'Till Death Us Do Part', (1982-1986) by Theo Eshetu

‘Feedback: Art, Africa and the 1980s’ – examining the ’80s from a historical and contemporary point of view

The ’80s were a decade of flux, transition, uncertainty and attempts to bring visions of independence into formation. With social, political and economic change and unrest as reference points, artists from various African countries reflected on their country’s circumstances as well as those of continental and global politics in their work. Famine, dictatorships, remnants of colonial rule, social uprisings, African countries as the playing ground for the last years of the Cold War, the implementation of new visions. This moment in time, and the artistic expression that came out of it, is the centre of the exhibition Feedback: Art, Africa and the 1980s, examining the ’80s from a historical and contemporary point of view, displaying work from artists at more than one point in their careers. In this way, artists’ work was able to be in conversation over time, with reflective pieces made recently responding to and feeding off pieces made in the midst of the 80s whirlwind. This has been described by the organisers of the exhibition as “creating a feedback loop – a discourse about the 1980s and its impact on post-1990 contemporary Africa art.”

The exhibition included art in all its forms – music, film, artworks – as well as archival materials from Iwalewahaus at the University of Bayreuth (where the exhibition was held) and materials from Makerere University’s Art Gallery. Iwalewahaus is also rooted in the ’80s, with it being founded in 1981. It was one of the first European institutions dedicated to contemporary African art through exhibitions, collections and other interventions, with a part of the exhibition highlighting Iwalewahaus’s first decade of existence.

The exhibition is significant in that it presented a gateway for retrospective contemplation, and an opportunity to examine the relationship between a European institution and African art. It also offered suggestions and points of entry for ways to assemble a history of postcolonial African art.

Feedback: Art, Africa and the 1980s is curated by Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi (Cleveland Museum of Art) and produced by Iwalewahaus, University of Bayreuth.

Featured artists include: Amadou Ba, Fodé Camara, Lionel Davis, Baba Dia, Ndidi Dike, El Anatsui, El Hadji Sy, Ibrahim El Salahi, Theo Eshetu, Adebisi Fabunmi, Euridice Kala, Kangudia, David Koloane, Muwonge Mathias Kyazze, Ezrom Legae, Huda Lufti, Maitre Syms, Spoek Mathambo, George Msimango, Peter Mulindwa, John Muafangejo, Lukama N’gazu, Sam Nhlengethwa, Moke, Olu Oguibe, Ronex Ahimbisibwe, Amadou Seck, Etale Polycarp Sukuro, Twins Seven Seven, Obiora Udechukwu, Beatrice Wanjiku, Ezra Wube, and Hervé Youmbi.

Sam Nhlengethwa, (1985), ‘Titel unknown (Unrest in Township)’. [Mixed Media Collage]. Collection: Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Obiora Udechukwu, (year unknown), ‘Exile Train’
David Koloane, (1986). ‘Title unknown’. [Oil crayon on paper]. Collection: Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Lionel Davis, (1982), ‘Confined’. [Linocut]. Collection: Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt am Main

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