Feedback: Art, Africa, and the Eighties looks at the 1980s from both a historical and contemporary perspective, a time at which social change and political unrest was a major reference point also for artistic expression on the African continent. It examines the social, political, and economic realities in Africa of that decade through the creative visions of artists, then and now. Shaped by social uprisings, protests, civil conflicts, coups d'état, famine, and both military and civilian dictatorships, the 1980s marked the beginning of the formation of visions of political independences in Africa. It was also the last decade of the Cold War. Although many African countries tried to avoid taking sides, they became a sort of testing ground for the Western and Eastern blocs to conduct social, political and economical experiments. These experiments caused economic consequences across nations. However, the 1980s were also a time when new radical utopias began to take shape, such as Thomas Sankara’s revolutionary politics in Burkina Faso. In addition, the end of Apartheid in South Africa was finally appearing on the horizon. Thus, the African continent was at once the continent of “no future” and a space for the formulation of new visions - which impacted the post-Cold War times era after 1989.
Scholars of contemporary African art have argued that this climate of change and uncertainty in the 1980s produced a new kind of cultural mobilization in many African countries. Artists began to address the negative impacts of neo-colonialism at a national and a continental level. This shift of focus made way for new forms of artistic production in Africa. Feedback: Art, Africa and the 1980s highlights a tapestry of perspectives in works by artists at various stages in their professional careers. Some of the artists were very young in the 1980s and can now examine the decade from different perspective. Their present-day works and artistic responses will be presented in dialogue with works produced during the 1980s, thus creating “feedback loops” - a discourse about the 1980s and its impact on post-1990 contemporary African art.
Feedback: Art, Africa, and the 1980s highlights key aspects of the art and cultural history of a critical period in Africa through art, music, film, and archival materials from Iwalewahaus, University of Bayreuth, Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt, and Makerere University’s Art Gallery, Kampala (Uganda). These collections serve as important repositories with which to map the contour of artistic practice in Africa in the 1980s with a focus on Nigeria, Senegal, DR Congo, South Africa, and Kenya. Founded in 1981, Iwalewahaus is an institution that is also anchored in the 1980s. It was one the first institutions dedicated to modern and contemporary African art through exhibitions, collecting, and ancillary activities. For this reason, a section of the Feedback: Art, Africa and the 1980s exhibition will map the Iwalewahaus’ first decade as, arguably, the most important space for African art and artists in Europe.
Featured artists include Amadou Ba, Fodé Camara, Lionel Davis, Baba Dia, Ndidi Dike, El Anatsui, El Hadji Sy, Ibrahim El Salahi, Theo Eshetu, Adebisi Fabunmi, Euridice Kala, Kangudia, David Koloane, Muwonge Mathias Kyazze, Ezrom Legae, Huda Lutfi, Maitre Syms, Spoek Mathambo, George Msimango, Peter Mulindwa, John Muafangejo, Lukama N’gazu, Sam Nhlengethwa, Moke, Olu Oguibe, Ronex Ahimbisibwe, Amadou Seck, Etale Polycarp Sukuro, Twins Seven Seven, Obiora Udechukwu, Beatrice Wanjiku, Ezra Wube, and Hervé Youmbi.
Curation: Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi (Cleveland Museum of Art)
Project management: Nadine Siegert
Curation assistance: Lukas Heger, Christina Heydenreich, Alexandra Kuhnke, Martha Kazungu, Lena Naumann