Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art Takes Its NMAFA+ Series to South Africa

10-Day Art Experience Will Focus on Reckoning With Our Racial Past Through Art
September 8, 2022
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Exterior of National Museum of African Art

On the heels of the FNB Joburg Art Fair and in the lead up to the 10th Basha Uhuru Festival, the National Museum of African Art will host a 10-day series of art experiences titled “The Demonstration” at Constitution Hill Sept. 15–24. “The Demonstration,” part of the museum’s NMAFA+ series, will include an exhibition, public conversations and artist-led city tours.

Curated by Johannesburg-based artist Siwa Mgoboza, “The Demonstration” experiences will focus on the theme of “Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past,” which aligns with the Smithsonian-wide initiative to address systemic racism and racial inequity in the U.S. and globally. 

Beginning Sept. 15, members of the public are invited to an exhibition designed to support and amplify South African artists whose work pushes boundaries and provokes important conversations. Featured artists include Blessing Ngobeni, Patrick Bongoy, Luke Radolff, Nelisiwe Xaba & Mocke Jansen van Veuren, and Ayana V. Jackson. 

The experiences will also include:

  • ‘African Artists Host…’—Conversations on Race'... and Migration, Incarceration, Media & Representation, Identity, Resistance and the Demonstration
  • Curator-led exhibition tours
  • Johannesburg Through the Eyes of Artists—in Fordsburg, Soweto and Westbury, led by artists Haroon Gunn-Salie, Senzeni Marasela and Jodie Pather

“We believe in art as an important catalyst for conversation and to reimagine change,” said Ngaire Blankenberg, director of the National Museum of African Art and herself a South African.  “Siwa Mgoboza has brought together some remarkable artists to challenge us to confront issues of racism that are so persistent and pervasive in both American and South African societies. At NMAfA, we are reimagining the museum to help create sustainable, regenerative art ecosystems throughout global Africa, and NMAfA+ experiences are just the first step in this experimentation.”

As a preview to the experience, the National Museum of African Art partnered with the Moleskine Foundation for an intensive, five-day ‘AtWork’ workshop for young people on creative leadership and personal development. Led by renowned curator Simon Njami, the workshop brought together a mix of creative young people to reckon with themselves, what drives them and their personal histories.

“Our mission is to unlock the creative potential of young people all over the world to transform themselves and the communities around them,” said Adama Sanneh, CEO and co-founder of Moleskine Foundation. “We are excited to work with NMAfA and Constitution Hill, with whom we share the same vision of creativity for social change. Our signature educational format AtWork, hosted for the first time in Johannesburg, helped spark new critical debates and conversation with this vibrant, young creative scene.”  

It is especially poignant that the experience will take place at Constitution Hill, an iconic site of heritage, art and justice. It is a space that uses the heritage of the past to inspire the future through its Creative Hub and year-round programs in social justice, human rights and constitutional education.

“Constitution Hill is built on the key pillars of art and justice,” said Constitution Hill CEO Dawn Robertson. “This Smithsonian initiative for social change aligns completely with our efforts at Constitution Hill to inspire positive social change and build a more equitable future for all. It provides an opportunity for us to facilitate discussions around the complexities of racial and social justice while elevating and empowering the voices of young people through the public programs we will facilitate aligned to the exhibitions and workshops.” 

About the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art

The Smithsonian is a diverse museum and research complex in Washington, D.C., dedicated to the increase and diffusion of knowledge. The National Museum of African Art is part of the Smithsonian with a mission to be a 21st-century global African art museum. The museum’s collection of primarily visual arts span across the continent from the 10th century until today. As part of an ongoing and radical revisioning, the museum now also provides dynamic and collaborative art experiences in locations across the continent and throughout global African spaces to nurture regenerative art ecosystems. 

NMAFA+ is a series of experimental art experiences throughout the African diaspora produced by the National Museum of African Art. These “pop-up” art events enable African audiences to “visit the Smithsonian” while fostering cross-cultural engagement, creativity, coalition building and scholarship.

Constitution Hill

Constitution Hill is a living museum and heritage site that tells the story of South Africa’s journey to democracy. The site is a former prison and military fort that bears testament to South Africa’s turbulent past and, today, is home to the country’s Constitutional Court, which endorses the rights of all citizens and hosts a permanent curated art collection of more than 400 pieces that reflect on themes of justice, human rights and reconciliation. Showcasing four museums, pop-up exhibitions, public events and rapid-response programs, the museum is also home to the Creative Uprising Hub and South Africa’s only Human Rights Festival. 

The Moleskine Foundation 

The Moleskine Foundation is a nonprofit organization that aims to inspire a new generation of creative thinkers and doers able to affect change in their communities and beyond. Some of the key strengths of the foundation include its original approach, lean organizational structure, established brand and its mission of Creativity for Social Change. The foundation has implemented 20 chapters of its AtWork program, starting in Dakar, and including in Abidjan, Kampala, Cairo, Addis Ababa, New York, London and Maputo. 

FNB Art Joburg and Open City 

Johannesburg is the cultural and economic capital of Africa, and FNB Art Joburg is its leading art fair. Art Joburg believes there is no better place than Johannesburg to show all of its best artists under one roof. Because artists are best served by strong galleries—with long-term representation, physical exhibition spaces and free entry for the public—Art Joburg is run for galleries with galleries and is committed to further building the region’s gallery infrastructure. As Africa’s longest running contemporary art fair held in the culture capital of the continent, Art Joburg has mandated itself to sustainably support and grow the continent’s cultural offering in ways that go beyond the traditional art fair. When the world was struck with a pandemic and Art Joburg could not host a physical fair, it found a way to serve the arts by activating the city and its creative economy through the inaugural Open City held in October 2021. In its quest for economic stimulation and inclusivity in the creative arts, Open City looks to give independent as well as emergent cultural practitioners working in art, music, performance, film, food and fashion an opportunity to reach a wider audience of culture consumers.

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