This exhibition addresses issues of feminism, sexuality and the body, as they play themselves out in the work of a generation of women artists from Africa active since the late 1990s. Bringing together artists from different parts of the continent, this group exhibition strives to define and articulate notions of feminism and sexuality in the work of women artists whose body (their own or that of others) serves as a tool, a representation or a field of investigation. In their work, the body manifests itself, whether sequentially or simultaneously, as a model, support, subject or object.
In The Body Politic: Differences, Gender, Sexuality (in Contemporary African Art Since 1980) Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu evoke the gathering of Igbo Women in 1929 in the city of Aba, in Nigeria. This gathering, where women used their naked bodies to protest the tax policies of the British colonial administration, stands as a powerful picture of the meaningful use of the body by Nigerian women. The event in Aba is remembered as one of the first historical occurrences of a modern Nigerian women’s movement, and also an example of the critique of colonial power. Manifesting the naked female body is a practice deeply ingrained in traditional African cultures as a means to expel injustice. A notable instance happened in 1819 in Nder, a small village in the north of Senegal, whose history is marked by the tragedy of the self-immolation of a group of women who preferred to kill themselves and their children rather than fall prey to the Arab and Moorish slave traders.
Miriam Syowia Kyambi
WIELS Contemporary art centre Website