AFROTOPIAS: East West, West – East.

Central exhibition | Krakow Photomonth 2024

Curatorial team: Amy Muhoro, Malaika Nabilla, Witek Orski

28.06-1.09.2024

 

Galeria Pałacu Potockich, Rynek Główny 20

Opening hours: wen.-fri. 4.00-7.00 pm, sat.-sun. 12.00-6.00 pm (16.08 close)

Tickets: 20 PLN / 8 PLN

Entrance: Rynek Główny 20 / Bracka 2 St.

 

Artists:

Mbali Dhlamini, Carlos Idun, Melannie Issaka, Kiboko Kamau, Solomon Kyalo, William Malawi, Sackitey Tesa Mate-Kodjo, Matthew Matete, Kibe Nduni, Neema Ngelime, Shawn Newson, Margaret Ngigi, Maganga Mwagogo, James Muriuki, Koffi Seble, Shitanda, Stephen Tayo, Ayomide Tejuoso (Plantation)

 

Sub-Saharan Africa in photographs is known to most of Europeans mainly from the pictures taken by people visiting the continent. Outsiders for whom the camera was an inseparable companion of colonial expeditions, tourist trips and humanitarian missions. In this way, two contradictory stereotypes of the visual representation of the region were formed over the decades. First, of an exotic, wildlife-ethnographic safari style idyll, in which “wildness” and “primitive beauty” are attributed equally to all living beings from antelopes to humans. Second, an interventionist documentation of a terrible heart of darkness, a place of pervasive misery, famine, disease, genocide and inevitable death, where the only ray of hope is humanitarian aid arrivals from the global North. “White saviors” whose photos, videos and Christmas charity songs are supposed to miraculously save Africans from their ascribed dependency. Despite their apparent contradiction, these stereotypical perspectives have a lot in common. Both are based on exoticization – that is, a paternalistic view from the outside at what is “foreign,” “different” and “inferior,” and generalization – the creation of one completely false unified idea about a vast and diverse continent.

The Afrotopias exhibition aims to break these stereotypes. To show contemporary photography from West and East Africa created by artists actually living in these regions. It is meant to be a non-exoticizing look from the inside. Presentation of art that serves contemporary artists as a tool for self-reflection about their own countries, cultures, personal experiences and micro-communities. Afrotopias is not an exhibition of “African photography,” because such a general entity does not exist (it would, after all, be as empty a generality as “an exhibition of European photography”). Africa is not a country. Afrotopias is a project that, through the work of selected artists from more than a dozen East and West African cultures, talks about universal issues from the perspective that is still little known in Europe: about an ever-evolving visual sensibility, about attitudes to one’s own customs and cultural practices, about the difficulties of forming gender and sexual identities in traditional societies, about the paradoxes of contemporary capitalism, about relations with nature in the face of climate catastrophe, about a sense of melancholy in times of global uncertainty and chaos. The curatorial team of Amy Muhoro (Kenya/Poland), Malaika Nabilla (Togo) and Witek Orski (Poland) in the title of the exhibition referred to the notion of Afrotopia proposed by Senegalese philosopher Felwin Sarr, in order to follow this author in directing our attention from dwelling on the past to considering possible scenarios for the future. And these, no doubt, will largely be written in Africa.

The Afrotopia exhibition will be accompanied by a number of meetings, debates and a film program aimed at deepening the issues raised in the exhibition, educating and creating a space for cultural exchange and cooperation with the African diaspora in Poland.

 

fot. Carlos Idun

 

AFROTOPIAS: East West, West – East.

text by Malaika Nabila

 

Art has always been a powerful means for social critique, cultural expression, and personal transformation. Throughout history, the relationship between Africa and the West has been tangled in a complex interplay of power dynamics, cultural exchanges, and historical legacies.

The exhibition Afrotopias offers a dynamic overview of contemporary art by African artists and the diaspora from East Africa, West Africa, and Europe. In the context of Afrotopias, art plays a crucial role in challenging stereotypes, reimagining narratives, and inspiring new possibilities.

The key themes emerging from the art industry are the questions of restitution and representation. While restitution is an important step in addressing historical injustices, it is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to move beyond a paradigm of victimization and dependency and to establish a relationship of equality and mutual understanding between Africa and the West.

The exhibition Afrotopias is not a utopian fantasy but rather a call to action, an invitation to imagine and work toward a better future for Africa and the world. The artists offer us a glimpse of this future, a future in which Africa is defined not by its past struggles but by its limitless potential.

We invite you to join us on this journey of reimagining, to engage with the thought-provoking works of these talented artists, and to contribute to the ongoing conversation about creating a more just and equal world. Together, we can create an Afrotopia rooted in Africa’s rich heritage while embracing the possibilities of a shared future.

 

 

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