10 - 12 May, 2019 | UJ Arts & Culture Centre


From 10-12 May 2019, VIAD and the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice (CSSJ, Brown University) will collaboratively host a series of curated conversations and interdisciplinary engagements, entitled: The Imagined New (Or, what happens when History is a catastrophe?) – Working Through Alternative Archives: Art, History and the African Diaspora.

A rich tradition of critical work around African and African Diasporic art and culture was opened up over the second half of the 20th century by the 1956 Paris conference of Black Writers and Artists, and the 1969 Pan African Festival of Algiers - not to mention the work of, amongst others, the Art Society in Nigeria, the Black Arts Movement in the USA, and the Caribbean Artists Movement of the 1960s. On the Continent, dialogues initiated in these radical departures have been further developed through debates that both attended and followed important biennales in Dakar, Bamako and Johannesburg, and more recently Lagos, Kampala and Lubumbashi. Working within this discursive tradition – as one enriched but also complicated by the growing attention given to modern and contemporary African and African Diasporic art practices (through a range of exhibitions and publications: from contested mega-shows like MOMA’s 1984/5 "Primitivism" in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern to the more critical responses of Enwezor, Okeke-Agulu, Mercer and others) – The Imagined New seeks to shift the conversation forward through a distinguishing set of focal concerns. We want to reflect on and think through ways in which Living Histories work in Black Memory as archives which offer a plurality of imagined futures. We do not claim to be operating on the scale of the above-mentioned conferences and biennales; rather we engage with this tradition asking ourselves questions about refusal, freedom, art practices, history, memory archives and Black subjectivities, as historically enacted and embodied in the present.   

Rather than following a conventional conference format, this gathering will bring together invited local, Continental and Afrodiaporic scholars, curators and artists recognised for their work and preoccupations with creative and curatorial practices related to legacies of slavery, colonialism and apartheid; alternative approaches to history-making and the ‘archive’; as well as the political work of the radical Black imagination.

Participants will be invited to respond to the set of questions key to a programme of publications and curatorial projects to be supported by VIAD and its partners over the next three years.

Key themes and questions:

  • Memory, Subjectivities and the new configurations of Refusal.

  • The Living Histories of Black memory as archives of the Imagined New.

  • How do we engage with African Diasporic sacral art practices? What is the relationship between these art practices, the everyday, and the imagining of new futures?

  • African and African Diasporic visual cultures as new forms of archives that enable different ways of knowing Africa and the African Diapsora.

Anticipating The Imagined New, renowned Miami-based Haitian artist Edouard Duval-Carrié will be VIAD’s 2019 artist in residence. Print-based works produced by Duval-Carrié will be on view as part of the colloquium programme. Works produced over the course of the residency will feature in a solo exhibition in Johannesburg next year, to be curated by VIAD Visiting Professor Anthony Bogues. The programme will also include the South African launch of VIAD RA Prof Cheryl Finley’s recent publication, Committed to Memory – The Art of the Slave Ship Icon (2018, Princeton University Press).

The Imagined New programme will result in a special edited publication.