Continental Drift

For the ninth year in a row, 1-54 was accompanied by 1-54 Forum, the fair’s extensive talks and events programme, including film screenings, performances and panel discussions with international curators, artists and cultural producers. Dr. Omar Kholeif, Director of Collections and Senior Curator at Sharjah Art Foundation, was invited to guest curate the talks programme for the first time. Entitled Continental Drift, the Forum is a choreography that unfolded in slow-motion over the course of 1-54 London 2021, exploring this interstitial moment in history. 1-54 Forum explored the concept of the ‘drift’ as a moment for gradual reflection—a cumulative act of knowledge gathering, a dance from one end of the continent to another, oscillating gently, deep time in and in constant motion.

Read the full curatorial statement here.

Read Dr. Omar Kholeif’s reflection on this edition of 1-54 Forum here.

Thursday, 14 October

Ouverture/Talk | The Continental Drift: Recuperating the Echoes, the Ghosts, the Songs

In this opening keynote, 1-54 Forum curator DR. OMAR KHOLEIF frames the context of Continental Drift. They demonstrate this through the work of continental poets, songwriters, lyricists, and historians deceased and erased; forgotten or lost whose ghosts have been summoned. Here they beckon, primed to be heard. Dr. Omar Kholeif will be joined by KOYO KOUOH (Executive Director and Chief Curator at Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA).

Omar Kholeif and Koyo Kouoh speak following Omar’s performative gesture in Overture: Recuperating the Echoes, the Ghosts, the Songs.

Panel | The Virtual Salon

The digital, the virtual, the augmented, the real, the imagined; A.F.K versus I.R.L—the lexicon around our digital world both perplexes and invigorates ‘our’ collective consciousness. In the western world, debates of African digitality often summon references to ‘digital divides’ and social inequity. The reality, in many instances, contrarily exhibits a much more complex picture. Internet diffusion across the continent has proliferated at warp speed across the last decade, enabling an entirely new generation of artists and makers to explore the possibilities of digitality in motion. Here, artists have produced a multitude of virtual forms and artefacts; NFTs, memes, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Within these interstitial spaces, creative practitioners have found tools that have enabled new forms of expression—an agency that enables independently-driven storytelling techniques that embody queer, feminist alter-narratives to breathe in open space. PRINCESS ALIA AL-SENUSSI, PhD (Cultural strategist, writer, patron, public speaker and academic) leads a discussion with OSINACHI (Artist), SUMAYYA VALLY (Principal Architect, Counterspace), GEMMA ROLLS-BENTLEY (Chief Curator, Avant Arte) and TINIE TEMPAH (Rapper).

Gemma Rolls-Bentley, Princess Alia Al Senussi, Sumayya Vally, Osinachi and Tinie Tempah speak in The Virtual Salon.

Friday, 15 October

Performance | Objective Romance and Scarce New Flowers

A short experimental musical performance by Zimbabwean musician, mbira player and poet HOPE MASIKE. With three studio albums, a published poetry book and several collaborative and tour credits to her name, Masike shares her art with audiences across the globe.

Hope Masike playing the Mbira

Panel | A History of Echoes

Amidst this symphony of voices: curators, artists and creative collaborators discuss the exhibitions fashioned from the imagination of the late Nigerian curator, Okwui Enwezor (1963-2019). By exploring the sediments of the past, the collective voices herein sketch out a path for listeners to imagine an alternative possible future—one that is inclusive of the dissonant voices and identities, which make up our shared world. HOOR AL QASIMI (President and Director, Sharjah Art Foundation and President, The Africa Institute, Sharjah) leads a conversation with JO-ANNE BIRNIE-DANZKER (former Director, Villa Stuck; Vancouver Art Gallery; Frye Art Museum and Biennale of Sydney), GODFRIED DONKOR (Artist, Gallery 1957) and JOANA HADJITHOMAS and KHALIL JOREIGE (Artists).

Hoor Al Qasimi, Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, and Godfried Donkor speak in A History of Echoes.

Saturday, 16 October

Performance| Poetry Salon: On Fragile Ground

In this curated poetry salon, five artists-writers present a collective dreamscape. Newly commissioned pieces of lyric, poem and song exploring themes of environmental justice will converge in myriad life-like forms—the drift resuscitated. Join ANAÏS DUPLAN, LUBAINA HIMID CBE RA, ISAIAH A. HINES, DR. OMAR KHOLEIF and OTOBONG NKANGA.

Lubaina Himid, Anaïs Duplan, Isaiah a. Hines, Otobong Nkanga and Omar Kholeif during The Poetry Salon.

Sunday, 17 October

Panel | The Walk Towards the Future

Listen in English OR French

This open-ended conversation explores the concept of artist as philanthropist; the artist as the maker and progenitor of institutions, and the diverse ways that they approach this aspect of their practice. Is institutionalism a form of artistic practice? Or rather, is it a by-product of a hollowed vacuum that requires re-imagining, regenerating? How do these engines fuel a vision for a collective future? How do we sustain them and enliven them with the potential tools required to sustain their existence? DR. OMAR KHOLEIF leads a conversation with artists MICHAEL ARMITAGE, BILL KOUÉLANY and OTOBONG NKANGA.

In partnership with Phaidon to celebrate the publication of African Artists. Available for purchase here. Save 20% using PHAIDON20.



Omar Kholeif, Otobong Nkanga, Michael Armitage and Bill Kouélany during The Walk Towards the Future.

Whose Cinema Is it Anyway?

Screening and Q&A |: In the Last Days of the City (2016) (Egypt) Directed by Tamer El Said

A screening followed by a Q&A with the film’s director TAMER EL SAID and the film’s star KHALID ABDALLA led by DR. OMAR KHOLEIF. In downtown Cairo in 2009, Khalid, a 35-year-old filmmaker struggles to make a film that captures the soul of his city while facing loss in his own life. With the help of his friends who send him footage from their lives in Beirut, Baghdad and Berlin, he finds the strength to keep going through the difficulty and beauty of living in Cairo.


Omar Kholeif, Tamer El Said and Khalid Abdalla speak following a screening of The Last Days of the City.