Multiple Transmissions: Art In The Afropolitan Age at Wiels

Artists: Sinzo Aanza, Simnikiwe Buhlungu, Pélagie Gbaguidi, Jean Katambayi, Nelson Makengo, Emeka Ogboh, Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, Georges Senga

Exhibition title: Multiple Transmissions: Art In The Afropolitan Age

Curated by: Sandrine Colard

Venue: WIELS, Brussels, Belgium

Date: May 25 – August 18, 2019

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artists and WIELS, Brussels

Note: Exhibition guide can be found here

Brussels: WIELS invited Sandrine Colard, assistant Professor of art history at Rutgers University (USA) and artistic director of the 2019 Lubumbashi Biennale, to curate an exhibition of work by African artists whom have taken part in the art centre’s residency programme. The result: a group show that gathers eight artists (including five former WIELS residents) and that explores the various transmissions at work in their practices. Through the work of Sinzo Aanza, Simnikiwe Buhlungu, Pélagie Gbaguidi, Jean Katambayi, Nelson Makengo, Emeka Ogboh, Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum and Georges Senga, this exhibition invites us to look at the transversal heritages and the global resonances of ideas, images, sounds and energies that characterize contemporary African art. Imbued with the physical and mental movements that characterize our time – and which the popularity of artistic residencies have only amplified – these paintings, videos, installations, sound pieces and photographic works weave physical and imaginary geographies, and nourish radically plural, or ‘Afropolitan’, artistic practices.

Introduced in the early 2000s, ‘Afropolitanism’ describes the transnational and often urban cultures of numerous Africans or African descendants in the twenty-first century, both in and out of the African continent . Mainly conceptualized by the philosopher Achille Mbembe, the idea of ‘Afropolitanism’ is historically rooted in the continuous movements that have characterized African populations – from labour migrations and the slave trade to postcolonial diasporas and exiles – and in foreigners’ convergences towards Africa – whether colonial conquests, economic migrations or other. Out of these physical, mental and now digital journeys and immersions, and their entanglements, an ‘aesthetics and poetics of the world’ has emerged that transcends borders and nation states.

The idea of transmission has been fundamental to our understanding of art’s evolution. Applied to the African arts in particular, notions of authenticity and unchanging traditions have long prevailed. Yet the emergence of contemporary African art scenes hass continually short-circuited these traditional art-historical narratives. Without denying the genuine obstacles impeding the mobility of African artists, and without silencing migrations that are not always chosen, the idea of Afropolitanism forces us to be attentive to the local, continental and global dimensions that are shaping African arts today.

Every year, WIELS welcomes about 20 residents in the nine studios located in the heart of the building. This is a unique opportunity for these artists to be able to discuss their practices together, to develop their network and to discover the Belgian art scene during six months. For the past five years, the programme has included at least one resident from Africa per year. This is a way for WIELS to highlight these artists and their work, which is still insufficiently known and recognized in the West. Created between Kinshasa, Austin, Johannesburg, Berlin, Lagos, Umbria, Lubumbashi and Brussels, the works of the eight artists presented in Multiple Transmissions offers us a variety of perspectives on their global influences.