There appears to be a proliferation of new ‘Africa focused’ fairs and events taking place, both on the continent and beyond. We got to see this through the daily influx of press releases, media proposals, and requests for the inclusion of stories and interviews by independent artists, organisations, and many of our regular advertisers and partners. Whilst essential to the growth of art ecologies in Africa, these fairs only present the tip of the ice-berg, and by no means dictate or define contemporary art from Africa.
Entitled ‘BEYOND FAIR’, this issue looks to projects, exhibitions and events that bridge disparate voices and helping to impart knowledge and experience around life and art. A number of features highlight this. The first is seen through the hands-on approach of Invisible Borders. An artist-led initiative based in Nigeria. Their latest project, ‘Borders-Within: The Trans-Nigerian Road Trip’ took to the road, weaving their way through the country over the course of six weeks. Speaking to people they met along the way, their experiences were relayed through a series of written blogs, photography, and audio recordings. Curated by Sara Raza, the exhibition ‘But a Storm is Blowing from Paradise: Art from the Middle East and North Africa’, – at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York – takes a more high profile approach, exposing international audiences to the multiplicities inherent in artistic practice from these regions.
Just like the events reflected in these pages – so too are we affected by ‘market forces’. Just as an exhibition is curated each issue of the magazine takes form in conjunction with this context in which we exist. How we collectively grapple and deal with these challenges is essential to the sustenance of artistic practice, and a topic that is touched on extensively in ‘Making Space: A Panel Discussion at Greatmore Studios’, and ‘Giving Voice’, to Valerie Kabov’s ‘Flux: In the name of the Game’ and Rate Western’s insightful analysis on the impact of economics on artistic expression at the Grahamstown International Arts Festival, entitled ‘The Value of Labour’.
The economic ‘seasons of fairs’ can’t be discounted as an important cornerstone of our art ecology. As a result, this issue turns the spotlight on three major fairs, each with their own contextual significance and approach, specifically the Kampala Biennale, The FNB JoburgArtFair, and 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London. These features include extensive interviews with participating artists, gallerists, and event directors, and include, amongst others, Lucy MacGarry, and presented artists Aida Muluneh and Sanaa Gateja (FNB JoburgArtFair), Touria El Glaoui (Director of 1:54), Daudi Karungi (Kampala Biennale Director), Immaculate Mali, Isaac Kariuki, Wolf von Kries and Charity Atukunda (Kampala Biennale).
Other exciting interviews included in these pages are with Deutsche Bank Artists of the year 2017 recipient Kemang Wa Lehulere, Standard Bank Young Artist of the year 2016, Mohau Modisakeng, the Tunisian street artists eL Seed, Marlise Keith, Larita Engelbrecht, and Stanislaw Trzebinski.
The issue also marks a historic moment in the publication, with three exciting new Bright Young Things, the last of whom marks our 100th BYT. Artist includes Eyob Kitaba, Bronwyn Katz and Jackie Karuti.
We also have our usual offering of featured stories and reviews, by a number of familiar and new voices. These include Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi’s ‘Window Part II’, Pieter Hugo’s ‘1994’, Walter Battiss’ ‘I Invented Myself’, and the group exhibitions ‘Being & Becoming’, and ‘Nothing Personal’.