‘African Art Against the State’ highlights the long and extraordinary history of activism, intervention, and resistance that has characterized a great deal of art-making in Africa from prehistory to the present.
A select group of artworks has been chosen from various traditions and artistic moments to demonstrate how expressive culture can produce advocacy and agency for disenfranchised and marginalized groups and communities across both space and time, giving teeth to the adage that sometimes images can speak louder than words.
The exhibition includes works by Lalla Essaydi, David Goldblatt, Fathi Hassan, Romuald Hazoumè, Seydou Keïta, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Fabrice Monteiro, Zanele Muholi, George Osodi, Yinka Shonibare, and Malick Sidibé, as well as works by artists from the Kongo, Teke, Yoruba, Bamana, Igbo, and Mende peoples.
‘African Art Against the State’ is organized into three thematic sections:
The Politics of Existence: Gender, Sexuality, and Society
The Politics of Existence presents art forms that have mediated and contested the power dynamics of society in a variety of African contexts. Many of these works reflect the ideologies and aspirations of an ideal society, while others attempt to counteract societal imbalances by producing agency for disenfranchised individuals. The Politics of Existence includes Ogboni Society sculptures, a KònòSociety mask, a Sande Society Mask, an N’kisi Power Figure, a Ghanaian “fantasy” coffin, and works by Lalla Essaydi, Zanele Muholi, Zwelethu Mthethwa, and George Osodi.
The Politics of Empire: Colonial Mentalities and Subversive Visualities
The Politics of Empire focuses on artworks that have been used over time to counteract the power structures of Western imperialism, often by appropriating or assimilating visual forms. The Politics of Empire includes an Igbo Helmet Mask and works by Malick Sidibé, David Goldblatt, Fathi Hassan, Seydou Keïta, and Yinka Shonibare.
The Politics of the Environment: Earth, Activism, and Eco-vention
From drought and desertification, to pollution, land dispossession, and the oil boom, the environment constitutes a force that has inspired numerous forms of artistic intervention on the continent. The Politics of the Environment includes a Chi Wara crest mask, a Teke power figure, and works by Roumald Hazoumè and Fabrice Monteiro.