Dak'Art 2008: Official selection of exhibiting artists announced
by Rat Western
'Dak'Art 2008' has announced the official selection of artists for the eighth edition of the Biennale of the Contemporary African Art which will take place in Senegal. The Biennale, which will run from May 9 to June 9, was set up in 1989 with its first edition in 1990 devoted to Literature.
This year's Biennale examines the theme of 'Mirror' and aims to explore the multifaceted realities and the crucial issues facing the continent and those living in it on one hand, and its Diaspora on the other. The 'Mirror' looks at both the casting and the reflecting of an image and examines how these binaries put into perspective a threefold questioning: that of attributed identity, attributed and accepted identity, and attributed and rejected identity.
Included in this year's selection are 35 artists from 17 African countries and the Diaspora. Senegal, (with ten artists), Cameroon (with five artists), South Africa (with four) and Egypt (with three) are the most widely represented countries in the 2008 selection.
The four South Africans exhibiting are Nandipha Mntambo, Nkosikhona Ngcobo, Athi Patra Ruga and Sonya Rademeyer.
Mntambo works predominantly with the curved and moulded cured hides of cows - as well as bones, beads and other materials often associated with traditional African identity - to challenge the stereotypes of beauty imposed on black female identity and the body.
Moved by real issues facing everyday society such as HIV/Aids, poverty and politics, Ngcobo uses drawing, graphic design and photography to comment on these concerns and inspire response from other young creatives. Selected for 'Dak'Art 2008' is his work Prayer for Peace, a video installation, which juxtaposes photographs of people at prayer with sensational newspaper headlines.
Ruga initially trained as a fashion designer but has moved into the realm of Fine Art with a mixture of performance, installation and photography which he uses to illuminate, in a humorous fashion, the idiosyncrasies of imposed African identity. His most recent work Even I Exist in Embo: Jaundiced tales of Counterpenetration, depicting the artist dressed in a black sheep costume and frolicking in a very European farmyard, is a response to the political cartoon distributed in Switzerland by right-wing party, SVU. The cartoon of a black sheep being kicked out of Switzerland by three white sheep was released in Switzerland whilst Ruga was on residency in Bern.
Rademeyer's work examines the role of embodied empathy in art. An interest in science can be observed in her work which may stem from her earlier career as a general and psychiatric nurse. Her media range from cement, glass and wood to human hair and most recently video.
In addition to the 35 selected artists, 13 other creatives from 11 African countries will be presented under the heading of Design. Johann van der Schijff, senior lecturer in New Media at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, UCT is listed in this selection.
For a full list of selected artists and designers visit: http://www.biennaledakar.org/breve-en.php3