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
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