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Beyond Tradition:

Contemporary Sculptures from Africa


beyond tradition: Contemporary sculptures from africa

February 25, 2022

August 28, 2022

Now on view at The ARC
Every 2nd Saturday 1pm-5pm or by appointment

Free Admission


Contemporary African Artists constantly face the dilemma of being viewed mainly through the lens of classical African art traditions. This attitude and assumptions about what constitutes art by Africans has been Western derived, and continued to marginalize contemporary African artists from broader global dialogue about contemporary culture. The selected works in the exhibition include works from Bill Karg’s Collection from when he lived in Africa. Most of the works represent sculpting traditions from two regions in Africa (Zimbabwe and Tanzania) where the carving traditions have a long cultural history.

Zimbabwe, for instance, is best known for its soapstone carvings. Most artists carve works in stone that depict animals and sometimes abstract forms inspired by dreams and associated with ancestral spirits known as “Vadzimu” spirits. These works show a coexistence between the physical and the ancestral world, which many of the artists continue to believe. From Tanzania, most of the carvers work in blackwood that has identified their regional style as Makonde. These artists often work collectively
and often gather to work in groups, carving roughed-out pieces into forms that express the history, traditions, and cultures of their lands.

Both carving styles hold a firm belief that every stone and wooden piece has a life force. It is that life force that dictates what image is carved. Artists become the medium through which untranslatable is depicted in form. These works offer a glimpse into the spiritual and everyday life of artists grappling with aspects of spiritual and mythical aspects of African life, and how they influence daily life. This exhibition reflects on how cultural traditions continue to shape contemporary practices and artists are constantly adapting and responding to current realities. The two regional styles attest to the complexity, innovation, and dynamism of most arts from Africa. The works show the commitment of artists who honor stylistic conventions while also
reinventing new forms.

Curated by Tumelo Mosaka


About the curator

Tumelo Mosaka

Tumelo Mosaka is an independent curator from South Africa. Most recently, he was the contemporary art curator at the Krannert Art Museum (KAM) in Champaign, IL where he curated several exhibitions including: Blind Field (2013), OPENSTUDIO (2011), The Kangarok Epic (2011), iona rozeal brown (2011), MAKEBA! (2011), Baggage Allowance (2010), The Bikeriders: Danny Lyon (2010), Lida Abdul (2010), and On Screen: Global Intimacy (2009), among others. Prior to joining KAM, Mosaka was Associate Curator of Exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum where he curated exhibitions such as Infinite Islands: Contemporary Caribbean Art (2007), Passing/Posing: Kehinde Wiley (2004) and co-curated Open House: Working in Brooklyn (2004). Mosaka has also worked for the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina where he co-curated the exhibition Listening Across Cultures (2001) and Evoking History (2002). He has also organized several international exhibitions including Otherwise Black (2014) for the 1st edition International Biennale of Contemporary Art in Martinique (BIAC).

Source: Independent Curators International



Bernard Takawira (1948-1997) Zimbabwe

Serpentine stone

15 inches high x 10 inches wide x 5 inches deep

OLCDC-18. Bernard Takawira. b. 1948-1997 Zimbabwe, Unwilling, serpentine stone, 15 in x 10

Lover's Flower

Sylvester Mubayi (1942) Zimbabwe

Serpentine stone

13 inches high x 12.5 inches wide x 4 inches deep

OLCDC-61.Sylvester Mubayi b. 1942 Zimbabwe, Lover's Flower, Serpentine Stone 13 in x 12.5

Bride's Head

Edward Masaya (1962) Zimbabwe

Serpentine stone

6 inches high x 18 inches deep x 10 inches wide

OLCDC-54. Edward Masaya b. 1960 Zimbabwe, Bride's Head, serpentine stone, 6 in x 18 n x 10
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