‘Africa is complex. It has to pass through you’

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The continuation of four art institutions and the story of the struggles behind it

On the fourth day of Dhaka Art Summit 2020, ‘The Death of the Collective’ presented a panel with Cosmin Costinas as the moderator and panelists from four individual art institutions. Panelists from Centre for Historical Reenactment of South Africa, Green Papaya of Philippines, Depth Of Field of Nigeria and Shomoy Group of Bangladesh shed light on the struggles behind the continual art institutions they have been able to hold on to, till date. The shared journey was discussed amongst the guests at 11 in the morning at the ground floor of the event.

Cosmin Costinas, the moderator of the panel and the executive director, and curator of Parasite Hong Kong, at the opening of the panel said: “There is something fundamentally conservative about preserving an institutional structure.” Mentioning this, he also states that this mere idea of the continuity results as the progressive act. Since 1996, Parasite has been the oldest exhibition to exist in Hong Kong. The institution, which was used as a way to be a part of global conservation since the beginning, addressed the lack of political issues, and occasionally acted as museum and sometimes as school. However with time, as five of the seven founding members withdrew the institution due to personal growth, a new method was introduced. The members came to a mutual agreement to recruit curators. This new method resulted in the continuation of Parasite in Hong Kong. Gradually, it began to be recognized in the international scale.

The artist of ‘Depth Of Field’ with a few number of curators, are now famously known in Africa as one of the famous photography teams since it was founded in 2005. In order to give a voice to their political context with contemporary art, artists evolved in sharing their stories to the people. Sharing stories to the local people wasn’t just enough. The artist thus said: “Africa is complex. It has to pass through you.” The team of ‘Depth Of Field’ (commonly known as DOF) was initially a collective of five artists. Later they made it fluid. They brought in more artists, because they realized that “collective is not just centered around the stories of the five collected artists”. Gradually, with the increment of new artists DOF carried their stories and movements about their identity and colonial conversation to address people of who they are and what they do. Even if one member withdraws, several other backups are there to address the same issue. For this, they call themselves the ‘Trans African’.