This week in African art and culture, a relatively young South African curator is named director of one of Switzerland’s most notable museums. In the U.K., a British-Ghanaian filmmaker is nominated for his work interrogating race and capitalism. At a recent auction in New York, record sales are smashed by a mid-range South African artist.
On the literary scene, two leading African writers have been nominated for a $50,000 international prize, which is reputed to lead up to a Nobel Prize. In Edmonton, Canada, a Nigerian poet has just been named the city’s laureate.
Like the Ralph Lauren team, which has been dressing Team USA since 2008, a Liberian American designer will be designing Liberia’s team outfits for the Olympics.
Above: Kabelo Malatsie
South African Curator Kabelo Malatsie Named New Director of Kunsthalle Bern
34-year-old South African curator Kabelo Malatsie has been announced as the next director of the famous Switzerland museum, Kunsthalle Bern. She will take up her new position in April 2022, succeeding the current director, Valérie Knoll.
Malatsie was one of 130 applicants who submitted idea proposals for the role. She was selected for “her poetic and clear and multi-layered concept for the Kunsthalle Bern as an experimental landscape.” The institution announced in a public statement, “It’s about trying to think of our time and its circumstances using the metaphor of the dust that is carried by the wind across all borders. Kabelo Malatsie understands exhibition-making and thus the institution as an instigator and supporter for the redesign and reinterpretation of the world we inhabit.”
Kabelo Malatsie studied at the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg. From 2011 to 2016, she was deputy director of the Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town and Johannesburg. From 2018 to 2019, she headed the Visual Arts Network of South Africa, which connects artists. As a freelance curator, she co-curated the group exhibition, Deliberation on Discursive Justice for the Yokohama Triennale 2020 (Japan), In the Open or in Stealth at MACBA Barcelona as well as solo exhibitions by Nicholas Hlobo, Moshekwa Langa, Sabelo Mlangeni and Bogosi Sekhukhuni in various institutions in South Africa. In 2016, she participated in a research trip to Switzerland on the occasion of her master’s thesis and conducted research in the archive of the Kunsthalle Bern, among other achievements.
Above: Larry Achiampong, Relic 1 (2017), video still. Commissioned by PS/Y. Courtesy the artist and Copperfield, London
British Ghanaian Artist Larry Achiampong Makes the Shortlist for 2021 Film London Jarman Award
The prestigious Jarman Award prize has announced the shortlist for its 2021 film award of £10,000 (U.S. $13,982), in celebration of the U.K.’s foremost artist-filmmakers, and British Ghanaian artist and filmmaker Larry Achiampong is one of the six shortlisted filmmakers.
The Film London Jarman Award recognizes and supports artists working with moving image and celebrates the spirit of experimentation, imagination and innovation in the work of U.K.-based artist-filmmakers. The award is inspired by visionary filmmaker Derek Jarman.
Larry Achiampong’s film, Beyond the Substrata investigates race, the surveillance state and capitalism’s illusion of choice using hooded figures dancing in an abandoned supermarket.
“We are thrilled to reveal the shortlisted artists for this year’s Film London Jarman Award, showcasing the world of artists’ moving image to a wide range of audiences. Under the extremely difficult circumstances that the past year has presented, it is both impressive and inspirational that these artists have continued to create and show work that questions, challenges and shapes the world around us, and we are pleased to spotlight their practices through the Award. Congratulations to all six shortlisted artists and thank you to our funders, Arts Council England, as well as returning partner Whitechapel Gallery for all their vital support,” said Adrian Wootton OBE, chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission.
The winner of the Jarman Award will be announced on Nov. 23, 2021. In the run-up to the event, art and film lovers can explore the work of the shortlisted artists online through a variety of our cultural venue partner websites, including the Whitechapel Gallery website. In addition, there will be a special weekend of screenings, discussions and performances featuring all six shortlisted artists on Nov. 13 and Nov. 14 at Whitechapel Gallery.
South African Artist Cinga Samson Sets New Record at the Phillips 20th Century Sale in New York
On June 23, 2021, Phillips held its 20th Century Sale in New York. The sale saw new records set for several artists, including South African artist Cinga Samson, whose work sold for $378,000 against the estimated price of $25,000-$35,000.
With 100% of the auction sold, totaling $118.2 million, all 48 lots sold within or above their estimated value.
Jean-Paul Engelen and Robert Manley, co-heads of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, said, “The strength of the market for 20th century and contemporary art is undeniably strong, across all categories. On the heels of our record-breaking sales in Hong Kong, we were able to continue the momentum into this evening, selling 100% of the works across both locations, a tremendous feat for our international team.
“Emerging and historically underrepresented artists were one of the stories of the evening with fierce interest in Cinga Samson, Emily Mae Smith, Avery Singer, Jade Fadojutimi, Amoako Boafo, Titus Kaphar and Salman Toor. The strength of the market also extends to blue-chip names, as we saw great enthusiasm internationally for works by Brice Marden, Willem de Kooning and Vija Celmins; and both Wayne Thiebaud’s Winding River and David Hammons’ It’s Not Necessary achieved the second highest price for the artists. We look forward to welcoming our community of collectors into the saleroom at 432 Park Avenue this fall.”
Cinga Samson, Two piece 1, 2018 (Lot 1)
Price Achieved: $378,000
Previous record price: $16,028 set in 2020
Boubacar Boris Diop and Kwame Dawes are Finalists for the 2022 Neustadt International Prize for Literature
Senegalese novelist Boubacar Boris Diop and Ghanaian American poet Kwame Dawes are among the ten finalists announced for the 2022 Neustadt International Prize for Literature for their works, Murambi: The Book of Bones and Prophets, respectively.
With a cash award of $50,000, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature is awarded in honor of an author’s body of work and sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and its publication, World Literature Today.
Awarded since 2003, the prize is reputed to be a “lead up” to the Nobel Prize with many of its winners going on shortly to win the latter. Past Neustadt winners include Gabriel García Márquez (also a Nobel Prize recipient) and Edwidge Danticat.
In addition to the cash prize, winners of the Neustadt Award will receive a silver replica of an eagle feather, a prize certificate and a festival hosted in their honor.
The jurors will convene at the 2021 Neustadt Lit Fest to select a winner, who will be announced on Oct. 6, 2021.
Above: Titilope Sonuga
Titilope Sonuga Is Edmonton Canada’s Poet Laureate
On June 22, 2021, Nigerian Canadian poet Titilope Sonuga was named the Poet Laureate of Edmonton, Canada. She will serve a two-year term as Edmonton’s Poet Laureate from July 1, 2021-June 30, 2023.
Her role as a laureate in the modern age will reflect the life of the city through readings of poetry. As an ambassador for the literary arts, the laureate incorporates poetry into a range of official and informal city activities. The city of Edmonton’s Poet Laureate program is supported by the Edmonton Arts Council, the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Public Library.
The ninth Poet Laureate since the program’s inception in 2008, Titilope Sonuga is a poet, playwright and performer whose work grasps moments of tenderness and persistent joy at the intersection of Blackness and womanhood. She is a leading voice in local and international poetry communities who has traveled extensively as an artist and facilitated adult and youth poetry workshops worldwide.
She has served on various artistic and community boards in Edmonton and is the founder of the Breath In Poetry Collective, a mentorship and performance platform for emerging poets. Sonuga is the author of three collections of poetry, Down to Earth (Self Published, 2011), Abscess (Geko Publishing, 2014), and This Is How We Disappear (Write Bloody North, 2019) and has composed and released two spoken-word albums; Mother Tongue (2011) and Swim (2019). She has written three plays, The Six; an intergenerational exploration of womanhood, Naked; a one-woman play and Ada The Country, a musical.
Sonuga has scripted global advertising campaigns for numerous organizations, including The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, Intel Corporation, The World Health Organization, White Ribbon Alliance and The MacArthur Foundation. Her writing has been translated into Italian, German and Slovak.
Above: Telfar Clemens’ design for the Olympics.
Telfar Clemens Designs Liberia’s Olympic Uniforms
Liberian American fashion designer Telfar Clemens has been announced as the designer of the Olympic uniforms for Liberia. The collection consists of leggings and unitards to sweats, duffel bags, racing spikes, one-shouldered tanks and track pants/shorts. It also features a blue and white colorway, a star across the side of the chest and the Olympic logo on the uniform’s sleeves.
While the flag-detailed tights and leggings are stellar, Telfar Clemens’ involvement also includes covering the travel and food expenses for Liberia’s five track and field athletes to attend. Clemens was invited by the decorated Liberian athlete Emmanuel Matadi and Liberia’s Olympic attaché, Kouty Mawenh.
“It will be an evergreen collection. These are clothes we want to sell for the rest of our lives,” Clemens said.
The full collection will debut at the opening ceremony of the Olympic games on July 23, 2021.
Compiled by Roli O’tsemaye