Art Criticism & Curatorial Practices in Marginal Contexts – Addis Ababa, 26-28 January 2006

This three-day combined seminar and workshop for young curators and critics in the region, supported by UNESCO, is the next in an ongoing series, arranged on the initiative of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA). It follows similar, successful events in Dakar (June 2003) and Istanbul (September 2003).
The Seminar will focus on the issues arising in socially and economically complex situations that prevail in Ethiopia and many other countries in the broad region of English-speaking Africa, the Middle East and South-East Europe. The main conference language will be English. A publication will be produced at the end of the event, in the aica press series, ‘Round Tables and Debates’.
There is plenty of evidence for a rapid growth in the number of public art galleries, contemporary art biennials and alternative art events of all kinds throughout these regions, in recent years, as the products both of the growing number of people who are involved with the teaching of art criticism, cultural studies and art history, and with new developments in the curatorial practice of those who are interested in finding new ways of communicating with a larger public. This global phenomenon deserves to be discussed in relation to individuals’ different experiences and analysed on a theoretical basis, in relation to future projects.
The three-day workshop-seminar is intended for a wide audience of art professionals and the general public, with special emphasis on students and young professionals (artists, educators, curators, critics) from the region.

This seminar will take place in the premises of the Alliance Française, to their kind invitation and partnership.


The outline programme is as follows :

Muzie Awel (Director, Addis Ababa Art School, Ethiopia)

SESSION ONE : Venice and Kassel as a possible goal

This session will briefly record the geographical and political backgrounds against which were established the Venice Biennale and Documenta in the period of the Cold War, and how the cutting off from the influence of communist countries up to the fall of the Berlin Wall has seen the global spread of capitalism and the redistribution of wealth and power. This raises the question of the paradoxical roles now played by Venice and Kassel, in promoting the cause of the ‘new internationalism’ in art. Answers to this, and clues to the new situation will be sought in an analysis of the last two Venice Biennales and Documenta 11.

Ramon Tio Bellido (Secretary-General, AICA, France)
Zoran Eric (Art historian and curator, Serbia-Montenegro) : “Feed the World Let them know it’s Christmastime again” (Band Aid)
Zoran Eric wants to appreciate different histories, different genealogies of art and to use the bottom, up analysis of local contexts to try to find universalising potential of art that could be globally readable and comprehensive, not only from the perspective of the colonising view or fitting into the cultural stereotypes of the distinctive region (Balkan) or even in a more generalised way a particular continent (Africa).
Andrew Lamprecht (Editor of, lecturer in Theory and Discourse of Art at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town South Africa) : Left Field Out : Africa at the Venice Biennale
Andrew Lamprecht will examine the participation of Africa in the last two Venice Biennales and some “focus on Africa” events critically to assess how much they truly aid the causes of African art production, artists and curators.
Sajid Rizvi (Managing Editor of Eastern Art Publishing, UK) : African Art and Britain
Britain was hosting Africa05 in 1995 and is also hosting Africa05 this year. The intervening period has seen a perceptible growth in interest in African art and art education, geared to a better understanding of African and cultures but, when viewed against developments in the Afro-Caribbean communities in Britain, these advances raise more questions than answers. The two major events, however, have proved to be a boon to African art practitioners seeking an opening in the West.
Elisabeth Wolde Giorgis (Director of the Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) : Ethiopian Art in a Changing World
Albert Chimedza (Founding Director of the Mbira Centre, Zimbabwe) : Zimbabwe in the International Context of Art and its Presence in Venice

SESSION TWO : Cairo/ Alexandria/ Dakar/ Gwangju/ Havana/ Istanbul/ Manifesta and back

This session will continue the analysis of the first one and take into consideration some examples of Biennials or events that have been started (or restructured) in the last fifteen to twenty years. The discussion will focus on current issues affecting the ways in which contemporary art is produced and distributed, away from the principal centers in Western Europe and North America, and will make particular reference to the changing role of artist, critic and curator.

Henry Meyric Hughes (International President AICA, UK)
Meskerem Assegued (Director of Zoma Contemporary Art Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) : Searching for an Identity with Contemporary Curatorial Practices
This presentation briefly adresses the history of the Dak’Art biennale and is trying to achieve in its social and geopolitical context. It then expends on the activites of contemporary African artists, curators and their various audiences today.
Niilofur Farrukh (Editor of Nukta, Pakistan) : An Agenda of Conscience
This paper addresses issues related to the expanding role of the art critic as an analyst, mediator and activist in youg democracies like Pakistan.
Bassam El-Baroni (Art Critic Curator, Egypt) : Remodeling required: Official Biennales in Egypt and International Biennale Culture
The talk aims to examine why the Cairo and Alexandria Biennales in Egypt are not faring very well Internationally and are also loosing ground locally to independently organized art events, as well as suggesting the courses of action that need to be taken to advance both events.

[Ahu Antmen (Art critic, Turkey) : Istanbul’s International Biennial : The City as Context - or Confinement ?
The latest edition of the Istanbul Biennial has gone a step further in underlining the idea of Istanbul : almost an ironical reference to all past biennials, the 9th Biennial sought to stress the idea of this city as a “post-postmodern” megalopolis. Will the city then confine artists to its exhausted past and present clichés, or succeed in proposing itself as a model for other biennials that focus on the context of cities ?]
[Khaled Hafez (Artist and curator, Egypt) : Over Two Decades of Cairo Biennale : uniqueness, life cycle and effect on current contemporary art practice
Through a short history of African and Middle-East Biennales of art, Khaled Hafez will draw up a panorama of the Egyptian art scene, especially in Cairo.]

SESSION THREE : Knocking on an Alien’s Door (*)
(*) [The title is partly a quote from Bob Dylan’s song]

An examination and critical discussion of all forms of visual expression that might be referred to as ‘contemporary art’, and especially those stemming from a non-western cultural context, which might just equally well relate to other indigenous forms of expression. There will also be an attempt to evaluate what might be done to increase audiences for contemporary art, in all its manifestations, to heighten public awareness of its relevance, and to engage constructively with the local context.

Stephen Wright (art critic & philosopher, Canada/ France)
Danda Jaroljmek (Director, Kuona Trust, Kenya) : About the Kuona Trust’s Activities
This talk will focus on the contemporary visual arts scene in Kenya, with some reference to other art centres with which the Kuona Trust works closely in some other countries of Africa.
Sacha Craddock (Art critic and co-founder of The Art School in Palestine) : Art School Palestine
Sacha Craddock will talk about her recent initiative : Art School Palestine. She will also present the situation in Palestine, from the works presented for the Young Artist Award that she judged last year.
Ahmed Zakaria (Curator, Addis Ababa University Museum, Ethiopia) : Hariari Basketry : Medium of Identity Past and Present
The topic of this lecture is traditional basket making in Harar both in its traditional and contemporary context.
Doreen Sibanda (Director, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe) : An introduction to the situation of Zimbabwe
Throught the history of contemporary art in Zimbabwe, Doreen Sibanda will question the local curatorial practices and the audience for the works produced there.
Storm Janse van Rensburg (Curator, South Africa) : Strategies for contemporary practice in a developing context: The Young Artists’ Project This contribution will illustrate innovative strategies embarked on in the establishment of a platform for experimental visual arts practice in the city of Durban, South Africa, with specific reference to the establishment of the Young Artists’ Project (YAP) at the KwaZulu Natal Society of Arts (KZNSA).
Joy M’Boya (art critic, Kenya) – to be confirmed

A last informal session, in which the public will be invited to participate, will focus on a synthesis of what has been expressed earlier and will attempt to draw up a summary of all the participants’ experience and recommendations for future action in different areas of transnational collaboration.

Chaired by Fassil Giorgis ; assisted by Meskerem Assegued, Director of the Zoma Center for Contemporary Art and Henry Meyric Hughes, who will also do a final summing up.


This seminar/workshop is funded and sponsored by UNESCO ; with additional assistance from the Prince Claus Foundation ; Association Française d’Action Artistique (AFAA), Paris ; The British Council, London and Addis Ababa ; the Ford Foundation, Cairo Nairobi ; and Visiting Arts, London.
Brackted papers to be distributed, because the speackers were unable to attend the seminar, on the new dates proposed.