H.A. (Hélène Akouavi) Amouzou
12 June 2024

Possible histories and blazing forms*

CONVERSATIONS ON ART FROM AFRICA AND THE DIASPORA — SESSION I Public Event | 12 June 2024 | 10:00 - 18:00 | Balzaal, Wereldmuseum Rotterdam

The collections of the Wereldmuseum hold both historic and contemporary art from across the African continent as well as the African Diaspora. We have been curating these works in temporary and permanent exhibitions for several decades. While we have long been critical of our curatorial and collecting practices, we are currently in a focussed moment of assessing our own work in relation to the broader field of the writing of (art) histories today. Moreover, we are aware that our self-questioning comes at a time of growing demands for restitution of objects and for the decolonizing of museums. 

For this conversation series, we are interested to ask how curating African art in the present can respond to these demands. As we rethink our own practices, we are also interested to trace some approaches to writing and curating art from Africa that emerged within art historical and artistic disciplines over the last two centuries. We want to critically reflect on early explorations of primitivism to more recent World Art studies (in Europe), and the different genealogies of African Art Histories in the USA or in Europe. In these considerations, we also want to ask how the discipline of Art History approaches art from Africa by scholars from and on the continent. Through this work, we hope that we can foster new practices for thinking about arts from Africa and its diaspora.

Confirmed participants include: Zina Saro-Wiwa, Amie Soudien, Osei Bonsu, Ola Hassanain, Atiyyah Khan and Petrina Dacres


Image credit: Hélène Akouavi Amouzou, Autoportrait, 2008, work part of Wereldmuseum collection

* "Blazing forms" is a quotation from the poem The Convert (1960), by Margaret Danner


Balzaal, Wereldmuseum Rotterdam
Wereldmuseum Willemskade 25 3016 DM Rotterdam

Morning Program

9:30 - 10:00  Walk-in with Coffee and Tea 
10:00 - 10:15  Welcoming remarks by Wayne Modest
10:20 - 11:20  Screening of Worrying the Mask by Zina Saro-Wiwa
11:25 - 11:45  Q&A with Zina Saro-Wiwa, moderated by Wayne Modest
11:45 - 12:00  Break
12:20 - 12:40  Ola Hassnain
12:45 - 13:15  Discussion with Osei Bonsu and Ola Hassanain, moderated by Carine Zaayman
13:15 - 14:45  Lunch Break with an introduction to the exhibition A World in Common, by Valeria Posada Villada

Afternoon Program

14:45 - 15:05   Amie Soudien
15:10 - 16:10 Sound Lecture by Atiyyah Khan
16:10 - 16:25 Break
16:30 - 16:50 Petrina Dacres
16:55 - 17:25 Discussion with Amie Soudien, Atiyyah Khan and Petrina Dacres, moderated by Olombi Bois
17:30 - 17:40 Closing remarks by Carine Zaayman

Dr. Petrina Dacres

Dr. Petrina Dacres is Head of the Art History Department at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica. Her work and research focus on Caribbean art; African diaspora art; public sculpture and memorials; and memory studies. She is an independent curator and founding member of Tide Rising Art Projects, an organization created to support and promote contemporary Caribbean art and film. Dr. Dacres has organized exhibitions at the International Studios and Curatorial Programmes where she was the 2022 Jane Farver Curatorial Resident, The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center, New York; The National Museum, Jamaica, Kingston; and National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston, among others. She is the recent recipient of the Caribbean Cultural Institute Fellowship at the Perez Art Museum, Miami. Currently, she is a research Fellow at the Research Center for Material Culture.

Petrina Dacres

Amie Soudien

Amie Soudien Amie Soudien (she/her) is an art writer and researcher invested in the intersections of art, history and gender studies concerning histories of enslavement in South Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries. Her work explores how contemporary art, performance and the performing arts commemorate enslavement and enslaved women in the present. She is the editor of Lesser Violence: Volume 1 (2022), published by MaThoko's Books (imprint of GALA Queer Archive), and has contributed to ArtThrob, ArtAFRICA, the Mail & Guardian, and Frieze, among others. She is currently completing her PhD in History of Art at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Osei Bonsu

Osei Bonsu is a British-Ghanaian curator and writer based in London and Paris. He is currently a curator of International Art at Tate Modern, where he is responsible for organising exhibitions, developing the museum’s collection and broadening the representation of artists from Africa and the African diaspora. As a leading curator of contemporary art, he has advised museums, art fairs and private collections internationally and mentored emerging artists through his digital platform, Creative Africa Network. Bonsu has worked as a contributing editor for Frieze magazine and has contributed to a number of exhibition catalogues and arts publications including ArtReview, Numero Art and Vogue. Through his writing, Bonsu focuses on the relationship between art and issues of migration, race and identity in contemporary society. He has lectured widely on these subjects at various institutions including the University of Cambridge, Courtauld Institute of Art, and Royal College of Art among others. Bonsu holds a Masters in History of Art from University College London, and a BA in Curatorial Studies from Central Saint Martins. In 2020, he was named as one of Apollo Magazine’s ‘40 under 40’ leading African voices.

Osei Bonsu
Gefotografeerd door Nick Hadfield voor Boy.Brother.Friend

Zina Saro-Wiwa

Zina Saro-Wiwa Zina Saro-Wiwa is a British-Nigerian artist who lives and works between Los Angeles and Port Harcourt, Nigeria. A Guggenheim Fellow in Fine Art, her multi-disciplinary, research-based practice deals primarily with environmentalism, invisible ecologies, re-imagining indigeneity and exploring the nature of power. She works with video, photography, sound, distillation, food, performance and institution-building to tell stories and share research and meditation findings on her main region of interest, the oil-cursed Niger Delta region of Nigeria. She is committed to using a variety of media and disciplines to transform the storytelling and thus the fate of her birthplace at the same time mapping a blue print for regeneration through culture. But also to construct a more thorough and integrated concept of environmentalism and ecological truth. She has exhibited and has had screenings. lectures and showcases at institutions such as Tate Modern, The Pitt Rivers Museum, The Menil, The Pulitzer Arts Foundation, the Barbican Centre, Guggenheim Bilbao, Sao Paulo Biennale, Kochi Biennale, The Fowler Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, Yale Museum of British Art and many more. Her works can be found in the collections of institutions that include MoMA, New York, The Smithsonian Museum of African art, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Pitt Rivers Museum amongst other places.

In 2020 she was the James S. Coleman Memorial Lecturer at UCLA and delivered a highly-acclaimed lecture about the restitution of African masks and figurines. Her lecture was delivered as a (now-collectible and collected) film titled "Worrying The Mask: The Politics of Authenticity and Contemporaneity in the Worlds of African Art". She currently has an exhibition on display at the Pitt Rivers Museum that she co-curated with Dr David Pratten at the Pitt Rivers Museum titled "UNMASKED: spirit in the city".

Zina runs her own not-for-profit the Mangrove Arts Foundation which uses research, contemporary art, food and agricultural projects including her Illicit Gin Institute project to transform the fate of the oil-cursed Niger Delta. You can learn more about her practise by visiting www.zinasarowiwa.com.

Zina Saro-Wiwa

Atiyyah Khan

Atiyyah Khan is an arts journalist, writer, cultural worker, DJ, sound researcher and cratedigger, originally from Johannesburg but based in Cape Town.

For the past 16 years, she has documented arts and culture in South Africa and her work has been published in major publications in South Africa and abroad. Common themes in her work focus on topics like spatial injustice, untold stories of apartheid, jazz history and underground art movements.In 2010, she was awarded the Pulitzer Fellowship earning her an MA in Arts Journalism from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, based at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Her sets as DJ El Corazon (the heart), digs into her deep record collection to weave in sounds including jazz, african and latin groove, middle-eastern rhythms, dub, reggae, gnawa, cumbia, soul and funk and beyond.Her love for music comes through years of writing about South African sounds and practicing the art of listening.

In 2013, she co-founded the collective Future Nostalgia with a few other music lovers as a way to come together and listen to records.The collective is a platform to bring ‘collectors, selectors, deejays, and diggers’ together and has hosted events all over South Africa.

Between 2017- 2020 she worked with Zimbabwean dancer and choreographer Nora Chipaumire on sound for a work titled 100%POP, performing in theatres around the world.

She has also experimented in zine-making and her work Bismillah was exhibited at Les Rencontres De Bamako, African Biennale of Photography in December 2022. There, she was awarded the Bisi Silva Prize for the publication - which is paired with a mix titled Rotations of Bismillah.

Atiyyah has headed up several podcasts, radio shows, sonic lectures and other sound-related work. Most recently she hosted a monthly radio show on Worldwide FM for two years and currently runs a short monthly show on J-Wave in Japan.

Currently she writes for various publications documenting South African arts and culture and continues her DJ and sound work.

Twitter: @atzushka Instagram: @atiyyahkhan Instagram : @futurenostalgia_

Atiyyah Khan

Beeldcredits: Hélène Akouavi Amouzou, Autoportret, 2008, onderdeel van de collectie van het Wereldmuseum * Blazing forms" is a quote uit het gedicht The Convert (1960), van Margaret Danner