25 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Nation to Host Curatorial Forum

THE National Gallery of Zimbabwe working in partnership with the British Council will be hosting a Curatorial Forum and Professional Meeting at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo from today until Thursday. Other sponsors include the National Museum and Monuments and the Embassy of Angola who facilitated the Angolan curators' travel.

The forum is aimed at young, upcoming curators as a networking event and an opportunity to discuss key issues relating to the current state of curating in Africa. This will be followed by three-day closed-door sessions of sharing aimed at equipping emerging curators from the Southern and East African region. The forum is being held in Bulawayo in a bid to increase visibility as NGZ activities primarily take place in Harare.

The forum will explore some of the contemporary curatorial issues centred on collecting, curating, conserving, displaying and interpreting art in Africa. Closed-door sessions will be aimed at participants who are interested in investing in the theory and practice of critical curatorship. It is set to discuss key issues relating to the current state-of -the-art curatorship in Africa and to empower emerging curators.

NGZ curator Raphael Chikukwa said: "This forum is more like a curatorial indaba and we want to take this platform to share ideas and experiences to help grow the profession of curatorship in the country and in Africa. Let us work together for the growth of curatorship in the continent such that the African story will be told by Africans.

"Curatorship is a new thing and I am glad that the National Museums and Monuments has come on board and this collaboration shows that Zimbabwean art institutions are willing to work together. As part of the Sadc countries we need to rise up and show the world that collaboration is not just a mere talk.

"In empowering young curators from the African continent there is a real need to provide experience and understanding of taking African creativity to the world, as well as the challenges and benefits that this can present. If African curators are to take responsibility for representations of African art in and outside, we need to further advance dialogue and engagement with our Western counterparts. This is a knowledge sharing platform initiated by Africans in Africa; we meet more in the West than we do in Africa. Let us see this opportunity as a starting point so much that it can grow bigger."

Running alongside the forum will be an exhibition entitled "Pachipamwe", which is a celebration of a famed British artist, Chris Ofili, who did his first painting using cow dung in Bulawayo. Works by this artist that were recently donated by the artist and restored by conservators from the Tate Gallery will form the centre piece of a show featuring him and other artists that participated in the "Pachipamwe" workshop in 1991.

Some of the visiting curators include Gabi Ngcobo (South Africa), Jimmy Ogonga (Kenya), Suzana Sousa (Angola), Tessa Jackson (Invia, UK) and Raphael Chikukwa (National Gallery of Zimbabwe).

Gabi Ngcobo is an independent curator, creative researcher and educator based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has worked as assistant curator at the South African National Gallery in Cape Town and as head of research for Cape Africa Platform. She was a founding member of the Visual Arts Network of South Africa (VANSA).

In 2010 she co-curated "Rope-a-Dope: To Win a Losing War at Cabinet" in New York. Ngcobo is the head of the "Incubator for a Pan-African Biennale Taskforce", a year-long project arranged to facilitate the articulation of critical positions regarding the notion of a pan-African Biennial.

In 2010 she founded the Centre for Historical Re-enactments in Johannesburg, where she currently serves as director. Some of her curatorial projects include collaborative and individual projects. Projects include "Second to None" at Iziko South African National Gallery; "Olvida Quen Soy/ Erase Me From Who I Am" at CAAM, Canary Islands, Las Palmas in 2006; "Titled/Untitled", a curatorial collaboration with Cape Town- based collective Gugulective and "Scratching the Surface Vol. 1", a Manje-Manje Projects initiative at the AVA Gallery, Cape Town. Ngcobo's writings have been published in a number of publications, catalogues and art journals.

Ogonga is a Kenyan multi-media artist of international standing. Born in 1977 in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, Ogonga taught himself fine arts by drawing portraits. Often his subjects were political figures whose stories and activities were exposed to him while growing up in East Africa.

One of his missions is recreating African heroes through art. He has travelled to many countries exhibiting in Africa, North America and European art galleries. Ogonga started his sculptural works in the 1990s and 10 years later many of the collectors of his work have been drawn to his carved wood and welded metallic images.

In 2001, Ogonga founded of Nairobi Arts Trust Centre for Contemporary Art East Africa (CCAEA). CCAEA is an organisation that serves as an advocate for contemporary art and as a catalyst for the creation of significant art projects.

Suzana Sousa lives and works in Luanda as an independent curator, Suzana worked in a number of exhibitions that includes the Luanda Triennial. Currently, she is one of the Luanda Triennial curators.

She has attended a number of international forums in Korea, Nigeria, Spain, South Africa and many more. She has a degree in Artistic Studies (Compared Arts and Cultures) from the Faculdade de Letras of the Universidade de Lisboa and is studying for an MA in Post-colonial Cultures and Global Policy at Goldsmiths' College (Cultural Studies Department), University of London.

Jackson is currently chief executive officer of Iniva (Institute of Visual Arts at Rivington Place) in the United Kingdom. She has over 25 years' experience within the visual arts as a gallery director, curator and consultant on cultural policy and strategic planning in Britain and internationally. Tessa Jackson was the founding artistic director of Artes Mundi, Wales' International Visual Art Exhibition and Prize, a role she held from 2002-2010, combining this with running her own consultancy - International Cultural Development.

She was appointed as interim chief executive to Iniva in November 2008 and recently has curated exhibitions by NS Harsha and Chen Chieh-jen as well as Zineb Sedira.

Tessa Jackson has been awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for services to art. Tessa brings years of expertise in the visual arts industry and a much-needed perspective on exhibiting international visual arts in the UK context.

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