Manifesta is likely to blossom all around the world, if not venturing beyond european borders, by firstly asking itself whether a dialog with North Africa is possible and furthermore if its format, the nomadic biennial, could be exported into the African continent.
You may say it is an ambitious, reckless and arrogant program but as Hedwig Fijen puts it, even when Manifesta was founded, just after the fall of the Berlin wall, it strove to pave its way; the results were highly uncertain and the biennial is still debating from within its model and practices. That is why - she said - Manifesta seems to be the best platform to discuss the proposals, the complexities and the uncertainties of a roaming african biennial.
Such a proposal has being critically articulated within the The Incubator for a Pan-African Roaming Biennial, a task force of curators, artists and professionals who live and work in diverse African countries and who are looking for pockets of autonomous and sustainable art production within their national contexts.
The incubator was formed in response to a proposal of Bassam El Baroni and Jeremy Beaudry of Alexandria Contemporary Art Forum - two among the Manifesta 8's curators - and the symposium Bringing you the answers before we know the question: four positions regarding the idea of a pan-African roaming biennial, that took place in Murcia last October 10th, marked the beginning of their long process of reserch.
N'gone Fall, Thembinkosi Goniwe, Gabi Ngcobo, Christine Eyene, Hassan Khan, Senam Okudzeto and Ato Malinda raised and discussed many issues, varying from matters of tough logistic - mobility, borders, languages, human resources, local infrastructures - and political/financial support to new perspectives in terms of education, dialogue, audiences building and pan-africanism.
Beyond a common scepticism and the idea of a new landing biennial, all the speakers identified needs for a more accessible knowledge and a process of empowerment of existing platforms. What it has to be done is to shape the credibility of validating institutions, is to educate professionals, to make politicians aware and sensitive in terms of financial commitments.
We met Gabi Ngcobo just after the symposium and we asked her about the notion of pan-africanism, about the dialogue between intellectuals based in Africa, between them and the diaspora generation of curators and artists living and working in Europe and Us. We asked her about education and existing cultural institution - such as those museum founded by european colonizers - about the notions of post-black, post-colonial and afropolitanism.
Gabi Ngcobo is a curator and artist based in Cape Town, South Africa. She recently founded the Centre for Historical Reenactment, a Johannesburg based curatorial platform responding to the immediate demands of contemporary art practices from a South African perspective. The center believes that within the scope of artistic productions, historical reenactments can and do play a significant role. As essential questions, CHR explores how artistic production can help to deconstruct particular readings of history and how historical context informs artistic practices.
The Incubator for a Pan-African Roaming Biennial is a year-long task force consisting of Gabi Ngcobo, Mia Jankowicz, Jimmy Ogonga and Khadija El Bennaoui.
The music that goes with the interview is Third color by Adam Michalak, released by Test Tube, Bids by Crabnebula, released by Bushmen Records and Beverello by Emanuele Errante, available at laverna.net.