Meritocracy within the art world, however idealised, has not yet materialised. The marginalisation of voices such as of women artists is a global reality, and the African context is no exception.
The forces excluding women’s voices are complex and varied. Stemming from language-bias to socio-economic inequalities, from cultural stigmas, misogyny, gender-prejudice, centre/periphery dialectics and more.
Additionally, at a moment in time where the African continent’s economies are earmarked for poverty eradication and global economic development, the forced invisibility and bias against voices that notwithstanding, are expected to provide their minds, and bodies for the societal good is problematic. Where are women’s voices, and their expression within public life?
In 2016, Another Africa launches the ongoing series ‘In/Visible Voices of Women’, conceived by Clelia Coussonnet and Missla Libsekal. It looks to women practitioners, to explore through their poetic voices what is particular to this epoch. Rather than imposing a rubric and aiming to disrupt labels, the series begins with the notion of being ‘in/visible’, and paves the way for these cultural practitioners’ voices to determine the message while contributing to the existing corpus of material on women artists. In so doing, and through their practice and engagements, we probe the possibility that what rises to the surface, is indeed some of the most urgent and pertinent questions of our contemporary condition.
Given the practical dearth of digitally accessible information, and, moreover, the complexity of the issues at hand, the first line of enquiry takes shape in a commentary series, fielded to art historians, curators, artists, educators and cultural practitioners, speaking from their own context, and not from generalisations about the situation on the continent. In the upcoming six-part question series, respondents possessing first-hand knowledge as professionals – and importantly women – operating within the cultural field offer a diversity of thoughts and opinions, that help us bring to light some of the contours and states of being invisible, and becoming visible.
Whilst the breadth of works and themes raised at times develop out of place-based contexts, and may include traditions, history, and memories, nevertheless common threads manifest. For we are connecting points, and products of incessant movements, mixes, exile routes, and encounters. We are made aware of how sensitive our presence in this world is, despite all the violence surrounding us.
To kick-start new collaborations and exchanges, the commentary series will lead more specifically into a wider, and long-term, publication project focusing on women artists operating within Francophone and Lusophone Africa. As barriers, owing to language differences, reduce the circulation and cross-pollination of encounters within the continent, Another Africa will introduce selected professionals to its English-speaking audience whilst aiming to extending their reach to French and Lusophone-speaking audiences as well. The first stage of the project is the online publishing of short-form English interviews on Another Africa. Followed by bilingual artist monographs with long form interviews and essays, to be made available in print and e-Books.
The artist interview series launching spring 2016 include practitioners engaged and connected to Francophone North Africa. They are Safâa Erruas (Morocco), Nadia Kaabi-Linke (Germany/Tunisia), Nicène Kossentini (Tunisia), Amina Menia (Algeria) and Zineb Sedira (Algeria/UK).
Commentary series participants include: Malala Andrialavidrazana (France/Madagascar), Angèle Etoundi Essamba (Cameroon/Netherlands), N’Goné Fall (France/Senegal), Tamar Garb (South Africa/UK), Jessica Horn (Uganda), Valerie Kabov (Belarus/Zimbabwe), Euridice Kala (Mozambique/South Africa), Marcia Kure (Nigeria/USA), Mónica de Miranda (Angola), Ng’endo Mukii (Kenya) and Suzana Sousa (Angola).
 Marwane Ben Yahmed, “Michaëlle Jean : « La Francophonie doit être partout où on ne l’attend pas »,” Jeune Afrique 2868/69 (2016): 79.
This article forms part of the ‘In/Visible Voices of Women’ series. Read more.