artists with the concept of the neighbour and the transformations of society of which the body becomes a witness and an emblem. Between video-art and performance, ritualism, the subversion of the body which is transformed into linguistic territory, transmits the poetic need to produce a distance from the ways in which the socio-political landscapes of Africa are traditionally known as much as that of contemporary art, as the only condition for thinking of them together. Their visual discourses dedicated to the search for a collective subjectivity within the section translate and are declined till they become an ethical task, a portrait in movement of justice, a personification of the lives and emotions of religious, cultural and sexual minorities. Expressions that will strike visitors by questioning their ability to assume femininity as a link between reality and a deep inner vision of Africa.

Artists: Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro (Gabon), Gabrielle Goliath (South Africa), Ato Malinda (Kenya), Zanele Muholi (South Africa), Tracey Rose (South Africa), Berni Searle (South Africa).






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