P023 – State Censorship and State Sponsorship in Contemporary African Arts
10 July, 14:00-15:30

Van Wyk Gary / City University of New York
Brittan Lisa / Axis Gallery


This panel features papers on state engagement in the field of contemporary arts; either it censors, critiques, and prohibits, or it promotes and commissions. Among the topics to be considered are state sponsorship of heroic statuary, including the processes of selection for the commission and the content, and public reactions to the processes and resultant art objects; state sponsorship or engagement with art biennials or fairs and how these link to broader political and/or diplomatic initiatives or relationships; and state sponsorship or censorship of specific works or artists.

La censure de l’État et le parrainage étatique dans les arts africains contemporains
Ce panel se focalise sur l’action des États, soit pour censurer, critiquer ou interdire, soit pour promouvoir l’art contemporain. Y seront examinés : le soutien étatique aux arts visuels, notamment dans le cadre de processus de sélection pour les commandes d’art public, et les réactions du public à ces processus et aux objets qui en résultent ; l’engament des Etats dans l’organisation de festivals consacrés aux arts et les liens que cet engagement entretient avec des questions politiques et diplomatiques plus larges ; le soutien accordé à certains artistes par des Etats donnés ou, inversement, la censure exercée par ces derniers ; la manière dont, dans des cas précis, artistes et objets d’art ont répondu à la censure ou, à l’inverse, au soutien d’institutions étatiques.


Paper 1

Okunade Michael Adeyinka / Obafemi Awolowo University

Fajuyigbe Michael Olusegun /  Obafemi Awolowo University

Censorship of Public Art in Ibadan Metropolis

In recent times, attention has being given to aesthetics of the built environment in Nigeria, and public arts have been explored to enhance environmental aesthetics in the country. This paper examines the role of Art Censorship Board in Oyo State with respect to the commission, creation, installation, and maintenance of public arts at the major junctions and roundabouts in Ibadan metropolis. Data for the study comprises field work, and a critical analysis of the data will be carried out using ideological art criticism to assert that all arts support some particular political agenda, cultural structure, and class hierarchy. Findings show that most of the public arts—epic works in particular—are abused, wrongly cited, and of substandard quality, due to negligence on the part of the board and its inability to determine the concept and location of the works. It also reveals insensitivity and visual illiteracy on the part of the public. The paper concludes that cthe ensorship board should collaborate with other stakeholders, such as the Society of Nigerian Artists and the National Commission for Museum and Monuments, as regulating bodies to ensure an aesthetically pleasing environment.

Paper 2

M. Rufino Valente Rita / UCLA Department of World Arts & Cultures/Dance

Stakeholder Tensions at Mindelact Festival, Cape Verde

Mindelact is a non-profit, non-governmental international theater festival, which happens yearly in Mindelo (Cabo Verde). The festival was founded in 1995, with a local scope; since 1997, however, the festival opened its stage to European, African, and South American artists as well. For Mindelact’s organizers, the longevity of the festival is due to the volunteer work of staff and artists (what the artistic director, João Branco, calls an “economy of affects”), along with the sponsorship of the Cabo Verdean Ministry of Culture, the Municipality of Mindelo, and local businesses. In this paper, I examine the involvement of the Cabo Verdean Ministry of Culture and international institutions in the organizing of Mindelact. I will zoom into two occasions from Mindelact 2013: the 1st Meeting of Performing Arts Curators, organized by Mindelact in partnership with the Ministry of Culture; and the closing night, which included the performance of a Macanese theater company, followed by a diplomatic ceremony involving Macanese, Chinese, and Cabo Verdean dignitaries. Based on these episodes, I will discuss how organizers grapple with the need to partner with governmental and international institutions to make their project feasible, vis a vis the urge of keeping an artistic autonomy. I also debate how those institutional partnerships impact the relations of power between the board members of Associação Mindelact, who are theater artists themselves, and their local theater community.

Paper 3

Ola Abayomi / Spelman College

Censorship & Sponsorship of Political Cartooning in Nigeria 1970-1990

This paper examines state censorship and sponsorship of editorial cartoonists in postcolonial Nigeria between 1970 and 1990. Due to the country’s checkered post-colonial history, newspaper artists worked in a complex field of patronage. They practiced within two broadly different types of government (democracy and dictatorship) and different types of media institution (privately-owned and government-owned). Unlike the Western syndication system whereby freelance publication artists are syndicated through a major, usually independent, organization, Nigerian newspapers primarily employ cartoonists in-house or contract them directly as freelancers. Nigerian newspapers are rarely free of intrusion from the government and their proprietors, who may be government beneficiaries, whether under the military or democratic, civilian rule. This paper focuses on the works of such prominent cartoonists of the period as Kenny Adamson, Tayo Fatunla, Bisi Ogunbadejo, Josy Ajiboye, dele jegede, and Boye Gbenro. These artists deployed cutting lines and freshly sharpened wits to transform editorial cartooning in Nigerian dailies, despite ina media landscape challenged by systemic censorship. This paper employs interviews, case studies, and analyses of cartoons to show the effects of censorship

Paper 4

Cohen Joshua Irwin / Columbia University

Revisiting Senghor’s “École de Dakar”: Transnational Dimensions to Senegalese Modern Art, 1960-1980

In 1960, Léopold Sédar Senghor—poet, statesman, and co-founder of the broadly pan-Africanist Negritude movement in Paris—became president of the Republic of Senegal.  As president, Senghor devoted considerable resources to culture and the arts, giving rise to a state-trained cadre of artists known as the “École de Dakar.”  To date, scholars have read the “École” as an outgrowth of Senghor’s Negritude philosophy retooled as nation-building ideology.  This paper, based on extensive research in Senegal, argues differently that the much-discussed national character of the École was in fact transnational in scope and ambition: Senegalese modernism combined European media with local and pan-African themes and aesthetics; influential figures at national art institutions received training in Europe; and Senghor’s culture ministries pursued international forums for Senegalese art.  Overall, Senghor sponsored visual modernism not so much to galvanize the Senegalese masses as to project an image of a fully modern Africa around the world.  Significantly, Senghor may have also conceived of the École to advance, through arts and culture, his longstanding yet ultimately thwarted political dream of an African federation (as opposed to “balkanized” nation-states mirroring colonial territories) existing within both a global diasporan community and a Franco-African coalition valuing black cultural contributions.

Paper 5

Hill Shannen / Arts Council of the African Studies Association

Wearing War, Silencing Soldiers: Art, the Body, and Recovered Histories in South Africa

Every war has its unknown soldiers, but the histories of some are recovered in visual form. This paper examines how two South African artists, Paul Emmanuel (b. 1969) and Colin Richards (1954-2012), used their bodies to bring light to histories of their nation’s part in wars in Mozambique and Angola that South Africa either denied or dismissed, effectively censoring their existence from the public. Emmanuel’s Lost Men Mozambique (2007) is one of five in a multinational project. Considered memorials, the installations challenge our understanding of such sanctified, state-sponsored sites since everything about them is temporary: Names of forgotten soldiers pressed into Emmanuel’s skin eventually fade, as do the silk and organza banners that record his performance and hang for fixed periods on battlefields. Mozambique censored its war records by sealing them, prompting the artist to emboss Unknown Soldier onto his skin. Further, officials required him to remove two banners it deemed offensive. Richards’s Angola 1976 and Invalid Cup Series (both 1997) are conceptual works that engage notions of truth, both realized through the artist’s body. Angola 1976 includes relics of South Africa’s involvement in that secretive war; Invalid Cup Series retraced Richards’s experience as a conscripted soldier and, in a quiet daily ritual, enacted the title of the work, for “invalid” means defective in the sense of infirm or helpless, but it also means erroneous or untrue.

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