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© Kunsthalle Wien 2004

“Africa Screams sets out on a foray through the ancient and modern mythologies of Africa, following the tracks of evil and revulsion, ugliness and fear, which the triumphal march of video technology has forged into ever more fantastic images and legends, thereby also casting a dark glance at the shadowy side of modernism: the expansion of occult economies, neo-cannibalism, witchcraft and zombies”, reads the ambitious exhibition press release.

© Sammlung Tobias Wendl 2004

What do they mean? When we think of Africa, post-colonial wars, disintegrating states, poverty, corruption and disease come to our mind. Africa the crisis continent, the embodiment of the “other”, the development planner’s nightmare — this is the image of Africa presented to us by the media. However, as always, there is the other side of the coin, which puts the spotlight on the creativity of this gigantic landmass, its flexibility and survival strategies, its music, culture and art – both ancient and increasingly modern and contemporary manifestations of art. Exhibitions such as “Magiciens de la terre” (1989) in Paris, the “Biennials” of Johannesburg and Dakar and, more recently, the “Documenta 11” (2002) have made us more aware of Africa’s currently vibrant art scene and the exciting developments taking place.

© Kunsthalle Wien 2004

“Africa Screams”, a co-production between the Iwalea-Haus Bayreuth, the Kunstverein Aalen and the Museum der Weltkulturen Frankfurt am Main, is an initial attempt to bridge the gap between these two discourses. The idea is to situate the contours of African art and cultural history of horror in the mirror of contemporary art. The focus of the exhibition is the confrontation of rituals and masks with contemporary forms of artistic expression of the evil. In fact, if the evil did not exist, it probably would have had to be invented, for no morality can be established without reference to the contrary of the good, whatever form it takes. In this respect, good and evil are as inseparable as they are irreconcilable and their manifestations remain mutually dependent.

© Kunsthalle Wien 2004

Over the centuries, theologians, philosophers, politicians, writers and artists have subjected the sub genre of the great myths dealing with evil and horror to discussion and interpretation and have tried to come to terms with it – in Africa as well as elsewhere in the world. And they all have one thing in common: On the one hand, horror is celebrated as the destruction of taboos whereas, on the other, it is distrustfully regarded as the cause of the derailment of civilisation.

The exhibition “Africa Screams” presents this encounter with the evil, which is socially manifested in the African wars of state destruction and ritual murders, in various ways. From Sokari Doublas Camp’s machine like forms inspired by the Yoruba gelede masks via South African artist Jane Alexander’s ambiguous installation Danger Gevaar Ingozi, in which a psychically present watchman oversees a symbolically inhabited cage to the trash iconography and horror appropriation of Nigerian video production.

“We are dealing with an archaeology of the legacies of war”, says curator Simon Njami, “the hypocritical post-colonial development ideologies and the transformation of spiritual motifs into the environment of contemporary media.” “Africa Screams” seeks to counteract the suppression of the evil and instead make the “scars of memory” (Kofi Setordji) visible.

Participating artists: Jane Alexander (South Africa), Fernando Alvim (Angola/Belgium), Willie Bester (South Africa), Conrad Botes (South Africa), Candice Breitz (South Africa), Sokari Douglas Camp (Nigeria/UK), Cheri Cherin (Democratic Republic of Congo), Samuel Fosso (Central African Republic), El Loko (Togo/Germany), Abu Bockari Mansaray (Sierra Leone), Kofi Setordji (Ghana), Twins Seven Seven (Nigeria), Pascale Marthine Tayou
(Cameroon/Belgium), Dominique Zinkpe (Benin), among others.

Curators: Simon Njami, Thomas Mie_gang, Tobias Wendl

Africa Screams
Date: 5th November 2004 – 30th January 2005
Place: Kunsthalle Wien
Address: Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Vienna
Tel. +43-1-52189-33

Text: Christina Merl

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