African Arts & Literatures Today: Archives and Curating - RCMC
8 June 2016

African Arts & Literatures Today: Archives and Curating

Lecture | 8 June 2016 | RCMC

African Arts & Literatures Today aims to address the underexamining of African cultural production by providing lectures, readings and discussions by academics and artists active in the field of African culture and literature.

Archival Matters - Curatorial Practice and the Postcolonial Archive | Christine Eyene and Renée Mussal

The (colonial) archive has, in recent years, received significant critical attention from a number of different quarters. Scholars, curators and artists have taken the archive to task: as a critical site for posing questions about practices of colonial governance, or for thinking about the workings of colonialism and its afterlife, including the elision of the violence of its own operation and the silencing of the lives of colonized subjects.

This seminar follows in this tradition, seeking to think against and along the archival grain, to uncover previously untold histories. Focusing on the work of several artists from Africa and the African diaspora, speakers will explore the necessary work that artistic and curatorial practice need to do to uncover, or even fashion, ‘other’ archives for those not-remembered histories. In the absence of conventional archives, they will ask what forms of imaginative labor must be mobilized to recuperate unexplored histories. Further, more than the colonial archive, what might we imagine to constitute archives of the post-colonial?


Christine Eyene is an art historian who has been researching modern and contemporary South African art since the late 1990s, specializing in the story of artists in exile during Apartheid and their cultural interactions with the Black Diaspora in France and England. Her essays on this topic have examined the art of South African pioneering modernists Ernest Mancoba and Gerard Sekoto, as well as Dumile Feni, Gavin Jantjes and George Hallett. As a curator, her exhibitions and collaboration include: “Gideon Mendel: Drowning World”, Tiwani Contemporary, London (7 June - 27 July 2013); “Thierry Geoffroy: Mobile Emergency Room”, Zimbabwe Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale (1 June - 30 Sept. 2013); “Roma-Sinti-Kale-Manush”, Autograph ABP, Rivington Place, London (28 May - 28 July 2012); Dak’Art 2012 – Biennale of Contemporary African Art (11 May - 10 June 2012); Photoquai 2011 – Biennial of World Images, Paris (13 Sept. - 11 Nov. 2011). She has contributed to various international art journals including Third Text, Art South Africa, Manifesta Journal, as well as exhibition catalogues  and art books. She has been visual arts co-editor of the journal Africultures since 2002.

Renée Mussai is a London-based curator, writer and art historian. She is Curator and Head of Archive at Autograph ABP - an arts charity that works internationally in photography and film, addressing themes of cultural identity, race, representation and human rights - where she manages a diverse collection of photographs and global programme of exhibition, publishing and research initiatives. Over the past decade she has lectured extensively at art colleges, museums and galleries internationally and organised numerous exhibitions in Europe, Africa and the US, including most recently the critically acclaimed “Black Chronicles II”, which opened at Rivington Place, London in the autumn 2014. Between 2009-13, she was non-resident fellow and guest curator at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, USA. Mussai is presently a PhD candidate in Art History at University College London (UCL).


  • Studium Generale
  • Leiden University
  • University of Amsterdam
  • African Studies Centre


Mondriaan Fund