Looking Both Ways – 4 week course in modern and contemporary art from Africa at Tate Modern

Intrigued by Tate Modern’s 4 week course, ‘Looking Both Ways: An Introduction to Modern and Contemporary Art from Africa’, being offered in March:

“This course aims to introduce the field through four sessions that consider the careers of African artists abroad between the 1940s and 1960s, the role of art schools and workshops in Africa around independence, the display of African art in Western museums from the 1980s and the proliferation of major exhibitions and festivals in Africa since the 1990s”, the site says.

Bit of a whizz through (2 hours over 4 Monday evenings), and not sure I can afford it (£70 concessions + time). And all of that is comment in itself… Apart from wanting exposure to the works and to be in the environs of the Tate Modern, I wonder:
Why this, why now? And, related, how will it be pitched (“No prior knowledge of art history is necessary”, says the site)?
How does this ‘new’ interest intersect with the kind of (historical) moments it is bound to look at? (Is it bound, and how?)
What have been chosen as the objects of study of modern and contemporary African art?
The title – I ask you, Tate Modern, why/how ‘Looking both ways’?

This is the (suitably great) image advertising the course on the Tate website:



Santu Mofokeng, The Black Photo Album / Look at Me 1997 (Tate © Santu Mofokeng, courtesy Maker, Johannesburg)

See further details of the course at the Tate Modern, led by Kerryn Greenberg; Mondays 5 March 2012 – 26 March 2012, 18.45 – 20.45.



nb: Mofokeng’s image advertising the Tate course caught me, and is of particular interest, in light of reading Ivan Vladislavic’s Double Negative (2011) – which I highly highly highly recommend – one half of the joint project that is TJ/Double Negative: The Various Names of Johannesburg. 50 Years of the City (2010). TJ is a retrospective of leading South African photographer David Goldblatt’s work in and around Johannesburg from 1948-2010. There is a lot of portraiture in Goldblatt’s work here that a) finds its echoes in Mofokeng’s image and b) are distanced within the joint project of TJ/Double Negative as they are also ‘doubled’ and/or ‘negativised’ in the narrative of the protagonist of Vladislavic’s novel, who ends up becoming a photographer of note – but not through active choice – returning ‘home’ from self-imposed exile of the apartheid years to particular locations, finding, rather than images, people and narratives unfolding from frustrated, incompleted, or pre-existing images – one of his specialities ends up being images of buildings, particularly of walls.

The relationship of Vladislavic’s novel to Goldblatt’s images is apparently oblique, but incontrovertable, as are the comments that emerge on the role of art and of representation, available between the voices/visions of both of these white, male, South African artists. I highly recommend (again!). I wonder what the Tate would make of it…

(For more of Goldblatt’s images, and a great online interview on TJ/Double Negative with Goldblatt and Vladislavic, by a publisher and highly respected art commentator, Bronwyn Law-Viljoen, see Books Live.)

Cover image of TJ. (TJ stands for ‘Transvaal Johannesburg’ and is the vehicle license plate identifier for the city.)

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