African odysseys

That is the title of a captivating exhibition on show at BRASS Cultural Centre, here in Brussels* and which I had the opportunity to visit three weeks ago. The exhibition presents the work of 17 young contemporary Artists from 11 southern and eastern African countries. This is, in itself, a great opportunity, as it is not often that one can see contemporary African art in museums in Europe (although luckily this is becoming more and more common).

Furthermore the curator, Marie-Ann Yemsi, has done a great job by both making a brilliant selection of artists and creating a clear theme for the show, whose message is relevant beyond the art world. The exhibition has the past and the present as two poles between which the artists move, with their pieces reflecting at the same time contemporary reality and how the historical experience shapes the present.

Yemsi herself writes, in the introduction to the show, that Odysées Africaines is conceived as a polyphonic space which:

“involves a multiplicity of viewpoints and positions, and shows that unique ability of artists to play on several registers as they revitalis, update or fictionalise their various symbolic heritages to build unprecedented structures, produce prolific hybridisation or even create new utopias.”

 

A powerful and very much recommended show.

Athi-Patra Ruga, 'Proposed model of the new Azania' (C) and 'Approved model of the new Azania' (R)
Athi-Patra Ruga, ‘Proposed model of the new Azania’ (C) and ‘Approved model of the new Azania’ (R)

 

Athi-Patra Ruga, 'Approved model of the new Azania'
Athi-Patra Ruga, ‘Approved model of the new Azania’

 

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Meleko Mokgosy, ‘Fully Belly’

 

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Meleko Mokgosi, ‘Fully Belly’ (detail)

 

Maimuna Adam, '(M)atrimony'
Maimuna Adam, ‘(M)atrimony’

Odysées Africaines, BRASS Centre Culturel du Forest, Brussels, until 17th May

*Indeed, one of the (few) positive aspects of living here is the big presence of African diasporas (not only from DRC, but also Rwanda and Burundi, former Belgian colonies as well, and from French-speaking Africa generally…) and – related to this –  the large number of cultural events linked to the African continent.

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Afropeans are coming…

If you happen to be in Brussels this Saturday, please be sure to check out the Afropeans + festival at BOZAR (I will most certainly do so!):

Along the lines of the artist Pitcho Womba Konga’s Congolisation project, Afropean+ highlights the added value of the African diaspora in the European cultural landscape. Taking place within the context of the Belgian launch of the European Year for Development, this project affirms the interdependence between North and South, and promotes freedom, diversity, creation and solidarity as driving forces for our future.

More info and complete programme of debates, projections and concerts here.

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Photo: Johny Pitts

But what is Afropean? Who are Afropeans?

Writing at Africa Is A Country, Johny Pitts writes:

That’s why I chose to use this rather new word that was born in the early ‘90s when these musical mixtures were being born. Afropean is a term that I felt reflected new identities on the continent and seemed appropriate for a number of reasons. Firstly it hints at cultural influence, rather than simply racial identification, and secondly, for the first time in my life it is a word I’ve been able to use to describe myself that sounds cohesive and whole — isn’t mixed this or half that or hyphenated in any way. Rather, it’s a portmanteau — something whole but born of duality.

Pitts is a photographer and one of the founders of Afropean:

an online multimedia, multidisciplinary journal exploring the social, cultural and aesthetic interplay of black and European cultures, and the synergy of styles and ideas brought about because of this union.
We hope to fill the void left by Erik Kambel’s Afro-Europe blog, which closed down in 2013, and, under Erik’s guidance we will continue to shed light on art, music, literature, news and events from the Afro-European diaspora, as well as produce and commission original essays and projects.

Afropeans are indeed coming!

Introducing…Amil Shivji

Tired of everyone – including some rather awkward choices – attempting to rebrand, write about, speak for Africa(ns)? If so, here’s an antidote:

Word on the street: is an independent project started by Amil Shivji that puts the spotlight on Tanzanian citizens and their opinions on everyday issues. It is a weekly series that offers us an insight into what the common Tanzanian citizen has to say.

On this (the second) episode, Demere Kitunga, a publisher at Soma Book Cafe talks about what 50 years of independence means to her and where Tanzania is now.

You can suscribe to the series here. Sigue leyendo