Contemporary African Art since 1980 - lecture by Okwui Enwezor
1990 - 1999
27 Apr. 2010
El Loko, Cosmic Alphabet 037 - 1995, copyright Damiani Editore

The nineties for us were really marked by this massive exodus of intellectuals and artists, migration. This search for new frontiers, for new places of comfort, of production, of protection, exile and all of that.
This period also marks the articulation of the spaces of the city, if you will.

This really amazing painting by Moke of Kinshasa. Here is a return back to history, Sam Nhlengethwa's painting It left him cold on the death of Steve Biko in South Africa (1). Then Ghada Amer with her domestic series (2), Angèle Etoundi Essamba, Jack Akpan, El Anatsui. This (3) is a part of what El Anatsui was doing in those days. He still does that. A lot of his clients in Nigeria love it. The scale of this work really fits in to the small-scale living rooms that people live in. These massive curtains that he does, there are one or two of them in the Nigerian Museum, but this is also part of his work. These wild paintings by Owusu-Ankomah (4). Bili Bidjocka. Willem Boschoff with a continuation of the Blind Alphabet (5). A really brilliant artist. For me, somebody should give him a retrospective somewhere. A very complacent Kendell Geers, Johannes Segolela, Samba.

Basically, Samba is articulating what happened to the work of African artists in the nineties, they made paintings to fight over. It was no longer whether this artist made contemporary art, it was a struggle for the intitutional legitimisation and he had collectors fighting over this (6). Segolela, Antonio Ole, Candice Breitz. More conceptual stuff, younger artists were beginning to emerge in this particular period. Candice Breitz with her series of work on ethnographic postcards (7). This is really the post-apartheid moment in South Africa, this was just right, in 1994.

So you see the range of practices that were occurring. Jerry Buhari, Bruly Bouabré, El Loco, Sokari Douglas Camp. Kay Hassan, First Time Voters, a work on the first election in South Africa. This is Adel Abdessemed from Algeria on the condition of exile, just after he arrived from Algeria in Paris (8). Candice Breitz, Marcia Kure, Chris Ofili, Abu Bakarr Mansaray. Tracy Rose at the second Johannesburg Biennale (9).

So look at the performativity and the work of Samuel Fosso (10). Ouattara Watts, Mounir Fatmi, Kendell Geers. Johannes Phokela, again a very interesting painter from South Africa, based in London. Claudette Schreuders, Bernie Searle, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Younis Rahmoun from Morocco, Meschac Gaba.

What we are beginning to see is that when you go through this period of work, is that there is nowhere to distinguish this work as what we put as African or why we want to think of them as African. That is not to say that we made selections that seek to exclude whatever may be an African characteristic. There are engagements by artists that deal with questions and ideas and articulate them through optics that may, for some, be seen as African. But more fundamentally that these articulations are in many ways contemporary and this is what we mean in terms of the delocation of the work.
The numbers in the text refer to illustrations in the top right corner.

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Contemporary African Art - Damiani Editore

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