In Memoriam: David Nthubu Koloane (1938-2019)

David Koloane in his studio at Bag Factory on January 21, 2011
Photo: Fiona Siegenthaler

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. David Koloane at his home on 30 June 2019. His rich, inspiring and deep commitment to life, art, and collaborative work has left an enormous imprint on what South African art is today. The development of a black art community during apartheid in South Africa, and the visibility of black South African art internationally in the years of transition cannot be imagined without his enormous contribution. While consistently developing his own artwork over more than five decades, Koloane created space for collaborative art practice, facilitated various formats of art education, mentored the young artist generations while grooming their historical foundations, mediated between diverse constituencies, and curated for local and international audiences.

My first encounter with Koloane took place in 2006 when I visited him in his studio at the Bag Factory where I hoped to learn a bit more about his personal narratives of Johannesburg – in addition to the complex and ambiguous relationship to this town so powerfully reflected in his paintings and drawings. I was overwhelmed by the open arms and spirit of David, the patience with which he described – not for the first time – the living conditions and the disparity between city center, Alexandra and Soweto at the time of his childhood, youth and adult age. It is this enormous generosity with time and attentive patience that made him the person he was – focused and tolerant, engaged and human, and an excellent observer and mediator.

Born in Alexandra in 1938, Koloane experienced Johannesburg as a city of racial and racist division and his own family was not spared from forced removal and economic distress caused by apartheid politics. On the other hand – or just for this reason – he never gave up in his endeavor to create space for black creation and art practice, and for the encounter and exchange of artists and intellectuals. His introduction to the Polly Street Art Center by his classmate Louis Maqhubela and later his involvement in the Johannesburg Art Foundation run by Bill Ainslie therefore were not just the beginning of his career as an artist, but also a spark for creating a spirit of collaborative artistic exchange that challenged racial limitations dictated by apartheid. Koloane later became the director of the first gallery dedicated to black artists and in 1978 acted as the first curator at the Federated Union of Black Artists (FUBA), an outstanding collective initiative of artists, writers and musicians at a time of entrenched apartheid politics. In 1985, he co-founded with Bill Ainslie and Kagiso Pat Mautloa the Thupelo workshops which offered two-week retreats outside the city and which proved crucial as a space to test experimental art practices. Together with Robert Loder, he founded the Fordsburg Artists’ Studios in 1991, popularly known as the Bag Factory, a cooperative space that continues to be a crucial institution on the South African art map. It has been welcoming artists from diverse racial, national and educational backgrounds since its beginnings at the dawn of democracy. Koloane could be found there during weekdays, along with his long-time studio mates Pat Mautloa and Sam Nhlengethwa and the many other artists who worked and continue to work there for shorter and longer periods of time.

Koloane’s sensibility for the power relations inherent in spatial organization was fundamental for all his cultural initiatives which were path-breaking in creating space and public attention for art by black artists. The David Koloane Award and the David Koloane Mentorship Programme offered by the Bag Factory are reflective of this engagement and Koloane’s passion in mentoring and teaching younger generations. As a curator, he cooperated with international colleagues in seminal exhibitions like Art from South Africa at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford (1990) or Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa at the Whitechapel Gallery in London (1995). As an author of numerous articles about black South African art history and art practice in key publications, Koloane confidently conscientized his audiences for the structural violence put on black creative work. He thereby always emphasized dialogue and conversation as a means of creating connections between people. The appreciation for his scholarly and educational efforts are reflected in the honorary doctorates he was awarded from Wits University in 2012 and from Rhodes University in 2015.

It is comforting to know that only weeks before his passing, David Koloane attended the opening of his retrospective exhibition, A Resilient Visionary: Poetic Expressions of David Koloane curated by Thembinkosi Goniwe at the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town. It is an acknowledgement of his enormous contribution as an artist, curator, teacher, mentor and activist to South African art and its appreciation locally and internationally.

Our sincere condolences go to his wife Monica, his family and friends. May David Koloane rest in peace after a rich, fulfilled and meaningful life, bequeathing an invaluable legacy of artistic mastery and cultural commitment to South Africa’s art world and beyond.

– Fiona Siegenthaler

ACASA 18th Triennial Symposium

Join us for ACASA’s 18th Triennial Symposium in Chicago, June 16-21, 2020 at DePaul University and the Art Institute of Chicago. For registration and more information, click here.  

ACASA Award for Curatorial Excellence

The Award for Curatorial Excellence recognize the important contributions to the dissemination and understanding of African and African Diaspora Arts made through exhibitions.  Exhibitions related to permanent collections, loan shows, commissioned works or community interventions organized by museums, galleries, cultural centers, and exhibition spaces of all sorts are eligible. Three awards for curatorial excellence will be given.

Exhibition eligibility:  September 1, 2016 through August 30, 2019. Nominees must be ACASA members in good standing. Join ACASA

Criteria for consideration for this award include exhibitions that:

  • Generate new scholarship across the humanities
  • Open new perspectives on the field
  • Collaborate with and/or contribute to local or stakeholder communities
  • Demonstrate innovative approaches to exhibition design and presentation
  • Demonstrate innovative uses of technology

Application materials to submit:

  • Cover page indicating title of exhibition, dates, venue(s), curator(s) names
  • Synopsis of exhibition (one-page)
  • Sample publication where applicable. This can include PDFs of take-away brochures, exhibition preview article or other means of documentation and distribution of project. If no publication was possible, please submit a bibliography of 5 key sources germane to the show’s thesis or points of departure.
  • Sample didactics (labels or other interpretive materials, such as on-line description, that demonstrate the exhibition’s intellectual content and curatorial vision. Not to exceed 3-pages)
  • Visual documentation: up to 5 still digital images, at least one of which must show installation, context or performance space; up to 2 videos or links, not to exceed 3 minutes in length to document performance or time-based projects.
  • Link to or documentation of innovative uses of technology or interactive engagement
  • Description of institution, organization or entity originating the exhibition (for example museum, independent art space, pop-up…, including mission, history, collection (if applicable), size, staff, budget, audience and other information pertinent to understanding the context in which the exhibition emerged.
  • Documentation of community response. Up to three (3) examples that demonstrate various perspectives. These might include emails, sample entries from audience response books, or social media postings and not just critical or press reviews.

Submissions should be received by November 15, 2019 at epjones@arts.ucla.edu

2017  Awards for Curatorial Excellence

Karen E. Milbourne, Earth Matters, National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C., April 22, 2013 – March 2014

Jean Borgatti, Global Africa, Fitchburg Art Museum, November 2014 – August 2017

Antawan I. Byrd and Yves Chatap, [Re]Generations, Musée du District de Bamako, October 31 – December 31, 2015

In Memoriam: Marilyn Eiseman Heldman (1935-2019)

The loss of Marilyn Eiseman Heldman (June 12, 1935 – July 15, 2019) marks the passing of a brilliant scholar and generous colleague who pioneered the study of Ethiopian art. Her work on the illustrated manuscripts and devotional icons of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church examined issues of patronage, spirituality and inspiration.

Her 1972 PhD thesis on the Miniatures of the Gospels of Princess Zir Gānēlā, an Ethiopic Manuscript Dated A.D. 1400/01, is, to this day, the only work which provides an overview of all the illustrated features of medieval Ethiopic Gospel books. Covering a wide range of visual evidence, the study traces the pictorial sources and religious practices which shaped the work of Ethiopian illuminators active towards the turn of the fifteenth century.  She was among the first art historians to study historical devotional Ethiopian artworks with this kind of depth.

In her book, The Marian Icons of the Painter Frē Ṣeyon: A Study in Fifteenth-century Ethiopian Art, Patronage, and Spirituality, Heldman begins with a single work of art as a window into the religious paintings traditions of the mid 1400’s. Frē Ṣeyon, a monk from the monastery of Dabra Gwegweben, signed only one painting, but by comparing stylistic and iconographical characteristics to other mural and panel paintings, Heldman was able to assign an entire oeuvre of painting to this monk and to identify the Byzantine and Italian prototypes. 

Heldman was also much involved in the organization and catalogue of the exhibition African Zion: The Sacred Art of Ethiopia (1993). This landmark exhibition, which brought Ethiopian art to the attention of the American public, remains unsurpassed. The art historical essays in the catalogue, written by Heldman, combine clarity with academic rigour. It is also worth remembering that Heldman, in the second of her five essays in this volume, was the first scholar to suggest, on stylistic grounds, that the Garima Gospels were produced during late antiquity, a hypothesis that would be later confirmed by C-14 dating.

-Jacopo Gnisci and Peri Klemm

Call for projects: Dak’Art – Biennial of Contemporary African Art

DAK’ART – Biennial of Contemporary African Art will be held from 28 May to 28 June 2020 in Dakar, under the high patronage of the President of the Republic of Senegal. This fourteenth edition, which marks the biennial’s 30th anniversary, will have the general theme Ĩ’Ndaffa / Out of the fire.

Ĩ’Ndaffa, in Serer language, means to forge. It is a verb that denotes the dynamics and the action of creating, recreating and kneading. This general theme refers to the creation of a new and autonomous world, which nourishes the diversity of contemporary African creativities, while projecting new ways of telling and approaching Africa, in a constant dialogue and interaction with the rest of the world.

The call for applications to the biennial’s International Exhibition is open from 1 July to 15 September 2019. It is open to all artists from Africa and the Diaspora, working across all aesthetic mediums and contemporary art forms.

Applications are to be sent by email to candidature2020@biennaledakar.org and by post before 15 September 2019 to Secrétariat général de la Biennale de Dakar, 19 avenue Hassan II, 1er Etage, BP: 3865 Dakar, SENEGAL.

The concept note and the application form are available on DAK’ART website.

African Critical Inquiry Programme Announces 2019 Ivan Karp Doctoral Research Awards

The African Critical Inquiry Programme has named Bronwyn Kotzen and Ngozi May Okafor as recipients of the 2019 Ivan Karp Doctoral Research Awards. Kotzen is a South African student pursuing her PhD in Human Geography at the University of Cape Town. Okafor is a Nigerian student doing her degree at the Centre for Visual Art at University of KwaZulu-Natal. Support from ACIP’s Ivan Karp Awards will allow each to do significant research for their dissertations. Kotzen will do research in Johannesburg, South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria for her project, Abstracting the Concrete: Tracing the Political Economy of Infrastructure in Africa Through a Study of Cement. Okafor’s research for her project Firing: Exploring the Ceramic Process as Rite of Passage will include work with Zulu potters in South Africa and Ushafa potters in Nigeria, as well as her own creative ceramic work. Founded in 2012, the African Critical Inquiry Programme (ACIP) is a partnership between the Centre for Humanities Research at University of the Western Cape in Cape Town and the Laney Graduate School of Emory University in Atlanta. Supported by donations to the Ivan Karp and Corinne Kratz Fund, the ACIP fosters thinking and working across public cultural institutions, across disciplines and fields, and across generations. It seeks to advance inquiry and debate about the roles and practice of public culture, public cultural institutions, and public scholarship in shaping identities and society in Africa through an annual ACIP Workshop and through the Ivan Karp Doctoral Research Awards, which support African doctoral students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences enrolled at South African universities.

About Bronwyn Kotzen’s project: For the first time since post-WWII industrial modernization, the significance of infrastructure has emerged as a point of broad consensus for critiques of untenable models of current economic growth. This has marked a radical global policy shift to development at the urban-scale, which Africa has only recently begun to mirror. Yet, the complex and interconnected geo-political and economic forces that drive Africa’s urban development and produce its infrastructures remain largely obscured. This project seeks to read contemporary processes of infrastructural development in Africa through the material lens of cement in order to formulate a much- needed post-neoliberal interrogation of African urban development. Second only to water, concrete is the most widely consumed substance on earth. As concrete’s raw material, cement is the foundation of modern development and is therefore the project’s primary site of investigation. The research moves beyond individual localised sites and cases to draw out generalisable patterns of development at a regional level, outside of the particularities of place and time. Pan-African cement flows are traced as a ‘matter’ of the political economy of infrastructure. This offers a reading of the continent not as a bounded geographical location but rather as series of spatio-temporal interconnections that make visible the myriad of global influences, relations, and shifting formations of development hierarchies. Combining politics and economics with geography and materiality reveals the far-reaching and connected places and powers of which Africa is composed. Working across disciplines and registers, Abstracting the Concrete attempts to advance the theory, method, and critique of infrastructure in the postcolonial world, toward recalibrating a meaningful African urban studies agenda.

About Ngozi May Okafor’s project: In many societies, the practices of pottery-making and initiation rites seem to be in decline. Researchers of both rites of passage and pottery (together with its broader category, ceramics), therefore, continually seek new ways of interpreting the practices in order to sustain and enliven them. My interest in the processes of pottery making among indigenous potters has led me to go beyond the finished product to reconsider the performative ‘art’ and ‘act’ of creating potteries. In several native cultures, the process of creating pottery is likened to childbirth; it can also suggest a people’s state of being. Furthermore, pottery wares are seen as having humanoid qualities. What relationships exist between pottery and rites of passage? With the growing need to creatively design rites that mark individual and group transitions from one state of being to another, how can those relationships inform creativity in passage rituals? Moreover, what creative ideas might those relationships stimulate for self-expressions through installation and performance? Combining my practice as a ceramic artist and research with Zulu potters in South Africa and Ushafa potters in Nigeria (both of whom also practice initiation rites), this study will explore possible parallels between pottery/ceramics and rites of passage, with a focus on their transitional phases – firing and liminality, respectively. Contextual and documentary reviews, fieldwork, and studio experiments will be the methods of data collection. Deploying rites of passage theories, Firing: Exploring the Ceramic Process as Rite of Passage shall bring fresh perspectives to the ways in which ceramics practice can be viewed, re-interpreted, and also present broader narratives for self-expressions. The project will result in both a written dissertation as well as an exhibition and catalogue of visual art works resulting from the study’s creative explorations.
Information about the 2020 Ivan Karp Doctoral Research Awards for African students enrolled in South African Ph.D. programmes will be available in November 2019. The application deadline is 1 May 2020.

For further information, see http://www.gs.emory.edu/about/special/acip.html and https://www.facebook.com/ivan.karp.corinne.kratz.fund.

African Studies Association Awards

The African Studies Association is pleased to announce that they are accepting nominations for the following awards and prizes in 2019. All applications are due April 30, 2019.

The ASA Book Prize (Herskovits Prize) is awarded to the author of the most important scholarly work in African studies published in English during the preceding year..

The ASA Program Cover Art Prize recognizes the best artwork submitted that directly addresses the Annual Meeting theme. This year’s theme is “Being, Belonging, and Becoming in Africa”.

The ASA Film Prize recognizes an outstanding film, whether fiction or documentary, made in the preceding two calendar years by an African filmmaker.

The Bethwell A. Ogot Book Prize is awarded to the author of the best book on East African Studies published in the previous calendar year.

The Distinguished Africanist Award recognizes a lifetime of distinguished contributions to African studies. Deadline for nominations: April 30.

The Paul Hair Prize is presented every two years and is awarded to the best critical edition or translation into English of primary source materials on Africa published during the preceding two years.

The Gretchen Walsh Book Donation Award offers an annual grant program to assist book donation projects with shipping costs to send books to African libraries and schools.

In Memoriam: Marshall Ward Mount (1927-2018)

I learned of Marshall Ward Mount’s November 25, 2018 passing from my aunt this past January. A Jersey City native, like Marshall, she had been thrilled by my first visit to the storied Mount home more than twelve years ago. The opportunity to view the African art collection he had amassed over decades of research travel to the continent made a lasting impression. While enrolled in Professor Mount’s Arts of Africa course as an undergraduate at New York University, I, along with hundreds of students from Marshall’s six decades of teaching, was exposed to the history of African art for the first time. His passion and enthusiasm for the subject impressed me. His personal attachments to the objects, to their lives and stories intrigued me. The box of Paul Wingert’s African art prints that I purchased for the class still sits on my bookshelf – a reminder of my introduction to a canon of objects that I’ve since learned to deconstruct, complicate and expand. Some of that crucial work began by later reading Marshall’s own book, African Art: The Years Since 1920 (1973), the research for which he received a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship as a student of Paul Wingert’s at Columbia University. This book is integral to the historiography of modern and contemporary African art history. With a generous and encouraging spirit, Marshall eagerly supported me in the early stages of my career. He introduced me to individuals whose own generosity made the pursuit of a life in art history seem possible. As I look back through my correspondence with Marshall, I am reminded of just how significant his support was to my own growth in this field. I visited Marshall and his wife Caroline’s Jersey City home for a second time while research assistant for the Arts of Africa collection at the Newark Museum. Beyond the thrill of viewing his collection with more discerning eyes, I remember Marshall’s stories. In one, he joyfully recounted his return from one of his first trips to the African continent. With a twinkle of mischief in his eye, he recalled the moth infestation that took hold in his mother’s home when he opened the crates of art and textiles he brought back from his trip, an inevitable inconvenience of the journey. Through his collecting and teaching, Marshall allowed me, and so many others, to witness firsthand the ways African objects and narratives have been mobilized to take root in the cultural imagination, both far and very near. He brought African art “home” for me as a fellow New Jerseyan and opened my eyes to the world right outside my door. Donations may be made in Marshall Ward Mount’s memory to the African Wildlife Fund.

By Perrin Lathrop, PhD Candidate, Princeton University

Tribute to Professor Christopher Damon Roy (1947-2019)

A great tree has fallen.
Akan proverb

Picture taken by Nora Leonard Roy at Ouri, Burkina Faso, ca. 1985.

Today we mourn the loss of an extraordinary man. Professor Christopher Damon Roy passed away early on the morning of Sunday, February 10 in Iowa City, surrounded by his immediate family. Chris was born September 30, 1947, in Ogdensburg, New York, to Margaret Adam Snow and George Robert Roy. He and his wife, Nora Leonard Roy, were married at the Hôtel de Ville, Ouagadougou, Upper Volta, on September 26, 1970. He leaves his beloved wife, Nora; his son, Nicholas Spencer Roy (Jill Scott); his daughter, Megan Deirdre Roy (John Dolci), and granddaughter, Sylvia Elizabeth Dolci; his sister, Robin Roy Katz (Michael Katz) and nephew Teddy Katz; his brother, Matthew Roy (Caroline Darlington Roy); nieces Katelin and Emily, and nephews Robby and Chris. Those close to Chris will remember him well for his sincere warmth, delightful wit, and bold sense of humor. Always approaching life with a sense of adventure, his robust energy and fascination with the world was contagious during his forty-one years at the University of Iowa.

Throughout his career, Chris devoted much of his attention to the arts of Burkina Faso and the Max and Betty Stanley Collection of African art. His writing on the Thomas G.B. Wheelock Collection is well known, and many will remember him for his catalog on the Bareiss Family Collection. Over the years, he contributed regularly to African Arts, where he published on his research in Burkina, reviewed exhibitions, and engaged in current debates. His 1980 review of Traditional Sculpture from Upper Volta remains one of the sharpest critiques in the field. In 2015, he published his most recent book, Mossi: Diversity in the Art of a West African People,as well as an essay, “The Art Market in Burkina Faso: A Personal Recollection,” included in Silvia Forni and Christopher Steiner’s Africa in the Market: Twentieth-Century Art from the Amrad Collection. His Art of the Upper Volta Rivers (1987) remains a standard text on the subject.

In addition to this, Chris produced over twenty self-narrated video recordings on the arts of Africa, and all are freely accessibly online. He and Linda McIntyre released Art & Life in Africa (ALA) as a CD-ROM in 1997 and sold thousands of copies throughout North America. In 2014, he worked with Dr. Catherine Hale and Cory Gundlach to redevelop ALA as a website, which has had nearly 500,000 users. As a leader in his field, Chris founded and directed the UI Project for Advanced Study of Art and Life in Africa (PASALA), which provided scholarships for graduate course work and research in Africa, as well as conferences and publications on African art.

Chris’s impact as a professor was no less remarkable. Every fall semester, twice a week, nearly 300 students packed the largest lecture hall at Art Building West to attend his survey course on African art. High enrollment was common for his all courses, as he was a gifted storyteller and he understood the power of keeping his students entertained with occasional humor. A long history of work with the Stanley Museum of Art supported his object-oriented approach to teaching, which he complemented with a social history of art. He oversaw the completion of fifteen doctoral dissertations, and many of his former students are now employed in major institutions throughout the country.

From 1985 to 1995 at the Stanley Museum of Art, Chris served as curator of the arts of Africa, the Pacific, and Pre-Columbian America. He curated fourteen exhibitions during his university career among museums in Iowa, China, Austria, and Germany. Scholars reviewed his exhibitions at the Stanley Museum positively for the way in which artistic quality drove his motivations for selection and display, and for the way in which he treated attribution carefully.

Beyond his scholarship, teaching, multi-media projects and exhibitions, Chris’s YouTube videos on art and life in Africa have reached perhaps the widest audience, with more than 10,000 subscribers and over four million viewers worldwide. It is encouraging to think that the world is a better place because of Chris and all of those touched by his warmth and brilliance.

To contribute to the Christopher D. Roy Memorial Fund, go to www.givetoiowa.org/2019la98. This fund will give UI art history students the opportunity to gain valuable intern experience at the Stanley Museum of Art.

by Cory Gundlach
UI Stanley Museum of Art

In Memoriam: Bisi Silva (1962-2019)

Picture by by Ayo Adewunmi

It is difficult to speak about Bisi in the past tense! Bisi Silva was born in Lagos in 1962 and died on the 12 of February, 2019. She was the founder and artistic director of the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Lagos established in 2007. In the 11 years of its existence, her Centre became ‘the’ Centre of art in Nigeria. Bisi centred the discourse on contemporary African art on the continent and brought several international scholars, artists and curators to Nigeria. Her Centre became a gateway for establishing connections between local artists and international audiences. It brought joy, laughter and professional fulfilment to many. Bisi lived a short but purposeful life. She brought to the art scene a high-level of professionalism and impacted both young and old artists through her unique exhibitions and artists talks/programmes. She was a scholar and curator extraordinaire and internationally recognised for her immense contribution to art scholarship. She developed the art of photography, video art and other aspects of new media which were largely underserved in Nigeria at the time.

She transformed the careers of a good number of artists and curators from all over the world.  She will be fondly remembered for the Asiko curatorial school. At home, Bisi made it possible for young art graduates to think of establishing careers as curators. She supported several art programmes in different parts of Nigeria and endowed prizes for the best entries in the arts at national competitions. She made donations to many art programmes and projects. Bisi curated several local and international exhibitions and biennales, too numerous to mention here.

Bisi was simple, kind hearted and generous.  She was beautiful, well spoken, talented, focused, bold and fearless.  She spoke strongly against mediocrity and disrespect for women and expressed her views freely.
She was a lover of books. She developed the most comprehensive library of art books in the country. The Centre and library located in Yaba, Lagos was in close proximity to the major art schools in Lagos which made it accessible to many college students. Indeed, the Centre benefited from this pool of students who served in different capacities in administering it. Despite her busy schedule, she found time to give lectures in schools, carry out portfolio reviews and visit exhibition and talks. Here was a scholar who gave her all to the development of art in Nigeria.

What a life full of achievements! She will be missed by the global community of artists. Asiko, the name of her curatorial project means time. Her time is up, but her legacy continues!

Olabisi Silva, Odigba, Sun re o. Rest in peace.

By Peju Layiwola, ACASA Board President Elect / VP