Rhythm of multi-racial expression in Art-iculate
By Tajudeen Sowole
At separate presentations by the curator Gabriela Salgado from Argentina; and Antwerp Belgium-based Nigerian artist, Otobong Nkanga, the search for the true meaning of art becomes a common rhythm.
HELD at the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Yaba, Lagos as part of its three years old talk-show tagged Art-iculate, the events also reflected the increasing curiosity and artistic adventures in search of stronger meaning for art, within the conceptual space.
And like most art talks that attempt to broaden and redefine art, Salgado’s presentation titled Life on the Borders and Nkanga’s Places Of Inspiration and Creativity; A Performative Lecture, also clarified the artistic equations between academic and populist contents.
But before Salgado began her presentation, the director of the centre, Bisi Sliva re-appraised the philosophy behind CCA Lagos’ initiative of inviting artists, critics, writers, curators and funders from across the world, which, according to her, is “to talk about their work and ideas, and share skills and knowledge.” The project had begun in 2008.
The last presentations of 2011 started with Salgado’s montage of diverse works of artists, which she beamed via slides. She declared: “it’s about decolonising our minds.”
To explain her passion for the subject, the UK-based curator included some personal images of her family “as first generation Italian emigrants in Argentina,” and pictures from her childhood as well as a reminiscence of the 1977 dictatorship era in the Latin America country.
Among the images that reopened the old wounds was a collage on Adolf Hitler and Pope Pius XII, in apparent reference to the widely held view that the Vatican, covertly, supported German atrocities, particularly the Holocaust, during the Second World War. Salgado insisted that “the silence of the Vatican during Nazi atrocities” is still a dent on the Papacy till date.
As Salgado’s talk also spotlighted her independent projects such as curatorial duty at the Latin American Art Collection (UECLAA) of University of Essex, London (1999-2005) as well as immediate past job as curator of Public Programmes at Tate Modern (2006-2011), it was imporatnt to sample her view on recurring issue about artist-curator relationship.
For example, in Nigeria, the curator is rarely seen as important in art exhibition. How do the artists and curators relate in Argentina? She noted that the suspicion that curators might take credit for ar.tistic content or success exists in some countries, but “in Argentina, we, the curators work together with the artists, not curating art.”
ABOUT two weeks after Salgado’s presentation, Nkanga’s encounter with the artists’ community took a format of performance and lecture as images of some of her sculptural works were also screened. And it was quite a fascinating experience seeing her through the process of peeling a pawpaw, slicing it and later serving her audience while she delivered her lecture: it added a touch of deep conceptuality to the event.
|Audience at the Art-iculate art talk of CCA, Lagos|
The strength of performance art, she argued, is in the human content. She cited her performance in Brazil where “about 30 artists lined-up behind me, but uttered no one word for two hours.”
Nkanga’s presentation included her experience with the soils in Congo as she offered some archaeological curiosity on the diversity of minerals across the African continent.
Like most mixed media artists addicted to found objects, the soils and some stones as well as other natural contents form crucial parts of Nkanga’s delivery.
She also proved that conceptual art could cut across the genres as noticed in her sculptural works and paintings.
Although based in Belgium, Nkanga’s artistic interaction with her Nigerian and other African counterparts, home and abroad, recently, has been on the rise.
Part of her works, which featured in veteran photographer, J.D. Ojeikere’s exhibition in Finland, Moments of Beauty was also showcased at the CCA outing. Curated by Aura Seikkula and Silva, Moments of Beauty, it would be recalled was shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Finland.
El Anatsui, Emeka Ogboh, Abraham Oghobase, Georges Adéagbo, Samba Fall, Laura Horelli, Alfredo Jaar, Nandipha Mntambo, Odili Odita and Barthélémy Toguo were other African artists that participated in the show.
A few months back, Nkanga also exhibited in an all-female show titled All We Ever Wanted, with Odun Orimolade, Amuche Nnabueze, Adejoke ‘Wahala Temi’ Tugbiyele and Temitayo Ogunbiyi. At that show, her Souvenir of a Monument I (2001), a focus on one of Nigeria’s abandoned relics — the Independence Building near Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos Island — offers a window into a proposed performance in front of the historical building.
SALGADO obtained an MA in Contemporary Art Curating at the Royal College of Art and worked independently in the UK and South America. She has curated a large number of exhibitions and organised international workshops as well as residencies programmes in the UK, Greece, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Cuba, Colombia and Spain.
Currently working independently as a curator, Salgado was curator of Public Programmes at Tate Modern, from 2006 to 2011, where she engaged international artists, thinkers and the diverse audiences of the UK with a view to bridge “the artificial divide between the traditional roles of curators of exhibitions and that of education, which limits the work of museums around the world.”
In 2009, she co-curated the 2nd Biennale of Thessaloniki in Greece PRAXIS: Art in Times of Uncertainty.
Born in 1974, Kano, Nigeria, Nkanga began her art studies at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Osun State and later continued in Paris, France at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts.
She has been an artist-in-residence at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam and got MA at Dasarts, Amsterdam in 2008.
Some of her international shows include: The Altered Landscape, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, U.S.; Marklinworld, Kunsthalle KAdE Amersfoort, Amersfoort, The Netherlands; Outres Measures and Radio Programmes, La Galerie, Centre d’art Contemporain, Noisy-le-Sec, France ; ARS 11, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Finland; Faites comme chez vous, Raw Material Company, Dakar, Senegal.
BETWEEN 2008 and last December, Art-iculate has featured Didier Schaub, Doual'Art, Cameroon; Solange Farkas, Videobrasil, Sao Paulo; Yacouba Konate, University of Abidjan; Monna Mokoena, MOMO Gallery, Johannesburg; Shahidul Alam, Drik Agency, Dhaka; Chika Okeke-Agulu, Princeton University, U.S; Yinka Shonibare, artist, UK/Nigeria.