A critical inquiry and a reflection on the concept of time
UFA, the University of African Futures, focuses on the topic of Futures of Africa. What role did Africa play in the development of this discourse presented as stories about the future? What imaginary takes on Africa were involved? What remains of the utopia of non-aligned futures? To explore these questions, the exhibition has called on artists for whom it is as much about deconstructing myths of the future built by the West, and often exported to Africa, as attempting to construct their own research spaces. Heirs of Pan-Africanism and digital technologies, and proponents of collective approaches, they grapple with questions of technology, knowledge, ecology, healthcare, and struggles for emancipation.
This ongoing critical rereading shifts frameworks of thought and could lead to the development of new utopias. So for example, while SpaceX is launching its first manned mission to space in 2021, how can we ensure that space is not solely the preserve of scientists and private companies? How can we make sure that the cultural, spiritual, and social dimensions inseparable from this new space quest are not pushed to the background or even ignored? This is the core question asked by Tabita Rezaire in her film Mamelles Ancestrales. Through the installation A Black liberation Zodiac, 12th house: toward a black planetarium, artist Nolan Oswald Dennis explores ways of reappropriating astronomical knowledge, inspired by Black liberation movements rooted in the tradition of commons.
The artist as HistoFuturist
The artists invited act as if they are HistoFuturists. The term is borrowed from African-American science-fiction writer Octavia Estelle Butler. She defined the HistoFuturist as “someone who looks forward without turning their back on the past, combining an interest in the human factor and in technology”. This concept echoes the manifesto for an active utopia, for which Felwine Sarr advocated in his book Afrotopia. It is by breaking with unsuitable development models, studying the history of local cultures, and creating its own metaphors of the future that Africa will find its strength and contribute to “bringing humanity to another level”.
The exhibition also draws on the philosophy of Souleymane Bachir Diagne and his so-called African critique of time; on the thoughts of philosopher Valentin-Yves Mudimbe on the invention of Africa, and on the work of historian Jenny Andersson on researching the future developed during the Cold War in the United States, Europe, and the USSR, against a backdrop of emerging grievances and liberation struggles in so-called “third world” countries.
The exhibition’s title references the Université du Futur Africain (UFA) in Sébikhotane, Senegal, one of the major construction projects launched by president Abdoulaye Wade in the mid-2000s, now abandoned. In their project L’école des Mutants (The School of Mutants), artists Hamedine Kane and Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro explore how over a century of colonial and postcolonial history has shaped education policies in West Africa. These education models which haven’t kept their promises invite us to reinvent the idea of the university to build new tools for understanding our changing world. In the exhibition, each of the proposals is built on thoughts about the current condition of knowledge and opens avenues towards new ways of tackling them, transmitting them, or imagining them.
A useful place
Because the future is constructed by experimenting with the present and to eliminate the distance in space and time between the exhibition and Africa, a structure designed by architects DK Osseo-Asare and Yasmine Abbas has been installed inside the exhibition. Devoted to creating shared knowledge, it functions as a useful place, a laboratory, a meeting space. Temporarily transformed into a popular education university, it should host the experimental code school project devised by South African artist-researcher Tegan Bristow, based on the pearl embroidery and weaving traditions of the KwaZulu province in South Africa and Mozambique. A Vernacular Algorithms Research studies how complex objects like pearl embroideries can help us (re)think digital technologies and explore them differently to open up their meanings and their potential.
UFA, Université des Futurs Africains has invited over 20 artists to showcase their works (interactive installations, virtual reality experiences, films, sculptures, drawings, sound creations, etc.), which sometimes take on new dimensions or which were created specially for the exhibition.
- DK Osseo Asare & Yasmine Abbas (Ghana / United-States / France): https://www.lowdo.net/ | neo-nomad.net | Instagram : @lowdesignoffice | @panurban | @yosseo
- Larry Achiampong (Ghana / United-Kingdom) : http://www.larryachiampong.co.uk | Instagram : @larryachiampong | Twitter : @blackph03nix
- Jean-Pierre Bekolo (Cameroon) : https://bekolopress.wordpress.com | Instagram : jeanpierrebekolo
- Lo Def Film Factory, Francois Knoetze & Amy-Louise Wilson (South Africa) : | francoisknoetze.com | Instagram : @lodeffilms | wilsonamylouise | francois.knoetze
- Hamedine Kane & Stéphane Verlet Bottéro (Senegal / Mauritania / France) : H Kane : vimeo | http://stephaneverletbottero.info/the-school-of-mutants | Instagram : | theschoolofmutants | hamedine.kane7 | stephane.verlet.bottero
- Tegan Bristow, Nhlanhla Mahlangu, Philisiwe Dube (South Africa) : teganbristow.co.za | Instagram : dr_tegan
- Russel Hlongwane (South Africa): Instagram : russel.hlongwane
- Ângelo Lopes & Rita Raínho (Cap-Vert)
- Kapwani Kiwanga (Canada / France) : https://www.kapwanikiwanga.org/ | http://galeriepoggi.com/fr/artistes/oeuvres/12156/kapwani-kiwanga
- Jihan El Tahri (Egypt) : Instagram : jihantahri
- Jean Katambayi Mukendi (Democratic Republic of the Congo) : | Picha | Gallery : https://www.trampolinegallery.com/jean-katambayi
- Afrotopiques, Marie-Yemta Moussanang (Chad / France) : soundcloud.com/afrotopiques| | Instagram : afrotopiques_podcast
- Nolan Oswald Dennis (South Africa) : https://www.nolanoswalddennis.com | Gallery : https://www.goodman-gallery.com/artists/nolan-oswald-dennis | Instagram : data_body
- Tabita Rezaire (Guiana / France / Denmark): Gallery : https://www.goodman-gallery.com/artists/tabita-rezaire | www.tabitarezaire.com/
Exhibition curator : Oulimata Gueye, Senegal / France
Scenography : Thomas Charil Dejours, France
Graphic designer : Emilie Aurat, France
With the support of : CNC, DICREAM
The exhibition « UFA (Université des Futurs Africains) » is presented as part of the women focus of the Africa2020 Season.
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