Exhibiting South Africa: Art and Representation in a Global Hierarchy of Values – University of Copenhagen

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Exhibiting South Africa: Art and Representation in a Global Hierarchy of Values

Archaeology Research Seminars: PhD fellow Vibe Nielsen, Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen.

Abstract

This presentation explores how the newly opened Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, as focused on Africa as its branding may imply, is not only funded by a European, designed by a European and curated by a white male; it is also to a large extent speaking to and attracting visitors from the Global North, rather than visitors from the African continent it claims to exist for. My analysis of interviews and observations, conducted in and around the museum, from its opening in September 2017 to six months into its existence in March 2018, will demonstrate how the discourses used in and by the museum continues rather than opposes stereotypical myths of “white saviours” in Africa. By shedding light on the commercial aspects of the Zeitz MOCAA, I will show how the so-called “not-for-profit” museum is far from being the pure philanthropic initiative its founders and (now former) director have described it as. Rather, it seems to be part of a neo-liberalising business strategy, turning art into commodity, in a setting, where artists are financially forced to sell their work to “the very same people who oppressed us” as South African artist Thania Petersen has put it.

See all Archaeology Research Seminars during the fall semester (pdf)