Travelling Exhibit Opens At German Cultural Weeks In Cape Town

By Shout-Africa Arts Correspondent–  SOUTH AFRICA – The travelling transcultural exhibit, Pret-á-pARTager, opens in Cape Town as part of the German Cultural Weeks. The collected works explore art, fashion, sport and the African diaspora from the perspective of 17 African and European artists. The exhibit will run until November 7 and is a project of the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations and Aktion Afrika initiative from Germany’s Foreign Office.

The Prêt-à-pARTager (“ready to share”) exhibition is a transnational artistic dialogue on fashion, sport, Africa and its Diaspora. The exhibition was organised by the German Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa).

Following an invitation by the institute, seventeen artists from Africa and Europe came to Dakar in November, 2008 to engage in a ten-day multimedia and interdisciplinary workshop dealing with fashion, identity, history and movement. The artists brought influences from Berlin, Kinshasa, Dakar, London, Stuttgart, Douala, Hamburg and Johannesburg to the Senegalese capital and jointly developed projects in a wide variety of artistic genres.

The artworks created during the Dakar workshop – such as photographs, films and video, sound and room installations – constitute this exhibition. It was curated by Elke aus dem Moore and Sandrine Micosse and will be on display in Africa for two years. After the premiere in Dakar in September 2009, the exhibition was staged in Nigeria and is now travelling to West, East and South Africa. After Cape Town, it will be on display in Johannesburg from February through April, 2011 in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut.

The diversity of objects speaks to the dynamism of the continent itself. Philip Metz (Ghana/Germany) examined the image of the “typical African” from a German and a Senegalese perspective. With a carnival costume purchased in Germany that portrays an African in a stereotypical manner, the artist went to street vendors in Dakar and “re” outfitted himself with their help and advice.

Questions of social projections and constructions of belonging and being different is a subject that also plays a central role for the multimedia artist Athi-Patra Ruga (South Africa). He installed a table covered with fruit in various areas of the Sicap/Rue 10 quarter and staged his own head in the middle like a centrepiece roast, to draw attention to the danger for body and soul that homosexuals face due to widespread homophobia in West Africa.

As a designer of lingerie inspired by the West, Nafissatou Diop (Senegal) is an agent provocateur in predominantly Muslim Senegal. Her creations are inspired by the traditional coarsely woven hip wraps worn as underwear by Senegalese women and which merge with current lingerie trends in Diop’s outfits. For the workshop she cooperated with the photographer and textile artist Simone Gilges (Germany) among others.

The collected works embrace the varied meanings and possibilities of clothing and fashion as determined by different societies and individuals and explore them in myriad ways that go beyond their function as consumer goods. The artists have utilised the fabric of their own history and the familiarisation with new cultural practices to develop striking works, hybrid creations which are socially explosive.