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Euro-American modern art is pervaded by black aesthetic forms, whether it acknowledges this or not.

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Those pressures, to some extent, are owed to African and diasporic artists, whose creative and critical efforts have forced or invented different boundaries in the past century. A Black Aesthetic: A View of South African Artists unwraps these efforts in this modest exhibition of South African modern expressions and their aesthetic mutations that have given our visual arts their unique and complex features.

Yet, a contemporary iteration of such collections of black modernist art in general demands far more than nitpicking through the curatorial misadventures of the De Jagers of this world to avoid re-inscribing them. That the show prides itself on not following any chronological order in its instalment is commendable, but on inspection this tactic seems more like an ornamental feature than a true depiction of the exhibition.

In it, one espies a certain comparative cross-generational chronology, precisely in how it separates the early modern artists from the late modernist artists. It is especially palpable upstairs, in the concentric positioning of the early pioneers Mancoba, Mohl, Pemba and Sekoto situated in the centre, whereas succeeding generations unfold unevenly read: uncritically on the outer walls. The problem with this framing is that it tends to box these pioneer artists in a mythic age, confining their works to fixed, unchanging temporalities.

Black Arts Movement

Yet this critique is about more than just the flawed categorisation of particular figures within accepted art historical time frames; it is also about misapplied efforts of African modernity, by inadvertently packaging it neatly within familiar parameters, when it resides restlessly within these pristine binaries.

The recent Black Modernisms show at Wits Art Museum, of which Mdluli was among the key dissidents, raised questions more complex than simply the tokenisation of black intellectuals or the absence of notable black modernists. The latent point, it seems to me, was to think of African modernities not only as retrospective currencies things of the past , but also as a mutating and prospective operation that offers the present a historical mandate. Judging by the exclusion of coloured and Indian artists in the show, what is also troubling is that what is black for A Black Aesthetic appears to be discontinuous with Black Consciousness.

Does the lack of specification raise an issue occluded or missed in conventional discourses on the black aesthetic as a philosophical inquiry? Furthermore, the show rummages around art from the Black Consciousness Movement era — as seen from its title — and this centralisation of another category is given neither explanatory depth beyond the simplicity of a muddy periodisation nor a brief elaboration on how it relates to concepts such as black theology, black abstractions, and township art.

What is really meant by Black Consciousness art?

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It is the presupposition of such a labelling that produces the colonial mentality of control of black bodies and their enunciatory power. Regrettably, even the catalogue accompanying the show misses the opportunity to satisfactorily address these concerns.


Though well bound and prestigious, the book could have benefited extensively had the curator considered a more eclectic and rigorous cluster of scholars and intellectual contributors familiar with the subject area. Maybe then, curating will require more sophistication than managerial skills and an exercise in rearranging the furniture. A Black Aesthetic is definitely a welcome intervention and a feast for the South African public impatient to learn about its cultural heritage, but it robs us of the quality and rigour that would inspire critical curiosity and verve.

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Black Arts Movement - Wikipedia

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Black Arts Movement

Business Thando Maeko Big JSE shake-up as Prosus lists. Sport Niren Tolsi Columnists Eusebius McKaiser EFF media ban undemocratic and dangerous. In fact, Dr.

It is not clear whether Dr. If it is the former, we have yet to hear or read about it. But if it is the latter, something must be done. Township art is black people and vise versa.

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I also tried to show how this ethnological reproduction continues in discontinuous tensions with BC in her exclusion, of Black women artists from the show. Mdluli in one and the same gesture justifies why there are grounds to repeat that exclusion by deferring the inclusion of women in what seems like a latent continuity of the ethnological paradigm. Here, Dr. Yet, this ignoble gesture seems to reach a complication, a different register, when her own words are eviscerated by her own actions.


Within the local collections alone, Dr. These justificatory moves appear impervious of their own limitations, or worse, the fatigued tones of their insidious explanations. This, of course, is not to close down the potentiality of the mobility, mutation, and correspondences within black artistic styles and work, but rather to insist on the historical accuracy and facticity, that seem to be totally ignored. In fact, cultural writer Bongani Madondo had tentatively tended to them, and what makes Dr.

Thus it was interesting to see Dr. The question of naming or misnaming, or sheer lack thereof, is considerably quite pervasive in art writing, and yet, this is how Dr. Mdluli deals with her reviewers: as nameless subjects categorized according to positive and negative reviewers. Funnily enough, Dr. But like a rapper, Dr. Mdluli constantly promises her audience to deliver scholarship, whose actual arrival, unfortunately, drifts further away into the distance with each sentence. Here, erudition is invoked as a trope that marks her apart from the imaginary dregs of society — — not much unlike the same elitists she claims to be calling out.

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  • Thus Dr. They are belittling in their posture. Her position that black women are denigrated by these unnamed and unnamable doyens of patriarchy, when her own show palpably excludes black women artists is a puzzling one. It makes a mockery of the culture of calling-out misogyny, by abstracting and weaponizing its rhetorical content for her expedient and self-interested gains.