Africa 05

…The last time that London saw anything like this was of course ‘africa 95’, on which this latest initiative appears to have been modelled. ‘Africa 05’ provides a useful barometer of the commitment (or lack thereof) of major London galleries towards the art of Africa. With the dubious exception of exhibitions such as the Serpentine’s showing of William Kentridge, ‘Africa 05’ reminds us that it has been a full decade since many of London’s major galleries exhibited any art fro Africa. If London’s biggest galleries are only prepared to take art from Africa seriously once every ten years, and if the ‘africa 95’/’Africa 05’ model is the one with which we are saddled, then there can presumably be little genuine hope of African art gaining lasting acceptance and prominence. Several months of feast followed by a decade of famine doesn’t make any sense. Furthermore, once-a-decade festivals are guaranteed to ensure the continued marginalisation of art from Africa, assuming that we accept as a certainty the debatably premise that contemporary African art has indeed yet to take up a prominent place in the so-called mainstream…

…The whole ‘Africa 05’ enterprise has very uncomfortable overtones of those liberal abolitionists who took the view that, if only the world – or more specifically, the slave-trading powers – could see how civlised and cultured Africans could become, then scales would fall from ignorant eyes and the iniquities of slavery would instantly become apparent, swiftly leading to the demise of the institution. In contemporary terms, this translates into the idea that if only the West, or, more specifically, the art world could see how modern and contemporary Africans and their art have become, then caricatures would inevitably be dispelled and African art could be shown all over the place. But the art world has already taken African art to its bosom, and any lingering pejorative attitudes towards Africa will never be dislodged, not even by a spectacular blowout such as ‘Africa 05’.’Africa 15’ anyone?

The above extracts are from a critique by Eddie Chambers of “Africa 05”, Art Monthly, London, Number 284, March 2005: 44