Curator Suzana Sousa discusses the need for efficient arts infrastructure in light of the contributions of young artists in reshaping the local artistic discourse.
View of the exhibition «No Fly Zone» at Museu Coleção Berardo artwork by Kiluanji Kia Henda. Photograph: David Rato, 2013
As a curator and art critic Suzana Sousa has written extensively on the current state of the art scene in Angola where she is based. Her commitment to working in the country is inextricably linked to her belief that, “there is a lot to be done here and I want to be part of that.”
Her feature article for Contemporary And titled, “The art world in Luanda is young and vibrant with a political impact that is yet to be understood,” proficiently captured the city’s artistic and infrastructural atmosphere, and shed light on emerging artistic practices.
Therefore, in light of her recent contributions we spoke to Sousa to find her opinion on the importance of artist-run collectives, the availability of necessary artistic infrastructure and the importance of living and working in Angola.
Houghton Kinsman| How would you describe the current artistic climate of Angola? What are some of the most exciting/challenging elements facing the discourse?
Suzana Sousa | Currently, the artistic climate in Angola is still marked by the few existing exhibition spaces, some run by governmental institutions and others by international cultural institutions. However, more recently the international attention on the work of young artists has shaken the construction of artistic discourses that were essentially based on local culture and identity. This is something that I find exciting, especially the balance, still in the making, between a global artistic language and reflections on local histories and aesthetic elements.
In thinking about the development of the artistic landscape in Angola, what are some of the challenges that you have found working in Angola?
I think, the lack of public grants/funds for art and culture, is the biggest challenge. Although it is always possible to work with private companies as sponsors, there is another set of demands in regards to working with the economic sector.
‘Baoba’s Dream’ featuring artist Iris Chocolate. National Museum for Natural History, Luanda, 2013.
Besides the aforementioned funding issues, how readily available is necessary artistic infrastructure, like education, workshops, gallery exposure etc. to young, emerging artists in Angola?
In Angola, I would say there is a great need for infrastructure in the arts sector. Though it is important to note some of the projects that are in place for the development of new museums and arts education, for a long time we only had a secondary art school. However this year we have attempted to address this by offering a higher-education degree in the arts. As for exposure, there is a lack of exhibition spaces and the necessary artistic infrastructure in general. However, artists manage to create ways to establish apprenticeship programs for younger artists, which are important especially because you will rarely find workshops on specific topics.
Considering the importance of artist run apprenticeships, what sort of role have artist-run collectives and initiatives played in the development of the local art scene?
In Luanda the concept of curating is quite new. Traditionally, artists have been responsible for setting up their own shows and projects. As a result, these projects very often lack structure and essentially become a one-of kind of thing. The exceptions to this predisposition are E.studio, and even the Luanda Triennial, which was also initiated and is directed by an artist. Essentially, I think there is a fraught balance between public programs and private initiatives, with the latter mostly responsible for supporting the emerging local art scene. This being said, what you will find-most importantly- are independent curators, artists and art producers fighting to set up projects and develop artistic programs.
Suzana Sousa works as an independent curator and art critic based in Luanda.
Working with Simon Njami and Fernando Alvim, they curated the exhibition ‘No Fly Zone. Unlimited Mileage’ at the Museu Colecao Berardo, which brought together Angolan artists like Binelde Hyrcan, Edson Chagas, Yonamine and Paulo Kapela in a show that, “asks questions without presuming to find answers, where memory is put together as the spoils and experiences of life, offering alternative outlooks and paths to understanding.”
Additionally, she has curated exhibitions at the Jewish Museum, New York, the National Museum for Natural History, Luanda and was included in the Curatorial Forum and Workshop hosted by the National Gallery in Zimbabwe.
This article forms part of the series Next Chapter: Inquiries into emerging artistic practice
Angola| Doing our part to combat immappancy