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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Elements for a future ‘mission statement’ (interview with Achille Mbembe)

When earlier this year I wrote about taking up blogging again (after a break of two and a half years), I mentioned that there would be changes in the content and the format of On Africa. Since then, I have thought more about this new direction, and I think it will be a significant change. Things will take a while to get going, and in the meanwhile I will continue to update the blog more or less regularly.

I bring all this up because I would like the new On Africa to have a clear “editorial” line behind it, a “vision” for what it wants to achieve. I do not want to simply write about what is happening, but to try to build certain coherence in what I write, or ask people to contribute (I am hoping this will be another novelty too!). In any case, this “mission statement” is still being developed but I have already certain guiding references. One of the most important ones, are the ideas of Achille Mbembe (whom I consider Africa’s most interesting and relevant intellectual at present).

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Achille Mbembe (Africultures)
Mbembe has recently published his new book, “Critique de la raison nègre“, and given various interviews. A recent one has been included in Le Monde special on Africa that was published last week. Some excerpts of this have been posted online today. The interview is very much recommended if you can read French.
Below I translate a few paragraphs that I find extremely interesting. They constitute a central element of the vision that On Africa will try to contribute to:

On Africa’s future

“All in all, Africa is evolving simultaneously in various directions. Which ones, among the many centrifugal and centripetal forces, will be victorious? The outcome will depend on the shape which the social struggles will take. It is in the interest of our world that Africa becomes her own centre and she constitutes herself as a vast space of circulation. This is an essential condition for its future, and for the future of our world”

On Africa’s relation to Europe

“What strikes me is that Europe herself is also ‘provincialising’. She makes things easier for us. We don’t need to turn our back her, she turns her back on us herself. I have the impression that it is a profound movement, that feeds on the myth of the community without foreigners. A desire for apartheid at a global scale. Europe is about to turn her back to the kantian moment that will have founded her modernity and attractiveness.
Africa mustn’t turn her back to no one. She must open herself, open her borders and become a land of migration. We need to reflect at this point on how to include Chinese migrants among us. We have to open Africa! Welcome all of those that come, integrate them. Retake the role that Europe has played. Those educated people who don’t find jobs in United States or in Europe, those floating brains, they should come to Africa. Come to us!”

Three down, who’ll be next?

Reuters Africa blog asks an interesting question, I’m sharing here, since I would love to hear your thoughts on this one!

Three of the ten longest serving African leaders have fallen this year:

Ben Ali – Tunisia 23 years,
Hosni Mubarak – Egypt 30 years
Muammar Gadhafi- Libya 42 years

Of the next seven on the list:

Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea (32),
Jose Santos of Angola (32),
Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (31),
Paul Biya of Cameroon (29)
Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (25)
King Mswati III of Swaziland (24)
Blaise Campore of Burkina Fasso (24)

Who would be next to go? And how?

Traslado de blog a: http://onafrica.maneno.org

Hola a todos:

hace ya varios días que no he actualizado este blog. El motivo es que he trasladado onafrica a otra plataforma. Hace unos días Elia, miembro de maneno, me informó de la existencia de esta pequeña plataforma – de blogs sobre África y escrita por africanos – y me invitó a unirme. No lo dudé, ya que el proyecto me parece extremadamente interesante y me encantaría formar parte.

Por este motivo ya no actualizaré más este blog, pero podéis encontrar los nuevos posts (y todos los antiguos) en la nueva dirección:

onafrica.maneno.org

Bienvenidos

Bienvenidos – si es que hay alguien leyendo. Una pequeña introducción a este potencial blog. Es sobre política y África – es decir las noticias y debates más importantes que tengan relación con el continente. Además, dada la extensión y heterogeneidad de la masa de tierra llamada África, limitaremos nuestra atención al África sub-Sahariana (aunque, claramente, no todas las noticias ni todos los países tandrán cabida).

También ha de aclararse que escribir en español no es una decisión tomada al azar. Escribo en castellano para orientar este blog al público/blogosfera español/a. Esto se debe a que mientras que las páginas de noticias y opinión sobre África abundan en inglés (y me imagino en francés también) por razones históricas, hay bastante menos en español – y aún menos que presten atención a aquellos aspectos del continente que afecten más cercana o directamente a España (el segundo objetivo de este blog). Así, espero aportar a todos aquellos lectores interesados en África no sólo mi opinión sino también algo de información (espero no ser muy ambiciosos) sobre el continente a través de los diversos ‘posts’  y los enlaces a otras páginas y medios de comunicación relevantes (una gran parte de los cuales será, me temo y dad mi experiencia, en inglés).