sábado, 25 de febrero de 2012

La "otra" África

[...] The Okwui Enwezor School paints a bleak picture of Africa, as if nothing worthwhile is happening on the continent. The School has developed a complex, bizarre philosophy based on the writings of V.Y. Mudimbe and Paul Gilroy. It suggests that Africa and African culture are imaginary concepts, a figment of the imagination, that no common African culture exists. It says that the real Africa is the African Diaspora, the Africa that has come in contact with the West. Based on this false and unfounded philosophy, all their curatorial work and writings on contemporary African art are skewed in favor of the few African artists domiciled in the West, in Europe or America, marginalizing the bulk of their counterparts who live and work on the African continent.
[...] It is not with animosity that I interrogate Okwui Enwezor’s curatorial work. Some colleagues of mine, interestingly, all living abroad, have tried to restrain me from going ahead with my critique. Some have suggested that Enwezor has become so powerful that he could easily destroy me. Others see a criticism of Enwezor as an indirect attack on the whole establishment of contemporary African art, which, to them, has struggled so much to get to its present height and must be spared any reproach. This is even more the reason why Enwezor’s role in African art must be brought to close scrutiny. He has become the apotheosis synonymous with contemporary African art in the West, in fact, the sole advocate. Anything he spills out there, the art world would swallow whole-meal without question, because it comes from Okwui Enwezor.
[...] I am proud I was one of the first to hail Okwui Enwezor as far back as 2003, when few people knew him on the African continent. In an international conference paper, I praised him as unmatched: “the non-pareil African Art Historian, Critic and Curator.” But he is beginning to go crooked. And I am only being a voice of the worried observers, the voiceless masses.
The undue focus Okwui Enwezor and his coterie pay to African Diaspora artists only smacks of selfish motivations and curatorial laziness. With Enwezor’s meteoric rise to the apogee of the curatorial world, could he and his team not go back home to Africa, to help build the necessary structures and platform for the advancement of contemporary art on the continent? But because of their continual stay in the West, they have instead had to create the erroneous impression to the world that there is not much art happening on the continent of Africa, that if you want authentic contemporary African art, just look to the West. Look to the African Diaspora, which, to them, is the real Africa.
[...] It is easy to recycle the same old names. These artists live in the West, they have visibility and accessibility. It is expensive, of course, to undertake frequent field research into Africa, to visit all the countries on the continent to find out what is currently happening on the ground. African contemporary art is in a dynamic and complex flux, and it is difficult to keep pace. A survey book on contemporary African art written today will be outdated in three years, at most. The creative energy of the African continent is simply overwhelming and has not been documented or theorized enough. It is almost impossible to keep abreast with it. And that is exactly what I expect Enwezor and his team to attempt to do, but they prefer the easier pathway, which I call lazy curatorship, for want of a better expression – sitting comfortably in their studies in Europe and America, turning over the same old Western-based names, over and over again, in their representations of Africa.
[...] The utopia of globalization which Enwezor postulates presumes egalitarianism, with the free movement of people and goods around the globe. But the reality of the situation as exists now debars the African access to that free movement and full participation in the globalization process. Visa procurement alone to a Western country for an African is a harrowing experience, to say the least. Apart from the many requisite demands and very vigorous and sometimes humiliating procedures applicants are subjected to, astronomical visa fees are taken from applicants only to be refused the visa; the visa fee is never returned.
This almost amounts to a rip-off, not to mention the endless, winding, labyrinthine queues in the scorching sun, which El Anatsui so well captured in his famous installation Visa Queue. Okwui Enwezor, the high-priest of Globalization and open borders himself, recounts how, ironically, he was once refused an entry visa to Italy by the New York Italian Consulate, ostensibly because of his African name, even though he was carrying an American passport. He had already been named the Artistic Director for the Johannesburg Art Biennale and was in the process of putting the show together.
Unless and until the visa policy of Western countries towards Africans is changed, Africans cannot be considered to be full participants in the homogenization of cultures in the globalization process.

Rikki Wemega-Kwawu: The Politics of Exclusion: The Undue Fixation of Western-Based African Curators on Contemporary Africa Diaspora Artists - A Critique.

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