The BMA’s first exhibition of contemporary art from Africa drawn from its own collection features photographs, prints, and drawings by David Goldblatt, Gavin Jantjes, William Kentridge, Julie Mehretu, Senam Okudzeto, Robin Rhode, and Diane Victor. Each artist offers pointedly political perspectives on the lives of Africans and their diasporic descendants.
Examples include two series of prints: Kentridge’s Industry & Idleness (1986-87), a critique of capitalism inspired by a suite of the same name by famed political satirist William Hogarth (English 1697-1764), and Mehretu’s Landscape Allegories (2003-04), etchings that mark the journeys of migrants and underscore the environmental effects of late-stage capitalism. Capitalism is more quietly confronted in a 1970 photograph of singer Margaret Singana taken by Goldblatt while on assignment for Anglo American, a major gold mining company. Okudzeto’s Untitled drawings (2000-01) remind us of early capitalist drives that fueled the trade of Africans into slavery and Jantjes’ canonical A South African Colouring Book (1974-75) skewers apartheid-era surveillance and racist realities. In works from 2009 and 2010, Rhode’s Pan's Opticon Studies and Victor’s Smokescreen (Frailty and Failing) focus on individuals captured or lost in societies that either closely monitor movement of people deemed suspicious or blithely forget those with histories deemed too troubling.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website