Center of Unfinished Business

September 28, 2018

Introduction

Contemporary& magazine and ArtsEverywhere commissioned a series of essays and articles inspired by six books in C&’s Center of Unfinished Business, which was installed at the Akademie der Künste and ifa Galerie in Berlin. The six books were selected by C&’s Deputy Editor, Will Furtado, who commissioned the essays in this series and also wrote two of the texts.

In “The First Artist to Challenge the White Queer Gaze in a Biennial”, Will Furtado is inspired by Biennials and Beyond: Exhibitions that Made Art History: 1962–2002 and writes about the legacy of Glenn Ligon’s pioneering work that unpacks the colonial gaze in Robert Mapplethorpe’s The Black Book. Furtado draws on Ligon’s Notes on the Margin of The Black Book (1991-93) for his analysis.

In “’Germanomania’ and the Myth of Nationalism”, inspired by Marimba Ani’s book Yurugu: An African- Centered Critique of European Thought and Behavior (1994), author Natasha A. Kelly looks at how the title still proves relevant in understanding the continuity and centrality of racist thoughts and racial myths in Germany and Europe.

In “How Franz Fanon Has Influenced Generations of Queer Artists”, Will Furtado is inspired by Franz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and writes about how the book went on to influence intergenerational Black queer artists despite its shortcomings on gender issues.

In “The British War on Yoruba Spiritualism”, author Olamiju Fajemisin is inspired by Wole Soyinka’s Ake: The Years of Childhood (1981) and writes about how the book’s pre-WWII Nigeria compares to her own post-imperial childhood in Britain.

In “Fatima El-Tayeb: Reclaiming Nefertiti”, German scholar and author Fatima El-Tayeb explains how European institutions have consistently appropriated Black historical personalities, while denying Africans their own history. She draws on Ivan van Sertima’s Black Women in Antiquity (1988) as an example of one such counter-narrative.

In the essay “How Germany is in Denial of its Historical Racism Today”, political activist and culture and media theorist Nelly Y. Pinkrah is inspired by Langston Hughes’ The Ways of White Folks and James Baldwin and Margaret Mead’s A Rap on Race. Is it possible to talk about an ordinary German experience as a structurally racialized one in the sense Baldwin and Mead did?

Contemporary And (C&) is a dynamic space for the reflection on and linking together of ideas, discourse and information on contemporary art practice from diverse African perspectives.

 

RESPONSES

Fatima El-Tayeb

Reclaiming Nefertiti

In this first essay German scholar and author Fatima El-Tayeb explains how European institutions have consistently appropriated Black historical personalities, while denying Africans their own history.

The most famous African woman of antiquity – arguably one of the most famous women of antiquity, period – is almost German. In fact, each year hundreds of thousands travel to the nation’s capital, where she has been living for a century, to catch a glimpse at her famous portrait. I am of course talking about the Egyptian queen Nefertiti.

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Will Furtado

How Frantz Fanon Has Influenced Generations of Queer Artists

Will Furtado is inspired by Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks and writes about how the book went on to influence intergenerational Black queer artists despite its shortcomings on gender issues.

“O my body, make of me always a man who questions!” is one of the most memorable quotes from Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks. Released in 1952, the book has become a seminal text in postcolonial theory for its interrogation of the colonized self and its unpacking of the complex ways in which identity, particularly Blackness is constructed and produced in the context of colonization.

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Olamiju Fajemisin

The British War on Yoruba Spiritualism

Olamiju Fajemisin is inspired by Wole Soyinka’s Ake: The Years of Childhood and writes about how the book’s pre-WWII Nigeria compares to her own post-imperial childhood in Britain.

Aké: The Years of Childhood tells the story of Wole Soyinka’s boyhood between the mid-1930s and the early 1940s, the final chapters of British imperialism.

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Natasha A. Kelly

“Germanomania” and the Myth of Nationalism

In this essay, inspired by Marimba Ani’s book Yurugu, author Natasha A. Kelly looks at how the title still proves relevant in understanding the continuity and centrality of racist thoughts and racial myths in Germany and Europe.

Amma, the supreme God of the Dogon people of West Africa, created all beings according to the universal principle of complementarity. S/he therefore equipped each individual with twin souls – both female and male – at birth. In one case, however, a male existence named Yurugu did not want to wait for the completion of his full formation process…

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Will Furtado

The First Artist to Challenge the White Queer Gaze in a Biennial

Contemporary &’s Deputy Editor Will Furtado is inspired by Biennials and Beyond: Exhibitions that Made Art History: 1962–2002 and writes about the legacy of Glenn Ligon’s pioneering work that unpacks the colonial gaze in Robert Mapplethorpe’s The Black Book.

I have a theory that, albeit not inherently, all art is political and inseparable from identity politics. The former because all artworks communicate the political context in which they were created. And the latter because—unwittingly or not—all artists position their biography and heritage in relation to the worlds around them.

 

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Nelly Y. Pinkrah

How Germany is in Denial of its Historical Racism Today

Political activist and culture and media theorist Nelly Y. Pinkrah is inspired by Langston Hughes’ The Ways of White Folks and James Baldwin and Margaret Mead’s A Rap on Race. Is it possible to talk about an ordinary German experience as a structurally racialized one in the sense Baldwin and Mead did? Pinkrah thinks so. Here she connects the dots between racisms of the past and present to show how things become invisible when they become structural.

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