On the fourth day of the Curatorial Intensive in Cape Town, the South African artist Tracey Rose set it before me plainly: she burst my bubble with a sensational thought: there are no rules in the creative world. I had traveled to the southern tip of the African continent, in the final lap of my graduate studies in Germany. It was on my first trip to South Africa, and the Curatorial Intensive was both an immersive and refreshing encounter.
When I was selected for the program, I already knew the impressive list of facilitators, but I was unaware of the composition of the participants. I was, nonetheless, absorbed with the possibility of surrounding myself with brilliant minds, and exploring the cultural landscape of Cape Town.
For some of my colleagues and I, the first day was intense. Perhaps because of the unfamiliarity, it was difficult to communicate effortlessly, and also laboring under the desire to imprint a favorable first impression. But this spell vanished after a couple of days. All participants were undertaking captivating projects, through various approaches, but some had common grounds. For instance, many of us addressed commemoration and remembering through our curatorial practice. Twin Mosia’s project deals with remembering the Second Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902) and bringing to life the hard experiences of the war from black perspectives. Innocent Ekejuba’s project titled 15X15X15 seeks to uncover the Biafran War in 15 different ways in 15 locations, to address a sense of forgetting, and that history could be at the verge of repeating itself fifty years after the end of the war. My project, which celebrated 50 years of Makerere Art Gallery, at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, was also an act of commemoration.
In addition to the program’s daily presentations by the faculty we explored art spaces around Cape Town. At A4 Arts Foundation, I had the magical first encounter with an original Malick Sidibe. At the prestigious Zeitz MOCAA, I savored some of the ongoing exhibitions, as well as Acts at Crossroads, a solo presentation of the work of Otobong Nkanga curated by Koyo Kouoh, both of whom I was delighted to meet for the first time. Furthermore, I was happy to see some of the programs of the Infecting the City festival, conceived by Jay Pather, which gave us a chance to discover innovative approaches to public art and site-specific art across the city of Cape Town.
There are many lessons that I took with me from the Curatorial Intensive, which I will forever cherish. Of all these lessons is the significance of tactics, of a systematic approach towards project execution in which I divide operations into smaller and realistic tasks. I might have taken a lifetime to figure this solution. I will also remember Raphael Chikukwa’s presentation on how it took him a decade to make a Zimbabwe Pavilion a reality at the Venice Biennale. Ten years is a long time, to imagine that one can gather the patience, yet this was possible because of the small and systematic steps that were done during this time, all focused on a singular goal.
While breaking the rules, it is possible to take one step at a time, to break a large exhibition idea like mine up into smaller projects without feeling like something is missing.
Image Credits: Curatorial Intensive, Cape Town, 2019.