Zimbabwe’s national gallery to host international conference of African cultures

By Wallace Mawire


NGZ executive director, Doreen Sibanda
NGZ executive director, Doreen Sibanda

The National Gallery of Zimbabwe is set to celebrate its 60th Anniversary in 2017 with  one of the major  highlights being the hosting of an International Conference of African Cultures (ICAC), according to Mrs Doreen Sibanda, Executive Director of the gallery.

According to Mrs Sibanda, the  large-scale event will take place from the 11 to 13 September 2017 in Harare at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.
It is also reported that the overall theme of ICAC is Mapping the Future.

The gallery reports that the major impact of  the conference  will be to map out the ways in which institutions, artists, governments, academics and practitioners engaging with the continent will further art and culture development .

“The three  day conference will bring together local and international delegates in the art, culture and heritage industries to deliberate important issues surrounding the future and history of art and culture from Africa. Today the situation has changed and the challenges that were there in the 60s, 70s and 80s are not the same as the challenges being currently faced,” Mrs Sibanda said.

It is also reported that in 1962 the gallery organized and hosted the first ICAC as one of the first dialogue platforms for scholars and enthusiasts of African  culture. This was reported to be a ground breaking event.

“Fifty-five  years later, we wish to stage a follow up in order to examine and interrogate past colonial developments and mapping the future imperatives,” Mrs Sibanda added.

She adds that like the  first ICAC in 1962, the forthcoming event is expected to  be important not only for the region, but for the whole continent.

“ It will offer an opportunity to fully examine some burning questions such as what is the current state of art institutions in Africa?, and Why is it that many forums/conferences about African art of the African continent are taking place outside the African continent?,” she said.

Some of the key  topics will include, The Role of Heritage in formulating Identity, The Historical Dimensions of Art in Africa, Development of Contemporary Art on the Continent, Spaces for Contemporary African Art, The Design Tradition in Africa and Its Impact on Arts and Culture.

It is added that ICAC 2017 will be made up of four major elements which include the conference.

It is said that the conference is central to ICAC. The theme of the 2017 conference is Mapping the Future.  The conference will be a platform to reimagine the future of art, art and cultural institutions heritage and cultural industries in the face of the current socio-economic and political challenges on the continent.

ICAC II is reported to come at a time when art institutions around the world need urgent attention from both the local authorities, corporations and their governments.

“The conference sessions and break away groups, providing participants the opportunity to deliberate on specific areas from their own perspective and national experiences. The main conclusions of ICAC will be documented and incorporated into a publication,” Mrs Sibanda said.
The exhibition programme is  set to run alongside the conference and will showcase distinguished artists, both living and late from all over the continent. It is expected to highlight pivotal African narratives while exploring African and Western meeting points against a background of contemporary concerns.
The inaugural art week is designed to offer the mushrooming art spaces of Harare an opportunity to celebrate with the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and showcase their work. This will promote Zimbabwe’s most contemporary and cutting edge galleries, collectives, craft centers and art related organisations.
There will also be a visit to Great Zimbabwe  on 14 September 2017.

“The cradle of Zimbabwean Heritage and Culture will be available to interested visitors. At this site, discussions around intangible and tangible heritage will be held,” Sibanda said.

The gallery says that the first ever International Congress of African Culture (ICAC) that took place at the National Gallery in 1962 established the Gallery in the eyes of the international community as a centre for the advancement of African studies, and the promotion of the arts of Africa.

It was the first forum in which the arts of Africa were discussed by Africans in Africa. This successful international forum brought together international art professionals with an interest in Africa and African Art. The inaugural show comprised several elements and had more than 70 delegates who included Museum professionals and directors, artists, poets, writers, critics and other scholars from around the world.

The first ICAC opened up important debates about Africa’s underplayed contribution to the global art world as well as the sophistication and holistic nature of the continents visual culture. The conference aimed at showing in the midst of Africa, the greatness of African culture in the arts and music and demonstrating the influence of African art and music on 20th Century culture.

 Also, in celebrating the Diamond Jubilee, the presentation and conservation of Zimbabwe’s contemporary and visual heritage since 1957, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe  is set to rename the spaces within the  gallery in honor of late artists who contributed to the development of Zimbabwe’s modern and contemporary Art Scene from the 50s and 60s. The gallery will be renaming the North, East, West, PG and South Galleries and the Sculpture Garden.

Also in 2017, the national gallery will  present eight major exhibitions that include the showcasing of design, a tribute sculpture show as well as African contemporary and traditional arts, a Contemporary Zimbabwe Solo Artist , An exhibition Mapping the Development of Zimbabwean Art and the role of the National Gallery will be held and finally an extensive exhibition detailing the unfolding art history of the nation during the course of the International Congress of African Cultures.

In  July in  commemoration of the actual opening of the Gallery in 1957,  the gallery will also launch a ground breaking publication of Zimbabwean works that are in the NGZ permanent collection. This book will be the definitive publication on the art of Zimbabwe and will  form a kind of art history document, according to Sibanda.

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