The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan argued that the unconscious represents our social being – and to determine our identity we must go through the process of seeing ourselves from the outside as subjects to activate our subjective consciousness. One way to better understand who we are is to activate our subconscious in the form of art – to reckon with the self. On a communal level, art can be a safe place to explore our subconscious – to share our dreams, fears, etc.
An epic show at Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium in Oslo, curated by London gallerist Kristin Hjellegjerde, is attempting to create a safe place for communal self-reflection – specifically for contemporary African artists. The first show of its kind in Scandinavia, the show brings together 33 artists from 18 different African countries, enabling a powerful platform for contemporary artists to share their own subconscious in such a way as to highlight the diversity of thought and identity on the African continent. Instead of forcing a narrative that ties all the artists together, the show “Kubatana” (which translates to “togetherness” in the Shona language of Zimbabwe) loosely binds each distinct artwork into a fabric of communal dialogue but with the freedom to explore their own themes.
Dawit Abebe’s stunning large-scale drawings showcase man destroying his natural habitat in the name of evolution and the continuation of social hierarchies, ultimately alienating us from ourselves and our roots. On the other hand, Amadou Sanogo’s abstract paintings pay homage to his Malian roots – exploring his place and Malian society in global politics and the justice system. And Armand Boua’s densely composed portraits of Ivorian children remind us of the societal fallout from political greed, with a specific emphasis on how political conflict can result in mass marginalization and exploitation. As Boua says “I wanted to show their suffering, their way of life’, he says, ‘so that people are finally aware of this painful reality they pretend not to see.”
I love most of the artists included in the show and am excited for them to take the stage in a new market as a collective body – further demonstrating how African art comes in various shapes and sizes and represents a diversity of identities. The 33 artists included in the show:
Dawit Abebe (Ethiopia), Aboudia (Côte d’Ivoire), Igshaan Adams (South Africa), Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou (Republic of Benin), Amina Agueznay (Morocco), Lhola Amira (South Africa), Joël Andrianomearisoa (Madagascar), Yassine Balbzioui (Morocco), Takunda Regis Billiat (Zimbabwe), Armand Boua (Côte d’Ivoire), Lizette Chirrime (Mozambique), Gerald Chukwuma (Nigeria), Serge Attulowei Clottey (Ghana), Ibrahim El-Salahi (Sudan), Gabrielle Goliath (South Africa), Eddy KamuangaIlunga (Democratic Republic of Congo), Cyrus Kabiru (Kenya), Abdoulaye Konaté (Mali), Gonçalo Mabunda (Mozambique), Ibrahim Mahama (Ghana), Troy Makaza (Zimbabwe), Zanele Muholi (South Africa), Wycliffe Mundopa (Zimbabwe), Niyi Olagunju (Nigeria), Sadikou Oukpedjo (Togo), Cinga Samson (South Africa), Amadou Sanogo (Mali), Ephrem Solomon (Ethiopia), SanléSory (Burkina Faso), Khadidiatiou Sow (Senegal), Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum (Botswana), Moffat Takadiwa (Zimbabwe), Billie Zangewa (Malawi).
Kubatana rus through September 21st at Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium in Oslo.