by Rahul Kumar, Samta NadeemSep 13, 2022
The Tate Modern exhibition, A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography, will explore the dynamic landscape of contemporary Africa through photography and video. The exhibition will delve into themes such as cultural heritage, urbanisation, spirituality, and climate change, presenting shared artistic visions that aim to reclaim Africa's histories while imagining more hopeful futures. The art exhibition challenges the dominant Eurocentric lens through which African societies have been represented through photography by featuring around 100 works that illuminate alternative visions. The exhibition speaks to a larger global recognition of the need to shift this focus.
The show intends to be a captivating visual journey, showcasing a wide range of photographic styles and subjects. It is set to feature an array of photographs that encompass a diverse range of genres, such as grandiose portraits, personal and private family scenes, historical postcards, and stark documentary images of the aftermath of industrial decay. The collection will serve as a reflection of the sense of unity and interconnectedness that binds the African diaspora, while also acknowledging the profound consequences of the current climate crisis that we face as a global society.
It’s interesting to delve into the themes that will be explored through the works of visual artists. Laying emphasis on the interweaving of historical narratives with imagined scenes of Africa’s regal past, anti-colonial resistance and political revolt through the works of artists such as George Osodi, Zohra Opoku, and Kudzanai Chiurai. It will also feature works by artists such as Khadija Saye, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Maïmouna Guerresi, and Em'kal Eyongakpa that explore ritual and spiritual practices and their connection to ancestral memory. The exhibition will prominently showcase the West African masquerade as a powerful medium for the activation of cultural memory and collective identity.
The exhibition will also showcase the rise of studio photography across the continent during the 1950s and 60s when many African nations gained independence. Contemporary artists such as Lebohang Kganye, Atong Atem, Sabelo Mlangeni, and Ruth Ossai will consider the contemporary relevance of family portraiture as a space of kinship and connection. The legacy of postcolonial utopias continues to inspire artists to confront present-day landscapes, and the exhibition will feature works by artists such as François-Xavier Gbré, Andrew Esiebo, and Kiluanji Kia Henda, who document the expansion and transformation of urban cityscapes. Meanwhile, Mário Macilau, Fabrice Monteiro, Aida Muluneh, and Julianknxx will explore themes of migration and climate activism in ways that empower the viewer to imagine new and more hopeful futures.
A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography is a significant milestone in Tate Modern's mission to diversify its programming and celebrate the contributions of artists from around the world. The exhibition is a testament to the vibrancy and diversity of African photography and video, showcasing how artists have used these mediums to subvert dominant narratives and imagine new possibilities for the future. It is also important to note how this exhibition draws a parallel to the current theme of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2023.
As the world grapples with complex challenges such as climate change, migration, and cultural heritage preservation, A World in Common invites viewers to consider how the power of photography can inspire empathy, promote understanding, and catalyse positive change. This exhibition is a must-see for anyone interested in contemporary art, African history and culture, and the transformative potential of visual media.
The exhibition takes place from July 6, 2023, until January 14, 2023.