By Tajudeen Sowole
From two projects of Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Lagos themed On Independence And The Ambivalence of Promise (2010) and History/Materiality (2012), the initiatives took on an itinerant format that engaged Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone Africa.
Currently known as Asiko, the project is now in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, holding from June 27 to July 30 as it continues its itinerancy, engaging with the history and culture of people of Ethiopia. Earlier, West African cities Accra, Ghana and Dakar, Senegal had a taste of the initiative in 2013; 2014 respectively. And last year, the event took a similar fashion, when Maputo, Mozambique was the host.
CCA notes that the capital city Addis Ababa, which serves as the seat of the African Union (AU), seems like an appropriate setting to continue the deliberations for the 6th and final edition of Àsìkò in its current format. Addis Ababa is one of the fastest developing cities on the continent and issues around the changing urban landscape form an important, local discussion point at the moment."
In retrospect on the project, the Bisi Silva-led CCA group narrates how the other host city actualised the concept. The centre, for example, looks at the History of Contemporary Art in Ghana and asks: “Was this gesture an attempt to indicate that the complex history of contemporary art practice in Ghana could be broached within the temporal period allotted—five weeks?” it argues firmly that “such an elaborate history condensed and absorbed in the space of 35 days, or 840 hours, is subject to questioning.” CCA stresses: “Despite its inevitable sentiments of reductiveness, the title nonetheless provided a space of examination and reflexivity, a space in which to dwell on the effects of time and its potential in tune with the central theme of The Archive.”
The project extended to Dakar, in 2014 challenging accumulated ideas as well as “opening the parameters for alternative as well as individual perspectives.”
A year after, in In Maputo in 2015 the 5th edition of Àsìkò, moved away from a definitive theme towards a more open discursive model that allows for ‘play and chance’ where individual perspectives and research interests of both the participants and the faculty can be highlighted.” The project, CCA assures will continue to focus on and explore the themes and issues that have been addressed over the past five years; colonial history and postcolonial reality, decolonial theory, identity, ‘Africanness’ and pan-Africanism, materiality, the archival, locality vs. globalism, the body and sexuality amongst others. The centre explains: “Our point of departure will continue to be African and African Diaspora cultural production and thought, as well as examining its shifts and developments in recent years and its place within a global context.
"Curatorial Segment of the Programme include a discussion begun in Dakar on the need to excavate exhibition histories in Africa in order to complete what Art History exists today. This was continued in Maputo. African exhibition histories and art history continues to be an urgent necessity in view of the many elder artists and practitioners that we continue to lose while their work goes undocumented. The two segments of Àsìkò – the artistic and the curatorial – attempt to take into consideration the various aesthetic and contextual strategies deployed by artists working across a multiplicity of forms and to engage with curators and writers on the strategies and formats as well as the critical discourse that emanate from the local in its presentation.
“During Àsìkò 2016 we will launch the Asiko Publication, which is a culmination of 5 years of the programme, featuring commissioned essays, images, drawings, reflections etc. The Àsìkò Publication will be designed by Àsìkò lead facilitator Maputo 2015, Zimbabwean visual and graphic artist and educator Nontsikelelo Mutiti."
Recall that in 2010, CCA, took the window of 17 African countries’ independence anniversaries to launch On Independence and The Ambivalence of Promise in celebrating 50 years of independence.