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Five of the Most Influential African Curators

Posted in Art Market  |  July 25, 2015

Five of the Most Influential African Curators
With the growth of art galleries, festivals, and biennials in Africa, as well as independent spaces and artists initiated projects, the presentation of artworks and objects of cultural history highlighted the work of inspired curators. Successful exhibitions require that the history of art as well as cultural, social, political, and philosophical aspects is taken into consideration.

Within this context, curatorial initiatives are developing through which new discussion on the presentation and the reception of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora is being articulated. So we identified a handful of curators who use the art sector in Africa as the starting point to engage the evolving art dynamics on the continent.

Okwui Enwezor

Nationality: Nigeria
Specialty: Painting, Photography, Installation, Video
Major Exhibitions: Snap Judgments (2006), The Short Century (2001), In/Sight (1996)

Okwui Enwezor, 1963 born in Calabar, Nigeria, is a curator, writer, art critic, and art historian who helped drawing global attention to African art. He has written extensively on contemporary African art and artists, as well as on international art. In 1994, he founded Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, a critical art journal currently published by Duke University Press. Enwezor is the director of the Haus der Kunst a non-collecting art museum in Munich, Germany. He was the artistic director of international events such as Documenta 11 in Germany (1998-2002), Johannesburg Biennale (1997), and Paris Triennial (2012). This year, he is curating the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. Enwezor also curated several exhibitions in many distinguished museums around the world, including Events of the Self: Portraiture and Social Identity (2010), Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography (2006), and In/Sight: African Photographers, 1940-Present (1996). Enwezor has given numerous lectures in museums, galleries, and universities around the world, and published many books including Contemporary African Art since 1980 (2009, with Chika Okeke-Agulu).

Simon Njami

Nationality: Cameroon/Switzerland
Specialty: Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Installation, Video
Major Exhibitions: The Divine Comedy (2014), Africa Remix (2004)

Simon Njami, 1962 born in Lausanne, is an independent curator, art critic, lecturer, and writer. In 1991, he co-founded Revue Noire, an art space and publisher based in Paris. For ten years, Revue Noire published an eponymous print magazine of which Njami was the editor-in-chief with the aim of presenting and promoting contemporary African art. Individual issues of the quarterly magazine focused on specific regions in Africa and its diaspora where the editorial team produced research on arts. Njami has organized numerous events of African art and photography. Since 1997, he served as the artistic director of several biennials including Bamako Encounters (2001-2007) and Picha Encounters (2010). He co-curated the first African pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. Njami also curated international exhibitions such as Africa Remix (2004-2007) and the first African Art Fair, held in Johannesburg in 2008. His last exhibition, The Divine Comedy, started a world tour in Frankfurt in 2014, and is still on view in Washington. He is advisor to the Sindika Dokolo Collection, and the secretary of the specialized jury of the World Press photography awards.

Bisi Silva

Nationality: Nigeria
Specialty: Photography, Video, Installation
Major Exhibitions: The Progress of Love (2012), J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere: Moments of Beauty (2011)

Bisi Silva is an independent curator who organized numerous exhibitions related to contemporary art in Africa and abroad. In 2007, she founded the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos and has directed several projects including El Anatsui: Playing with Chance (2014), Occupy Nigeria (2012), and J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere: Sartorial Moments and the Nearness of Yesterday (2010). Silva was co-curator of international exhibitions including The Progress of Love (2012) and J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere: Moments of Beauty (2011). She also co-curated exhibitions at international events such as Art Dubai (2013), Thessaloniki Biennale (2009), Bamako Encounters (2007), and Dakar Biennale (2006). Silva is a frequent participant of international conferences and has written essays on contemporary art for several publications. Most recently, she edited a comprehensive monograph on Nigerian photographer J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere after a successful campaign on Kickstarter. She also sits on the editorial/advisory boards of selected art magazines and journals. Silva was a member of the international jury for the Venice Biennale (2013) and will served as artistic director of the upcoming Bamako Encounters later this year.

Koyo Kouoh

Nationality: Cameroon
Specialty: Photography, Video, Performance
Major Exhibitions: Body Talk (2015), Precarious Imaging (2014)

Koyo Kouoh is an independent curator and a cultural producer focusing on the promotion of artistic and intellectual creativity in Africa. She is the founding artistic director of RAW Material Company based in Dakar, Senegal since 2008. It is a center for contemporary art using visual art as a tool to reflect on social and political transformation. Kouoh has served as curatorial advisor for documenta 12 (2007) and 13 (2012), co-curated Bamako Encounters in 2001 and 2003 as well as frequently collaborated with Dakar Biennale since 2000. Most recently, she has been appointed as curator of the 37th EVA International – Ireland’s Biennial of Contemporary Art that will open in 2016. Kouoh has curated several international exhibitions including Body Talk: Feminism, Sexuality and the Body in the Work of Six African Women Artists (2015), Personal Liberties (2014), and Precarious Imaging: Visibility and Media Surrounding African Queerness (2014). She is also the curator of FORUM, an extensive programme hosted by 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair and is currently working on Saving Bruce Lee: African and Arab Cinema in the Era of Soviet Cultural Diplomacy, a 3-year project held at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow until September 2016.

Olu Oguibe

Nationality: Nigeria/United States
Specialty: Painting, Installation
Major Exhibitions: Authentic/Ex-Centric (2001), Cross/ing (1997), Seen/Unseen (1994)

Olu Oguibe is born in 1964 in Aba, Nigeria, where he got his first artistic experience. He taught literature, art, and art history in universities including University of Illinois, University of Connecticut, and University of South Florida. As a visual artist, he has been exhibited in major museums and galleries around the world, as well as biennials and triennials including Venice Biennale. Oguibe also curated international exhibitions for the City Museum in Mexico City, the Contemporary Art Museum in Tampa, the Tate Modern in London, and the Latere of the Venice Biennale, among many others. He has served as advisor for the Havana, Dakar, and Johannesburg biennials. Oguibe is also author of many books including three award-winning volumes of poetry. His most recent books on art include Reading the Contemporary: African Art from Theory to the Marketplace (2000, with Okwui Enwezor) and The Culture Game (2004). He edited Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art for six years, and writes regularly on art, literature, and politics, among other matters.