Looking Back and Moving Forward
The seventh edition of 1-54 London in 2019 was once again accompanied by 1-54 Forum, the fair’s extensive talks programme, including artists talks, film screenings and panel discussions with international curators, artists and cultural producers.
In 2019, 1-54 Forum was curated by curator Kerryn Greenberg, Head of International Collection Exhibitions at Tate. The programme was dedicated to the formidable Nigerian curator Bisi Silva (1962-2019), founder of the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (CCA, Lagos) who championed women artists and experimental artistic practices, prioritised research, publishing and pedagogy and nurtured the next generation of artists, curators, writers and art historians in Africa. Over the course of four afternoons, 1-54 FORUM brought together many of the people who benefitted from Silva’s wise counsel and unwavering support, to continue the conversations she was at the centre of before her untimely death in February 2019.
To compliment the 1-54 Forum programme, we invited many of those who knew Silva to share one thing they learnt from her, which could be useful for others to know. These are now all published here. Ranging from practical advice to the anecdotal, this compilation is intended to act as a set of tools for a future without Bisi Silva.
Thursday, 3 October
UNCOVERING HISTORIES: RECORDING THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF WOMEN ARTISTS IN AFRICA
An introduction given by the 1-54 Forum programme curator, Kerryn Greenberg (Head of International Collection Exhibitions at Tate).
Elvira Dyangani Ose (Director, The Showroom) discusses the impetus for and legacy of the international project Women on Aeroplanes, with Nontobeko Ntombela (Curator), Everlyn Nicodemus (Artist) and Marlene Smith (Artist and Curator). Through discussions, exhibitions and publications, Women on Aeroplanes aimed to examine the important role women played in the arts, transatlantic networks and liberation struggles. While highlighting the contributions of women, this project posed the following questions: ‘What makes it possible for certain individuals’ stories to prevail, while others remain invisible, or disappear into oblivion? What are the intricacies of institutional or structural erasure? And how does the unveiling of such silenced narratives contribute to collective thinking?’
Artist Mary Sibande in conversation with Christine Eyene (Art Historian, Critic and Curator) on how her practice seizes public space and makes lesser-known histories visible. The discussion will use Sibande’s first solo exhibition in the UK, I Came Apart at the Seams, on view at Somerset House, as a point of departure.
Friday, 4 October
VALUING RESEARCH: ENGAGING WITH THE PAST AND WORKING WITH ARCHIVES IN AFRICA
Bisi Silva once remarked in an interview, ‘I have acquired the professional maturity to embark on difficult, long-term, research-driven projects in a context where the support structures may not exist.’ Research was a critical part of Silva’s curatorial practice, but she also believed that research was invaluable for art practitioners. Artists Godfried Donkor, Mary Evans and Leo Asemota reflect on what research means to their own art practices with moderator Paul Goodwin (Independent Curator, Urban Theorist and Researcher).
Private collections of printed and digital matter can provide crucial insights into histories, particularly in places where official records are inadequately compiled or maintained, deliberately skewed, or inaccessible. Although the importance of archives is easy to argue for, establishing and developing them is challenging even in the most favourable environments. Iheanyi Onwuegbucha (Curator, Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (CCA, Lagos) and Bea Gassmann de Sousa (Independent Researcher and Founder of the Agency Gallery) share their experiences of working with and in archives in the context of Lagos, Nigeria.
Artists, curators and art historians have explored Africa’s connection to Europe and the Americas extensively, but the continent’s position within the Indian Ocean has been relatively neglected despite its importance. As Ashraf Jamal (Cultural Analyst, Author and Associate in the Visual Identities and Design Research Centre, University of Johannesburg) describes, ‘long before the European circumnavigation of the southern tip of Africa, the Indian Ocean has been the ‘cradle of globalisation’. Jamal will be in conversation with Mauritius-born artist Shiraz Bayjoo, who works with archival sources to investigate the legacy of European colonialism and explore the complex histories and relationships of migration and trade in the Indian Ocean. Together they will discuss the artistic, social, cultural and political histories of the Indian Ocean and the role Africa has to play in shifting power relations.
Saturday, 5 October
EMPOWERING PRACTITIONERS: REFORMING ARTS EDUCATION AND CURATORIAL PRACTICE IN AFRICA
In recent years, individual teachers, alumni and students have begun taking steps to update curricula and reshape the way art is taught in African universities to better serve young artists. Meanwhile new private structures incorporating pedagogical functions are emerging. Ibrahim Mahama (Artist and Founder of The Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art, Ghana) and Nontobeko Ntombela (Curator) discuss their experiences of transforming education systems in Ghana and South Africa respectively with Zoé Whitley (Senior Curator, Hayward Gallery).
In 2010 Bisi Silva initiated Àsìkò, a new model for radical arts education, which promoted independent and critical thinking, experimentation and multidisciplinary approaches. Over the course of six editions in five cities (Lagos, Accra, Dakar, Maputo and Addis Ababa) almost 200 individuals took part in the programme and contributed to its development. Tamar Garb (Durning Lawrence Professor in the History of Art at University College London) and artists Eddie Chambers and Shuddhabrata Sengupta (Raqs Media Collective), all of whom participated in Àsìkò, discuss its impact on their own practices and reflect on its legacy.
Hansi Momodu-Gordon (Independent Curator and Writer) and N’goné Fall (Independent Curator and Art Critic) utilise their current projects, Future Assembly and Season Africa 2020, respectively, as starting points for a conversation about the importance of cross-cultural collaboration and the opportunities and challenges involved in working this way.
Sunday, 6 October
FOCUSING ON LENS-BASED MEDIA IN AFRICA
Brendan Embser (Managing Editor, Aperture magazine), Yves Chatap (Independent Curator) and Akinbode Akinbiyi (Photographer) discuss the key platforms—spanning biennales and festivals to workshops and publications—supporting the professional development of photographers in Africa and facilitating their international exposure. This session will include a pre-recorded discussion between Antawan I. Byrd (Assistant Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago) and Oluremi C. Onabanjo (PhD candidate in Art History, Columbia University).
This screening showcases videos by seven women artists that speak to the overall theme of this edition of 1-54 FORUM: Looking Back and Moving Forward. Addressing a wide range of themes, from exploring inter-personal relationships to challenging official narratives, each examine the present through the lens of the past.
Penny Siopis Welcome Visitors! 2017
Lebohang Kganye Shadows of Re-Memory 2018
Rahima Gambo Tatsuniya 2017
Bouchra Khalili Foreign Office 2015
Zina Saro-Wiwa How do Africans Kiss? 2013
Phoebe Boswell Dear Mr. Shakespeare 2016
Lerato Shadi Matsogo 2013
All past 1-54 Forum, VIP and Special Project events can also be listened to on iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music, amongst other podcast distribution platforms. Subscribe here