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For the fifth year in a row, the an­nual !Kauru Con­tem­po­rary African Art ex­hi­bi­tion con­sid­ers is­sues af­fect­ing the con­ti­nent by us­ing vis­ual arts. Gar­reth van Niek­erk speaks to this year’s cu­ra­tors from An­gola and Zim­babwe

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fricans from across the di­as­pora and on the con­ti­nent have em­braced the power of vis­ual arts as a tool to es­ca­late the pro­ject of de­coloni­sa­tion, most re­cently in South Africa – with its freshly fallen mon­u­ments and newly mo­bilised task teams.

But what has the de­coloni­sa­tion pro­ject cre­ated? What do we do next? Who gets to con­trib­ute to the big­ger plan? Th­ese ques­tions will take years to an­swer, if at all, but the artists in this year’s !Kauru Con­tem­po­rary African Art pro­ject at­tempt to dis­man­tle, erase and re­write them, ask­ing us: “How do we con­struct our evolv­ing un­der­stand­ing of what it means to be an African?”

The se­ries of col­lab­o­ra­tive ex­hi­bi­tions, work­shops and talks – cre­ated in con­junc­tion with the de­part­ment of arts and cul­ture – opens at the Unisa Art Gallery on Africa Day ev­ery year.

This year’s theme, Be­ing and Be­com­ing: Com­plex­i­ties of the African Iden­tity, in­vites cu­ra­tors, artists and in­sti­tu­tions from around the world to ex­press their in­ter­est in cre­at­ing a di­a­logue about the con­ver­sa­tions tak­ing place in and about Africa.

Tshep­iso Mohlala, the di­rec­tor of the !Kauru pro­ject and founder of the Black Col­lec­tor’s Fo­rum, told #Trend­ing this week: “The rea­son I part­nered with the de­part­ment of arts and cul­ture five years ago was to try to use what tools I have to ad­dress the past four years of xeno­pho­bic at­tacks, which re­ally af­fected me.

“We look at is­sues of racism, de­colonis­ing and ac­ces­si­bil­ity to art through the eyes of the peo­ple on the con­ti­nent who are al­ready ad­dress­ing those is­sues.”

The fo­cus of !Kauru falls largely on video and pho­tog­ra­phy work, with older pieces such as Moyo – a leg­endary 2013 video work by Zim­bab­wean artist Kudzanai Chi­u­rai – and newer works such as Ci­mar­ron by Amer­i­can-born, Joburg-based artist Ayana V Jack­son, which are be­ing pre­sented along­side one another.

One of the ex­hi­bi­tion’s cu­ra­tors, Raphael Chikukwa, who is the chief cu­ra­tor of the Na­tional Gallery of Zim­babwe, said this nod to the past cre­ated a con­text for the work of con­tem­po­rary artists.

He told #Trend­ing this week: “There is a need to look back at those who came be­fore us; at those who have

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