Tracing a Decade: Women Artists of the 1960s in Africa

Tracing a Decade: Women Artists of the 1960s in Africa

Archives of Women Artists Research and Exhibitions (AWARE)

Theresa Musoke, Wild Dogs III (Brown), 2021. Mixed media on canvas, 107 x 107 cm. Courtesy of the Circle Art Gallery.

February 20, 2024
Tracing a Decade: Women Artists of the 1960s in Africa
A symposium organized by Njabala Foundation and AWARE
March 8–9, 2024
Makerere University
CTF building
Instagram (AWARE) / Instagram (Njabala Foundation)

“Tracing a Decade: Women Artists of the 1960s in Africa” focuses on the often-overlooked contributions of women artists during this pivotal decade across the African continent. The symposium illuminates the paths and works of women artists whose practice has been blurred for decades and whose contributions to early postcolonial narratives are yet to be recognized. Guided by a set of key questions, the researchers investigate the identities and stories of women artists from the 1960s, uncover the intricacies of their creative processes, and explore how they navigated the artistic landscape of the changing Africa. Additionally, the symposium examines the thematic concerns and reception of women artists’ work during a time of socio-political transformation. 

The 1960s in Africa were a transformational period defined by the triumphs of independence, the complexities of nation-building, and the aspirations for a brighter future. As the continent underwent radical shifts, it laid the groundwork for subsequent decades, shaping the diverse and dynamic Africa we know today. The 1960s served as a crucible for the shaping of postcolonial narratives through the founding and development of several groundbreaking cultural initiatives, including Transition Magazine, founded in Uganda in 1961; the 1962 Conference of African Writers of English Expression, held at Makerere University College in Kampala; the Black Orpheus journal based in Nigeria; and the World Festival of Negro Arts held in Dakar in 1966. Together, these platforms contributed significantly to the intellectual and cultural renaissance of Africa in the 1960s, shaping narratives and fostering a sense of solidarity among black artists and thinkers.

Drawing inspiration from Chika Okeke-Agulu’s insights into the evolution of modern African art history in “The Challenge of the Modern”, the symposium acknowledges the broader context of the 1960s, emphasizing the need to fill a critical gap in the recognition of women artists during this transformative decade. By tracing their paths, understanding their methodologies, and exploring the reception of their work, the symposium aspires to contribute to a more comprehensive and inclusive narrative of African art history. It aligns with Okeke-Agulu’s call for a deeper examination of overlooked precursors, specifically focusing on the women who played integral roles in shaping the artistic landscapes of Africa during the 1960s.

Confirmed speakers: Dorothy Akpene Amenuke, N’Goné Fall, Merve Fejzula, Gladys Kalichini, Liz Kobusinge, Nadira Laggoune, Portia Malatjie, Karen Milbourne, Lerato Shadi.

Please find the full symposium programme on the Njabala Foundation website.

The “Tracing a Decade: Women Artists of the 1960s in Africa” symposium is organised by Njabala Foundation and AWARE: Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibition as part of a research program of the same name, which also includes the publication of biographies of women artists.

The symposium will be launched together with the third Annual Njabala Exhibition (ANE), titled Njabala: An Elegy which explores grief through the artistic lens of Lerato Shadi, Helena Uambembe, Liz Kobusinge, Letaru Dralega, Charity Atukunda and Wambui Kamiru. The exhibition’s narrative is intertwined with the aftermath of the pandemic, offering a space in which visitors can connect with the shared experiences of a world forever changed. As we collectively process the loss and uncertainty of the chaotic world we inhabit today (characterised by wars, femicide, economic regress and environmental hazards, to mention but a few), the exhibition aims to serve as a compassionate exploration of grief’s transformative power and its capacity to strengthen our bonds as a global community. A poignant invitation to a collective journey of healing and connection, the exhibition stands as a testament to the triumph of the human spirit and its unwavering power of creativity in times of upheaval.

The Njabala Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation based in Uganda and founded in 2021 by Ugandan curator Martha Kazungu to facilitate visibility for women artists in Africa and its diaspora through exhibitions, research, mentorship, and community engagement.

AWARE: Archives of Women Artists, Research & Exhibitions is an NGO created in 2014 that works towards making women artists of the 18th to 21st centuries visible by producing and sharing free bilingual (French/English) content about their work on its website, organising events and editing its own printed publications.

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Archives of Women Artists Research and Exhibitions (AWARE)
February 20, 2024

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