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Agency, Subjectivity, and Space in Modern/Contemporary African Art

Both agency and subjectivity are important thematic properties of modern/contemporary African art. Agency implies the ability to act and to create, with the potential to produce a particular outcome. Making art, suggestive of what agency implies, produces meaning and effects, but does so subjectively and reflectively in ways that poignantly inserts and asserts one’s self-hood in the world.

Artist and Art Historian Thembinkosi Goniwe hosts a lecture as part of OLCDC’s digital project Africa Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. OLCDC’s first digital exhibition, the online project highlights several works by modernist artists, live conversations online, and lectures aimed at engaging a broader public during this socially difficult time.

Goniwe’s talk discusses agency and subjectivity in light of art as a space in which ideas, experiences, desires, or dreams, and fantasies are imagined, expressed, conveyed, or represented. African artists, like other artists around the world, conceive and utilize their artworks as space wherein their varying agencies and subjectivities are performed, played out, or negotiated. These thematic properties are discussed in relation to the importance of mobility and global exchanges in which African artists are implicated.

Visit to hear Thembinkosi Goniwe speak, and to explore the rest of our project Africa Yesterday, today, and Tomorrow.

Thembinkosi Goniwe is an artist and art historian who has lectured at the University of Cape Town (UCT), University of the Witwatersrand, University of Fort Hare and Vaal University of Technology. His artworks have been exhibited locally and internationally. He has contributed essays to various publications and has curated exhibitions in South Africa, the United States, Venice and Edinburgh. He holds an MFA from UCT as well as MA and PhD in History of Art from Cornell University. Goniwe is currently a visiting researcher at the Wits School of Art and lectures Art History and Visual Culture at Rhodes University.

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