Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Nottingham Contemporary: 'The Place Is Here' exhibition review by Abondance Matanda, 2017

Nottingham Contemporary’s recent exhibition The Place Is Here was meant to transport visitors back to Britain in the 1980s. For the most part it did, however the power of its hundred-strong army of artworks diminished the sense that three whole decades have passed since the radical Black Arts Movement of the 80s and 90s began. The curators Nick Aikens, Sam Thorne and Nicola Guy carved the show into quarters, which were each christened by a definitive artwork within the four galleries. Signs of Empire, We Will Be, The People’s Account and Convenience Not Love each spoke to myriad maladies that still run riot today, but I could not leave the space feeling overly desolate about the state and future of society. The Place Is Here is a statement and an affirmation and an answer to many enquiries as to where a generation of young black people did and do and should go, to mediate their identity and carve out a home inside a nation as hostile as Britain can be to us, and heal from all the different toils this takes.

Signs of Empire took its title from a 22-minute video work by Black Audio Film Collective, which faded in and out of old faces and italic words, whispering about loss and memory and illusion. Some imagery was soft and tinted by warm colours, but depicted the darkness and violence of how the British Empire was established, with many a severed limb and dead tiger lingering on screen. The languid, ghostly pace of the film had a deep sadness to it, like many of the other works in that gallery. Gavin Jantjes created a mock-pedagogical collage series called ‘A South African Colouring Book’, examining the identity of Cape Coloured or mixed-race people during apartheid, as well as how political policies legally and systematically defined and protected white people.

On the opposite wall though, in a curatorial representation of the wide-ranging conversations happening in the 80s, Eddie Chambers exposed the fragility of whiteness in four framed screen prints. Up close and in the midst of his Union Jack-patterned swastika symbols, you might not see how the ‘Destruction of the National Front’ is happening, but make a step back and the bigger picture is plain to see. The thing started as a whole, got torn from the top right corner and then some. By the end the whole ting is mash up. Even if someone tried glue them far-right ideologies back together, they couldn’t be as strong as they first was. John Agard’s poem Flag flutters to mind, for how similarly it mocks and undermines people’s nationalism. The Place Is Here lets you slip in and out of all that immersive madness, pree the parallels between then and now, and decide how to move forward.

The Place Is Here, Nottingham Contemporary, 2017. Exhibition view. Photo Andy Keate.

At the same time, Veronica Ryan’s sculpture ‘Territorial’ questions if we even have that ability. In the centre of her bronze and plaster enigma, a vulnerable vase is either emerging from or being cushioned or possibly swallowed by a big land mass. It could be a stolen object representing black people who were taken from Africa, like those in Mowbray Odonkor’s ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ overseeing the site on one side of it. Or maybe it’s to do with femininity, because it looks like a pearl in an oyster, which can metaphorically be used to talk about female sexuality. ‘Lay Back, Keep Quiet and Think of What Made Britain so Great’ is the bright piece which looks pon Ryan’s work from the other side. It was made in 1986 too, but by an artist of this era whose name might ring more bells today.

Apparently, Sonia Boyce referenced wallpaper designs by William Morris and subverted the Arts and Crafts movement he headed in the 19th century. Being ignorant of such art history though, when I saw Boyce’s pastel and watercolour flowers intertwining on the white gallery wall, I started singing these lyrics from Ms Dynamite’s tune Seed Will Grow: drowning in poverty and deceit, but black roses grow from concrete. The Black Arts Movement had an urgent mission and responsibility to respond to the very same things Dynamite was dealing with fifteen years ago, which still resonates today cah our future dat, we supposed to nurture dat, nah let nutten or nobody hurt dat.

Women’s roles and status within the black community and the art world is explored with more focus in the second gallery We Will Be. Sonia Boyce appears a couple times again, but Veronica Ryan withdrew from the art world and has become elusive, like bare black women who made striking art with and before her. Since our collective memory too often neglects their narratives, The Place Is Here urges us to resist that by remembering.

Nottingham Contemporary re-organised a Radical Black Art Working Convention in March, to revisit the original conversations from the one in 1984, where artists discussed the “form, function and future” of their work. This year, the London-based reading group Women Of Colour Index (WOCI) dissected the representation and visibility of black women in art and as artists, looking at Martina Attille’s film Dreaming Rivers. It is about an old Windrush-era woman called Miss T, who laments about how England is so cold and makes her so tired, like our mothers and grandmothers do.

Her mental breakdown becomes a dance in the moonlight coming through her lace curtains as she gropes for peace in the darkness. When she braids her hair and washes her feet in her sanctuary of a bedroom, decorated with images of Mother Mary and candles and family photographs, you almost wish her two daughters would offer a helping hand. However, self-care as a healing mechanism from being disconnected from your home and heritage is something they will have to discover on their ones. It feels like a good time to be a black woman in 2017, because so many cultural figures and artistic collectives are making it easier for us to exist in, but also bun down Babylon.

History shouldn’t be repeating itself if it’s gonna hurt so many people, which is why there is a new research-led initiative called Thick/er Black Lines, designed “to rewrite histories and to negotiate a way forward” by some British women called Rianna Jade Parker, Aurella Yussuf, Hudda Khaireh and Kariima Ali. Their new artwork ‘We Apologise For The Delay To Your Journey’ is visibly inspired by a map Lubaina Himid devised back in the day. It was displayed in The Place Is Here amongst other items from her Making Histories Visible archive. This current Turner Prize contender really was the star of that whole exhibition. Its title even comes from a poem she scrawled on the skirt of a wooden woman who stands firm, arms crossed in the We Will Be gallery, which was specifically dedicated to “asserting the presence of bodies, identities and desires”.

                   The Place Is Here, Nottingham Contemporary, 2017. Exhibition view. Photo Andy Keate.

Works like ‘I Came to Dance’ by Claudette Johnson and ‘Art History’ by Marlene Smith make sure we are seen with the sweetness and softness people pretend isn’t inherent in the women who’ve harvested strange fruits and sugar canes since day. Same way, we’ve got Maud Sulter and Ingrid Pollard’s careful meditations on the darker, sour burdens we hold on our heads and hips and too often forget to put down, so we can rest. Mona Hatoum and Zarina Bhimji remind us about mothering and nurturing ourselves and each other, with voices in a video and spices on the floor, cooking up a wholesome, sensory experience of being politically black in Britain in the 1980s. 

That term is now obsolete, but I can appreciate why people from Asia and Africa and the Caribbean all came together under the umbrella of blackness, to shelter themselves from the racism that was pelted at them through glass ceilings. Our diasporic experiences seem more nuanced now, but The Place Is Here celebrated the commonalities between our communities. It let the artists speak for themselves, which more specifically occurred in The People’s Account. That third gallery had bare TVs and big screens replaying documentaries and animations and footage from an era which was littered with insurrections across the country.

We saw people die and dance and march and I cried and shuddered at the sight of these things that I’m so grateful I do not have to bear real-time witness to. This does not mean that Perpetual Community Trauma is not ingrained in a lot of urban experiences now though, as explained by an activist called Temi Mwale at a discussion on youth violence earlier this year. Even though intergenerational conversations are essential, we can trust that there are new artists, writers and thinkers ready to lessen the burden for the next batch of yutedem.

We have just lost Darcus Howe, a broadcaster and campaigner amongst many other things, whose voice I first heard defending himself on BBC News during England’s 2011 riots, which provided my personal political awakening. ‘The People’s Account’ by Ceddo Film and Video Workshop, filmed during and after the Broadwater Farm Riots in 1985, was commissioned by Channel 4 who never broadcasted it because they ‘objected to its accusations of police racism’. The People’s Account as a room represented black artists taking ownership of media production and distribution within their communities, for example through an Anti Racist Film Programme. This was radical in a political climate that wanted to silence and misrepresent black people

                   The Place Is Here, Nottingham Contemporary, 2017. Exhibition view. Photo Andy Keate.

Someone once told me that love is tenderness in private and justice in public. That rang through my head as I entered the final exhibition space featuring a trio of works. Convenience Not Love is named after a two-panel print by Chila Kumari Burman. It’s making a mockery of Margaret Thatcher’s idea of strong and stable leadership, and Britain’s amnesia regarding the reasons why people migrated here from the very countries it chose to gwan and colonise. Then Keith Piper dreamed up ‘The Black Assassin Saints’: a writer, painter, actor and musician who come armed with culture to gun down themlots who oppress uslots all over the world.

Lubaina Himid ‘took aim and threw’ her last piece in the show at the whole of art history and politricks, which hoped to have worn her down and run her out by then. But nah, her larger than life multimedia tableaux maintained the satirical tone that journalists branded as cultural terrorism at the time. ‘A Fashionable Marriage’ was a 1980s version of William Hogarth’s ‘Marriage A La Mode’, featuring Thatcher and Reagan ‘to highlight the evils and misdeeds’ of society, the same way artists today use May and Trump, but more importantly in the same way Hogarth used black people in that series of six paintings from 1743-1745.

Toussaint L’Ouverture was born in 1743, you know. I know that because Lubaina Himid inscribed it on her collage on wood which opens the whole show, coming like some tombstone or something for that famous leader of the Haitian Revolution. My first reaction to it was ‘rah’. I felt confronted by this tall black guy towering over me, but when I read the exhibition text beside it, I said ‘rah’ again cah it affirmed that Toussaint ‘greets’ visitors. He was stood up tall like the military commander he was, but because of colonial legacies I immediately reacted to the body of a black man somewhat negatively.

It’s gonna take longer for us to dismantle all these signs of empire that insidiously surround us; to unlearn the internalised behaviours that harm our bredrins, than it did for Lubaina Himid to push all them pins into the shoulder of Toussaint L’Ouverture’s military uniform, and the bodice of the wooden woman’s big dress, but it’s not even a thing. We will be alright. Yes we lickle, but we tallawah even if Inglan is a bitch, word to Linton Kwesi Johnson. If there ever was a place to heal, assemble, fight for love and justice and tenderness and repeat, it was always here, through art, in the spaces we call home, where we mould our hearts and minds.

Abondance Matanda, 2017.

Abondance Matanda is an arts and culture writer and poet. She is based in London, which largely informs her subject matters and subversive, colloquial voice. Language, girlhood, class and blackness are themes she tends to notice and dissect, as well as other ideas pertaining to identity. Her influences range from Ms Dynamite to Toni Cade Bambara to Congolese music videos from the 90s.

The Place is Here is a touring exhibition- opening at The South London Gallery on 22 June 2017 until 10 September 2017

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Keep in touch : social media merge

Following Iniva's refreshed mission, announced in October 2016, and in advance of the launch of Iniva's new website, we will be streamlining our social media channels.
From May 2017, we will begin to combine the Iniva, Iniva Creative Learning, and Stuart Hall Library channels, and we will be using only:

@iniva_arts on Twitter
Iniva on Facebook
melanie.keen on Instagram

This blog and websites will be rolled into our new site.

The Twitter handles @StuartHallLibrary and @iniva_creative will no longer be in use after 31 May. 

To keep in touch with the Stuart Hall Library, please move over to follow us on these accounts if you don’t already. We’ll be reminding you on social media too, so look out for announcements.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Black Arts Magazines in the Critical Decade

As part of DIY Cultures festival (produced and curated by Hamja Ahsan & Helena Wee of Other Asias, and Sofia Niazi of OOMK magazine) the library recently organised a workshop and discussion about the history of black arts magazines in the UK. Recordings are available at the bottom of the page.

Drawing on the unique holdings at the Stuart Hall Library, artist Joy Gregory and writer, curator and artist David A. Bailey were in conversation with librarian Nick Brown to discuss the importance and contemporary relevance of these magazines. 
The period from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s saw the emergence of arts magazines such as Black PhoenixArtrageBlack Arts in LondonBazaar,EchoPolareyesTen.8, and Third Text which dealt specifically with the work of British Black and Asian artists or engaged in a broader cultural and political struggle over the politics of representation.

Some of these magazines were self-published while others came about through Arts Council funding but all engaged in grassroots organisation and can be understood as part of a wider struggle for social justice. They gave expression to a generation of artists whose work represented a new politicisation around issues of cultural identity, particularly the intersections of race, gender, class and difference. As David A. Bailey and Stuart Hall wrote in Ten.8;
"It maps out the terrain of black cultural politics during a period of rapid and turbulent change which encompassed several major paradigm shifts in both theory and practice, and was marked by a powerful synergy between race, politics and representation." (p. 4, Vol. 2, No. 3, 1992.)

The workshop consisted of Joy Gregory (artist) and David A. Bailey (artist, writer and curator) in conversation with Nick Brown (Librarian at the Stuart Hall Library, Iniva). David worked on and wrote for magazines including Ten.8 and Third Textand has long been a participant in and organiser of the exhibitions and issue that form the context of these publications. Joy is a key member of the group of artists that emerged during this period and her work was often featured in the magazines. The conversation introduced some key publications and attempted to critically situate them, as well as give an opportunity for participants to browse the magazines. Produced during a time of cuts in public services and welfare, increasing social division and a dominant narrative in the popular press of racism and xenophobia the current importance of these magazines might be as a tool to help inform an emergent generation of cultural activists now facing an intensification of these same issues.

David A Bailey MBE is a photographer, writer, curator, lecturer and cultural facilitator who lives and works in London. David A Bailey's practice is focused on the issues that relate to the question of representation in the areas of photography, performance and artists' film. These interests have informed his appointment as an adviser, and subsequent curator with Autograph (ABP) and the Institute of International Visual Arts (Iniva) in 1994. One of his main concerns is the notion of diaspora in art. He co-curated the ground-breaking exhibitions Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance with Richard J Powell at the Hayward Gallery in London in 1997, and Back to Black: Art, Cinema and the Racial Imaginary with Petrine Archer-Straw and Richard J Powell at Whitechapel Art Gallery in London in 2005. David A Bailey has written extensively about visual art and performance. From 1996 to 2002, he was Co-Director of the African and Asian Visual Artists Archive (AAVAA) at the University of East London. From 2005 to 2009, he was Senior Curator of Autograph (ABP), and from 2005 to 2011 he was a Curator at Platform for the Remember Saro-Wiwa Living Memorial. Since 2006, he has been the founder and Director of the International Curators Forum, and between 2009 and 2010, he was the Acting Director of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas in Nassau.  David A Bailey was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List 2007, for services to art.
Joy Gregory is a graduate of Manchester Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art. She has developed a practice which is concerned with social and political issues with particular reference to history and cultural differences in contemporary society. In 2002, Gregory received the NESTA Fellowship, which enabled her the time and the freedom to research for a major piece around language endangerment. The first of this series was the video piece Gomera, which premiered at the Sydney Biennale in May 2010. She is the recipient of numerous awards and has exhibited all over the world showing in many festivals and biennales. Her work included in many collections including the UK Arts Council Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, and Yale British Art Collection. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Susan Stockwell & Dr Christine Shaw-Checinska in converstation

The artist Susan Stockwell engaged the library audience with a revealing insight into her art practice at our Clothes Cloth and Culture Group event last week. Susan's work is concerned with ecology, geo-politics, mapping, trade and history. She talked with Dr Christine Shaw-Checinska about the notion of 'the creative spirit'; how 'Eureka' moments of inspiration are sparked by the process of making. In a practice informed by research into the materials she chooses, such as rubber and tea, Susan's work makes connections to their historical, economic and social meanings.

If you missed the event, you can read more on our webpage and listen to an audio recording of the conversation- streamed below.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Library Exhibition: Migration Dreams and Nightmares - visit or watch the video

Alia Syed and Nadia Perrotta's exhibition in the Stuart Hall Library responds to themes of migrant experience in John Berger and Jean Mohr’s novel A Seventh Man. Watch a video (below) about Alia Syed's site-specific film installation On a Wing and a Prayer, currently on show until 31 May 2016.

John Berger and Jean Mohr's book, A Seventh Man, first published in 1975, is an intense exploration of the individual and collective experience of migration from departure to work and return but which also has timely resonances with the hopes and fears that are driving the movements of current migrants and refugees
The exhibition features Syed's new film On a Wing and a Prayer, created especially for the library, and will continue to evolve over its duration. The film imaginatively recreates the journey undertaken by Abdul Rahman Haroun who in August 2015 walked the entire 31 mile length of the Channel Tunnel in a bid to find asylum in the UK. He was arrested by the police and charged under the 1861 Malicious Damage Act. His trial is ongoing. For this installation the film is inserted into a book (a register of ships, evoking other migrations) and accompanied by maps of London and England overlaid with graphs visualising patterns of migration drawn from Berger's book.
The exhibition also features Traits and Lines #1, an artist's book created by Nadia Perrotta telling stories collected through interviews of migrants from her native southern Italy to the UK as well as with migrants from West Africa to Italy. The book is presented as parallel English and Italian texts and overlaid drawings. In the text she draws on her own experience of migration and with helping Anglophone communities from West Africa settle in Italy. The interviews provide the source material for a video work, I Hope for Something Good (2015), which builds to a cacophony of overlaid voices in multiple languages. Perrotta has also crystallised objects washed up on the Thanet shoreline that are evocative of the journeys undertaken.
The exhibition is part of a larger project, Migration Dreams and Nightmares, led by sociologists Nirmal Puwar and Mariam Motamedi Fraser from the Methods Lab at Goldsmiths and includes a concurrent exhibition at Goldsmiths, University of London, as well as three seminars focusing on ‘the ways in which dreams, hopes, promises and aspirations are enfolded into the experiences of migration; specifically the connection between migrants' dreams and the nightmarish qualities of migration.'
A recording of the opening panel discussion with the artists and Nirmal Puwar (Reader in Sociology, Goldsmiths) and Ashwani Sharma (Principal Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies, UEL) is available below.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Establishing National Pavilions: Roma and Seychelles

Timea Junghaus, Daniel Baker and Delaine Le Bas (artwork Dusan Ristic)

The Stuart Hall Library Research Network's first event of 2016 was a discussion of the issues and experiences behind setting up pavilions for two previously unrepresented nations at the Venice Biennial. The first Roma Pavilion was established in 2007 and the first Seychelles Pavilion in 2015.

For those of you who missed it, audio recordings of the event are available at the bottom of this blog post.

The audience heard accounts of the experiences of artists and curators who instigated and participated in both pavilions. The Roma Pavilion curator Timea Junghaus talked to us from Budapest via Skype and Roma artists Daniel Baker and Delaine Le Bas were here in person.
Artist and researcher Nitin Shroff; commissionaire for the Seychelles Pavilion appeared in person and talked to artist Léon Radegonde in the Seychelles via telephone.

Nitin Shroff

The artists and curators shared their views on the implications of participation in and recognition by an international art exhibition for national and cultural identity.

Read more about the stories of the pavilions and about the speakers on our webpage

Friday, 4 December 2015

Migration Dreams and Nightmares

Stuart Hall Library Research Network Event 19 November 2015
To listen to audio recordings of the event, please scroll down.

A panel discussion to mark the opening of Alia Syed and Nadia Perrotta’s exhibition in the library which responds to themes of migrant experience in John Berger’s novel 'A Seventh Man' (1973).

The panellists were Nirmal Purwar (Reader in Sociology, Goldsmiths) Ashwani Sharma (Principal Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies, UEL), Nadia Perrotta (artist) Alia Syed (artist nominee for the 2015 Jarman Award).

Alia Syed, On a Wing and a Prayer (film still) 2015
Alia Syed showed her hypnotic film 'On a Wing and a Prayer' recording her walk through the alien environment of the Rotherhithe Tunnel. Alia was invited to respond to Berger's 'The Seventh Man' as part of  the Goldsmiths Methods Lab Project  Migration Dreams and Nightmares. Alia had been affected by a news story about the asylum seeker, Abdul Rahman Haroun, who had walked the 31 miles through the Channel Tunnel. Her film recreates the claustrophobia and fear that Haroun experienced during his nightmarish journey. 

Alia Syed and Nadia Perrotta

Nadia Perrotta interviewed six migrants during a journey to and from her native Italy and the UK. Her artists' book, 'Traits and Lines #1' contains transcripts of the interviews in English and Italian and overlapping drawings of the migrants. Nadia stressed the unique identities of the migrants by capturing the inaccuracies and idioms of language used by each individual. Her 'Crystalised Objects Archive' is also on display in the library which contains alum-coated flotsam collected from the Thanet shoreline, with echoes of dangerous migratory sea-crossings .

Ash Sharma and Nirmal Puwar
The artists' presentations were followed by reposes to the works from Ash and Nirmal, a lively discussion by the panel and questions from the audience.

The library exhibition is part of a larger project, Migration Dreams and Nightmares, led by Nirmal Puwar and Mariam Motamedi Fraser from the Methods Lab at Goldsmiths University of London. A concurrent exhibition and seminars at Goldsmiths "Migrating Dreams + Nightmares: Materials and Movement" Nov 2015-April 2016.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Sound, Space and Identity

Sound artists Ain Bailey, Chris Weaver and John Wynne talked about their practice and research at the 29 October 2015 Stuart Hall Library Research Network event. It was an informative and interesting evening, and, we believe, the first event in the library dealing with audio art practice and research. 

Ain Bradley
Each of the artists engages in different ways with identity, space, field recordings, representation and the problem of the ethnographic gaze.

Chris Weaver
The audience learned about the concept of identity expressed in the form of a sonic autobiography and how ambient sound can be seen as an indicator of prosperity. We listened to audio-collage compositions, field recordings in Pakistan and speakers of almost extinct languages from Northern Canada and South Africa. 

John Wynne
Many other original ideas and research centering on the acoustic world were revealed in the course of the presentations. You can read more about the presenters on our webpage, and listen to the audio recordings of the event (see below)

Thursday, 29 October 2015

No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960-1990

Keith Piper, Errol Lloyd, Makeda Coaston and Dr. Michael McMillan at Stuart Hall Library, October 2015
The Stuart Hall Library Research Network returned last week with an event about the Guildhall Art Gallery's exhibition ‘No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960-1990’ (10 July 2015 - 24 January 2016)

If you missed the event, the audio recordings of the talks and discussion are available at the bottom of this post.

Curators Makeda Coaston and Dr. Michael McMillan and artist Errol Lloyd talked about their archival research for the exhibition, the curatorial challenges and recalled personal experiences from the blossoming of Black British Art during the period.

No Colour Bar features art work from twenty Black British artists from the 1960s to the 1990s. The speakers explained why the focus of the exhibition is Eric and Jessica Huntley; radical activists and founders of a London publishing house and bookshop. The Huntleys played a vital role in promoting black culture and visual arts in the 60s and 70s and the impressive recreation of their Walter Rodney Bookshop is the centrepiece of the exhibition.

Monday, 12 October 2015

LETTER FROM ABROAD: Encountering Jozi Style

Dr Christine Checinska
Associate Researcher, VIAD, University of Johannesburg

Founder and Convener of the Clothes, Cloth & Culture Group, Iniva, London

Exhibition Installation View, Hypersampling Identities, Jozi Style, FADA Gallery (Ground Floor), University of Johannesburg. Photograph by Thys Dullaart, Image Courtesy of VIAD Research Centre

Groundbreaking, energetic, innovative, vibrant, robust, boisterous, vital…

All words that could be used to describe the University of Johannesburg, Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre’s, (VIAD), recent series of ‘Encounters’ designed to examine the refashioning of masculinities within contemporary black cultural movements in Johannesburg.

Under the title (Re)-Fashioning Masculinities: Identity, Difference, Resistance, the ‘Encounters’ took as their departure point the concurrent exhibition ‘Hypersampling Identities: Jozi Style.’[1] The exhibition showcased the work of young homegrown male designers and design collectives as well as that of photographers, sartorial groups and ‘trend setters’. The Isikothane were amongst the featured groups, whilst the Sartists and the Khumbula were amongst the prominent design collectives on show. The cultural practitioners included Jamal Nxedlana. Many of the contributors referenced the Pantsulas and the Swenkas; more established black cultural movements. I was invited to deliver key lectures and a performative response. Since the work that I have been engaged in over the past fifteen years, including the setting up of the Clothes, Cloth and Culture Group here in the Stuart Hall Library, has been concerned with the relationship between fashion, textiles, culture and race, I was only to happy to do this.

Exhibition Installation View, Hypersampling Identities, Jozi Style, FADA Gallery (Ground Floor), University of Johannesburg. Photograph by Thys Dullaart, Image Courtesy of VIAD Research Centre

Our three-day debate wrestled with the concept of ‘hypersampling’ itself, the performance of masculine identities through the intermeshing of music, dance, gesture and dress, the ever-present hierarchies of power and value based primarily on race and culture, self-representation by referencing the past and by referencing an imagined future, the consumption of (global) African styles, critical ‘whiteness’/critical ‘blackness’, i.e. positionality and mindful analysis, and the notion of the Black Dandy. As expected, and indeed as I had hoped, we raised far more questions than we were able to answer.

The astute facilitation of the VIAD team – Leora Farber, Claire Jorgensen, Maria Fidel Rigueros – ensured that the tensions between voices, that at times clearly sat on the opposite sides of a given argument, were held and used to creative effect, generating un-familiarly rich intellectual discussions. Particularly refreshing was the insistence on the foregrounding of the work produced by the practitioners. This calls to mind the artist Sonia Boyce’s recent critique of the confounding brushing aside of certain artists’ work in order to solely focus on issues connected to race. The two must be addressed; the work itself and the political debates emanating from the work.

Ó Christine Checinska, October 4th 2015

[1] ‘Hypersampling Identities: Jozi Style’ was produced by VIAD in association with VIAD post-doctoral fellow Daniela Goeller and Lifestyle and Pop Culture Trend Analyst, Nicola Cooper.