Time for the Gloves to Come Off. The last day of the AICA conference.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Last night the remains of the AICA critics' conference dissolved into the friendly chaos of the second Gugulective show at the Kwa Mlamli shebeen, which worked its usual wonders on the European guests. Their smiles acquired extra teeth, and were even directed at white folk like me, whose political motives are always under suspicion until we are seen drinking beer in a township. There were physical demonstrations of intellectual prowess (if you free your ass your mind will follow) and Andrew Lamprecht got a shout-out from the rappers, who knew he does good things for people. His smile got pretty wide too, after that.
The mood of the conference was a very upbeat one compared with the orgies of mudslinging these things have descended into in the past. Troopers like Khwezi Gule and Mirjam Asmal-Dik extolled the virtues of just carrying on carrying on, and the phrase “wiping the egg off your face” stood out as a central ethos of getting anything done, throwing new light on the pervasive use of yellow in the Cape '07 branding.
But still the imbalance of power between Africa and Europe cannot fail to hang over everything, creating a pall of complexity which makes the towering achievements of European philosophy look like playschool. Ramon Tio Bellido, from France, delivered a talk which I hope to get a transcript of, as it was so amazing one had to laugh for fear of crying. It was about the history of how Europeans have finally started to become interested in Africa as a source of contemporary art, and included incredible details such as how much effect Jean-Michel Basquiat had on making Europeans realise that black people could actually be intelligent artists! So they failed to stumble upon this small detail until the NINETEEN EIGHTIES! What they thought before that, one shudders to imagine. Who the hell do these Europeans think they are, for fuck's sake. And what is it going to take to put a bomb under their presumptuous asses?
One speaker, Tambudzai Sibanda, who was earnestly trying to describe a way in which Africans could take on European art criticism and make it their own, got frozen in a loss for words. Her gobsmacked silence spoke volumes.