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Spotlight Series

Spotlight: C&

This summer, Daily Serving is shining a light on some arts publications that we regularly read and love. We’re spending this week with C&, “a dynamic space for the reflection on and linking together of ideas, discourse, and information on contemporary art practice from diverse African perspectives.” Today’s selection is an interview between curator Okwui Enwezor and collector Artur Walther, who discuss the past and future of African photography. This conversation was originally published on May 4, 2017.

Zina Saro-Wiwa. The Invisible Man, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and C&.

Zina Saro-Wiwa. The Invisible Man, 2015. Courtesy of the Artist and C&.

Artur Walther: We have known each other for over fifteen years. You have a long history as a curator, a writer, a scholar, and a teacher. You have made significant contributions to the study of modern and contemporary African art—and African photography and video art in particular. How do you conceptualize your own personal trajectory in relation to the development of these fields?

Okwui Enwezor: Often histories converge, intertwine, diverge, and move in different directions. The development of contemporary art and contemporary African art—and photography and video specifically—has similarly moved in a non-chronological, non-linear fashion. As with any field of study, new ideas emerge and new research illuminates gaps in our information, and provoke new readings, considerations, and revisions. All of this is part and parcel of why one remains engaged and interested in a set 
of ideas, as well as the underlying principles around which these ideas are formed.

Walther: How did you begin in the field? When would you say the critical mass started developing?

Enwezor: Well, let’s think about it this way—about twenty-five years ago, if one were to pursue a frame for African photography, you would have found very little that specifically relates to photography as an autonomous practice. Photography in relation to Africa was oftentimes assigned to the terrain of the ethnography, as documents providing secondary information to more primary information observed in the field. Photography was seen to be an aid to the art, not particularly a part of practice. What I believe, without making any claims of who did it first, is that in the 1990s, a generation of curators, writers, and thinkers who were Africans—and I want to underscore this—made a bid to shift completely away from this ethnographic lens, and its spotlight. We found that the way that this lens thought of Africa was completely at odds with the content.

Read the complete interview here.