Perspectives in Contemporary African Art
Chris Dercon, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, and Simon Njami in a talk at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle

Contemporary African Art: Where did we come from, where are we going?

High-caliber participants in a discussion at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle: In the framework of the presentation of Meschac Gaba’s Museum of Contemporary African Art, Tate Modern director Chris Dercon talks to the two curators Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung and Simon Njami about current perspectives in contemporary African art.

Under the auspices of Chris Dercon, Tate Modern’s focus has increasingly been directed at Africa: along with photographic works by J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, David Goldblatt, and Samuel Fosso, the London exhibition house has purchased Gaba’s museum installation. In addition, the event series Across the Board explores current tendencies in contemporary art across the continent, with discussions and performances taking place not only in London, but also in Accra (Ghana), Douala (Cameroon), and Lagos (Nigeria).

Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung is regarded as one of the most active exhibition organizers in Berlin; he is editor-in-chief of the magazine Savvy|art.contemporary.african. African art plays a central role in his art space Savvy Contemporary—as was recently the case with the show Giving Contours To Shadows. The exhibition and research project investigated how history can be narrated from a non-Western-dominated perspective.

With his exhibition Africa Remix, which was on view from 2004–2007 in Düsseldorf, London, Paris, Tokyo, Stockholm, and Johannesburg, Simon Njami was able, for the first time, to garner major international attention for contemporary art from the continent. He also curated the African Pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale, and for ten years he ran the Bamako Photography Biennale. This year, Njami organized the show Divine Comedy. Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists at the MMK in Frankfurt.

In a discussion titled “Where did we come from, where are we going?,” Chris Dercon, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, and Simon Njami talk about the art scene in a region that for a long time was paid little attention in the West. Over the past several years, however, this has changed radically. Art from Africa has grown far more visible—at biennials, in institutions and galleries, at art fairs, such as 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London, and in the Deutsche Bank towers in Frankfurt, where works by artists such as Mohamed Camara, Samuel Fosso, and Wangechi Mutu each take up an entire floor. But in Africa itself, from Addis Abeba to Johannesburg, a large number of independent initiatives and art spaces have also established themselves that offer a forum for current positions. On the other hand, state institutions to support artists are rare.

The presentation of Meschac Gaba’s Museum of Contemporary African Art marks the beginning of a long-term cooperation between the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle and the Tate Modern. Over the next several years, three joint exhibitions will be dedicated to important artists from a non-Western context. Thus, for 2016 a show is planned with paintings by Bhupen Khakhar, one of India’s most important painters.

Contemporary African Art: Where did we come from, where are we going?
Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung (Savvy Contemporary) and Simon Njami (curator) talk with Chris Dercon (Director, Tate Modern)

Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, Berlin
10/23/2014, 6:30 p.m.