Contemporary African Artists Confronting Past & Present
Moody Center for the Arts | Rice University | Houston, TX
January 24 - May 16, 2020*
Radical Revisionists, guest curated by Rachel Kabukala, highlights work by Sammy Baloji, Serge Attukwei Clottey, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Omar Victor Diop, Adama Delphine Fawundu, Zanele Muholi, Robin Rhode, Yinka Shonibare CBE, Mary Sibande, and Pascale Marthine Tayou - contemporary artists from Africa and the Diaspora who are actively rewriting Western narratives that have dominated visual culture across the continent and the globe. Colonialism is often discussed within the context of stolen land and resources, but it has had a much more insidious impact on the world, manifested in the fracturing of cultures, looting of art and artifacts, denigration of religions, suppression of languages, and forced beauty ideals that glorify whiteness and European aesthetics. Despite our present “postcolonial” era, the number of artists addressing the topic today suggests there is much left to be examined.
The exhibition acknowledges and investigates the colonial past and postcolonial present through the work of these uncompromising artists who are revising and reframing history from their unique perspectives, shattering the narrow and reductive understanding of a uniform experience or response to these complex concepts. Nuanced links engage the viewer through portraiture anchored by an active, empowered gaze, and with a variety of mixed media work that reveals the material cost of colonialism. The two most salient themes that emerge are the ongoing effect of colonialism on the people of Africa and on their land and natural resources.
The resulting body of work presents a poignant opportunity for reflection, raising questions about established systems of knowledge production and existing power structures. Though the imagery is often very personal, there is universal resonance. Together these artworks raise questions about migration and displacement, representation and identity, consumerism and materialism, and the exploitation of land, resources, and people. By overthrowing static interpretations of past and present issues, these artists address glaring omissions in the art historical discourse and work to dismantle the hierarchies and power structures at play.
Moody Center for the Arts. Consulting Curator Rachel Kabukala on Artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby, 2020.
Photographs © Nash Baker
*Exhibition closed in mid-March 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic