The Stellenbosch Triennale, happening in venues across the historic town from 11 February to 30 April 2020, draws in the continent’s important curators to present programmes interlocking with and at many levels of artistic achievement.
On The Cusp is not just an exhibition of a new generation of Contemporary African artists, but presents the work of a number of exciting new talents within the larger Stellenbosch Triennale. Conceptually, On The Cusp references the idea of the accumulated potential that an individual or generation possesses at a crucial interval of time – just before the onset of something great.
The exhibition is one of the Triennale’s identifying exhibitions – a core part of the programme, initiated by Chief Curator Khanyisile Mbongwa.
Triennale exhibition programme
Speaking about the place of On the Cusp in the broader Triennale exhibition programme says, “The cornerstone curatorial programs that construct the Triennale are The Curator’s exhibition Tomorrow There will Be More of Us, which we can view as a extension of the present. Then there is an exploration of the archive in From the Vault, which can be seen as a extension of the past. And finally, we have On The Cusp, which is an extension of the future. These three exhibitions mark Stellenbosch Triennale’s identity — thus engaging with our ethos of intersectional time: past, present, future.”
Curated by contemporary Ghanaian curator, artist and writer Bernard Akoi-Jackson, On The Cusp takes into account future possibilities by engaging with new artists set to innovate in the Africa scene to come, as well as on the world stage. The exhibition follows the ethos of the Triennale as it ventures beyond the confines of the traditional, exposing fresh practices — aesthetic, conceptual, critical or material.
Akoi-Jackson has upon the advice of a network of colleague practitioners across the continent, selected ten African artists/collectives across a spectrum of techniques, methods and mediums and a host of genres:
Aaron Samuel Mulenga (Zambia), Agnes Waruguru (Kenya), Asafo Black Artist Collective (Ghana), Canon Rumanzi (Uganda), Indira Mateta (Angola), Lazaro Samuel (Tanzania), Malebona Maphutse (South Africa), Nelly Guambe (Mozambique), Simnikiwe Buhlungu (South Africa), Valerie Fab-Uche (Nigeria).
New African artists
In terms of the mix of artists and mediums he has curated, Akoi-Jackson says, “For On The Cusp, it has been important to borrow from the ethics of blaxTARLINES KUMASI[i] and take cognizance of realities in economics and politics; the human society in general and how these then work in ways that have impact beyond the human experience. The exhibition adopts a strategy of deliberately mixing up stuff, being indifferent to any particular medium, material or genre as representative of the highest form of art practice. All media are considered as equally important, so long as the artists are respectful of them and dedicated to pursuing their choices.”
Bernard Akoi-Jackson is a Ghanaian artist who lives and works from Tema/Accra/Kumasi. His multi-disciplinary, audience implicating installations and performative “pseudo-rituals”, have featured in exhibitions across the world. He has curated exhibitions with blaxTARLINES KUMASI, KNUST, most prominent being Cornfields in Accra, (2016) and Orderly Disorderly, (2017). Akoi-Jackson holds a PhD in Painting and Sculpture from the College of Art and Built Environment, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi where he lectures with particular interest in disruption and the revolutionary potential in contemporary art practice. He curated the inaugural exhibition: “Galle Winston Kofi Dawson: In Pursuit of something“.
As a notable artist who engages with performance, installation, writing and a host of other activities his creative propositions may be considered as ephemeral, makeshift memorials and performative rituals of the mundane.
In addition to curating On The Cusp, Akoi-Jackson is also co-curating the main curators’ exhibition.
About the content of the On The Cusp exhibition, Akoi-Jackson says, “Contemporary artists are, as a matter of fact, dealing with myriads of issues. Generally the old issues African artists have dealt with would not all of a sudden, not go away; but young artists don’t necessarily feel that it is urgent to hang on to some of the old issues. Perhaps the best way to say it is that they are aware of their time, they are clothed with the hindsight of the histories that have existed up till now and they are looking at the old issues through new lenses, and these could literally be VR oculi, AR simulations or and existence somewhere in a virtual domain. They are moving with time, but also moving in and beyond time.”
“These young artists, and emerging voices, are very much into the Instagram culture, very much into the larger social media culture – but at the same time they may have to deal with old and protracted issues. So we approach those with a new urge. Old issues are not going away but the young people shouldn’t be burdened with them. They have their own burdens, their own agency. They are bearing contemporary burdens. And we experience this in On The Cusp.
“That is, also, why we cut across media. And that is why we have seen the inclusion of traditional artists practices as well as artists collectives. More and more collectives are becoming visible even though most of the art world is moving to the notion of the individual artist again. Some of the young artists however, deem it necessary to work in a collective in order to survive in the art world. In so doing, they do not entirely relinquish their own practices, they rather enhance them.
“As far as critical issues go, there are as many issues as the practices that are shown. But issues range far from identity, to how to be a global citizen, how to be a body that may not be embodied in a conservative sense, how to be a body that is not bent or challenged by say, gender.”
On The Cusp is made possible by Distell and will take place at one of Distell’s historical properties, Libertas Parva (Little Libertas), 25-33 Dorp Street in Stellenbosch. A panel will select the best exhibition, and the winning artist will embark on an artist residency towards a solo exhibition at an established gallery.
The Stellenbosch Triennale takes place from 11 February to 30 April 2020.