Universes in Universe

For an optimal view of our website, please rotate your tablet horizontally.

Authentic / Ex-centric © Photos: Haupt & Binder / universes.art

Authentic / Ex-centric: Africa in and out of Africa

49th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia

10 June - 4 November 2001

Curators: Salah Hassan and Olu Oguibe
Associated curator: Emma Bedford

Artists: Willem Boshoff, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Godfried Donkor, Rachid Koraїchi, Berni Searle, Zineb Sedira, Yinka Shonibare

Venue: Palazzo Fondazione Levi, San Marco, Venice

The exhibition Authentic/Ex-Centric: Africa In and Out of Africa, features the work of seven prominent contemporary African and African Diaspora artists: Willem Boshoff (South Africa), Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons (Cuba/USA), Godfried Donkor (Ghana/UK), Rachid Koraїchi (Algeria/France), Berni Searle (South Africa), Zineb Sedira (Algeria/UK), Yinka Shonibare (Nigeria/UK). All are accomplished artists working within the conceptual mode in painting, sculpture, photography, video and multi-media installations. All live and work between the continent and Western centers of artistic production, and their works speak directly to issues of representation, memory, Diaspora, expatriation and other aspects of the African experience.

The word Authentic, in the title, references the responses of some of these artists to the problematics of representation as well as paradigms of discourse that objectify African and other cultures. It plays on cultural determinism and the demand for 'authenticity' and the exotic that continues to frame the acknowledgement and reception of African contemporaneity outside the continent. Several of the works in the exhibition problematize such notions of originality and authenticity, and speak back to them. Ex-centric addresses other realities of cultural politics as they affect African artists within and outside Africa. It also points to issues of cross-cultural and trans-national aesthetics and consciousness within contemporary African art practice especially since the exhibition reflects the reciprocal traffic of ideas and influences between Africa and other parts of the world, and offers a glimpse of the ways in which African artists have interpreted and translated the aesthetic and social experiences of both historical and postcolonial Africa as part of a global sensibility.

Photos and Information

Why Venice? Why exhibitions?

Some may wonder why such forums, and exhibitions in general are so important as opposed to texts or other means of presenting African art? One may put the answer rather simplistically: If You Do Not Exhibit, You I Do Not Exist! Exhibitions remain exemplar of how art history is produced. They are the building blocks of art history and therefore crucial in moving art from the private to the public domain. In the cultural politics of the past two centuries, exhibitions and the curatorial practices behind them constitute the most enduring and perhaps most powerful means of selecting, staging, and ultimately canonizing art.

Reflections by Salah M. Hassan and Olu Oguibe about the exhibition as an effort to remedy the virtual absence of Africa in the Venice Biennale. Excerpt from the essay included as Preface in the Publication.

continue reading ►

The web presentation of this exhibition was first published by Gerhard Haupt and Pat Binder on Universes in Universe, immediately after the opening of the 49th International Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, 2001.

© Photos: Haupt & Binder. Universes in Universe
© Texts: Salah M. Hassan and Olu Oguibe

The relaunch of the exhibition's online presentation in the year 2022 was possible, thanks to the support of:

The Africa Institute
Africa Hall, Al Manakh
PO Box 4490 Sharjah
United Arab Emirates
Website | Email

Follow The Africa Institute:
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

See also in UiU:

Back to Top