Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Khartoum Joint Art Workshop

A Joint Art Workshop on video and multi-media art organized by Together Art Center, Khartoum, and Salah Hassan, Professor and Director of Cornell University’s Africana Studies and Research Center takes place January 8-12 at the Art Center. Led by rising Egyptian artist Amal Kenawy and the well-known Ethiopian film maker and media artist Salem Mekuria, participants will include 15 young Sudanese artists selected from respondents to an open call. Established in 2005, Together Art Center, directed by the ceramist and graphic designer Wisal Dia El Din, fosters artistic exchange between local Sudanese artists and the global art world.

This workshop is indicative of the possibilities of collaborative work between individuals and organizations inside and outside the African continent. Until recently only the foreign cultural centers--like the German Cultural Center that has for instance sponsored workshops by the Germany-based artists Emeka Udemba in Nigeria, and Ingrid Mwangi in Nairobi--sponsored these kinds of programs, apart from the influential Triangle Workshops, while state owned institutions remain uninterested in or incapable of engaging in or supporting such events. One of the many tragedies of postcolonial Africa has been the criminal indifference of the state in fostering growth of a dynamic contemporary art and culture through establishment and support of basic institutions and infrastructures of contemporary art, and this is majorly responsible for the morbid insularity of discourse and practice of contemporary art in many parts of the continent. Which is why recent private initiatives, such as Abdellah Haroum's L'Appartement 22 in Rabat, Bisi Silva's new Center for Contemporary Art in Lagos, and Wisal Dia El Din's Together Art Center, and the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo among others hold the best prospects for providing contemporary artists in the continent the much needed opportunities to network and interact with their counterparts from elsewhere and to keep in touch with developments in contemporary art. My hope though is that this collaboration between Together Art Center and Salah Hassan is not a one-time affair, but instead one that will continue into the future, hopefully--here I am just dreaming while awake--when Hassan's Center for Comparative Modernities takes off fully at Cornell.

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