(Re)Thinking Feminism and Black Womanhood- workshop and exhibition

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With the aim to stimulate a dialogue between female artists and writers with different geographical and professional background, Goethe-Zentrum Kampala organized the project “(Re)Thinking Feminism and Black Womanhood” in September 2016 which comprised of a 10 days’ private workshop alongside three public events: a reading, a pop up exhibition and a symposium.

The workshop was based on an exploration of feminist theories and aesthetics through voices, positions and perspectives from African and African diasporian women. Part of this process was the conceptualization and production of artworks and text as innovative proposals for the next generation of women artists and writers.

The project was motivated by the fact that in our globalized world we still find fewer women – and in particular women with an African or African diasporian background – within the circuits of the international art world. The same has to be stated for artworks by female artists in art collections, both private and institutional. Thus, female artists are less visible and their works less distributed among the networks of the globalized art world.

In a bid to contribute to broader discussions of the reasons for the relative absence of female artists and writers in the global art circuits, the project brought together visual artists and writers to reflect on various aspects of Western and African Feminisms in relation to their own work but also in relation to the situation of women in their respective societies.

During the workshop, participants made presentations about their artistic practices as well as readings and discussions of academic texts. One of the concepts that were most discussed was that of NEGO Feminism which can be defined in contrast to individualistic “career feminism” and which is based on mutual support of a community. The need of self-organized Third Spaces was also mentioned as a way to achieve more independence from the established patriarchal and racist institutions in the global art world.

A public reading, pop up exhibition and Symposium took place on 8th, 9th and 10th respectively. Two participants: Jumoke Verissimo and Juliet Kushaba read from their published and unpublished works and the Ugandan writer Doreen Baingana prepared an essay about creative writing and Feminism for the Public reading held at the Goethe-Zentrum Library. The pop up exhibition at 32° East/Ugandan Arts Trust showed the work that the participants had created during the project with mixed media: installations, video and performance. Many aspects of the discussions that were had in the workshop were reflected in the art pieces: domestic work of women, sexuality, motherhood and self-liberation. The symposium took place at the Uganda Museum with participants from the academia, the visual arts, politics, the judiciary and media, the focus was much larger and went beyond the arts.

The heterogeneous group in terms of origin and professional experience consisted of six visual artists: Sonia Barrett (Germany), Syowia Kyambi (Kenya), Nancy Mteki (Zimbabwe), Abe Stacey Gillian (Uganda), Immy Mali (Uganda), Sheila Nakitende (Uganda) and three writers: Jumoke Verissimo (Nigeria), Gloria Kiconco (Uganda), Juliet Kushaba (Uganda).The workshop was funded and supported by CKU, Iwalewahaus, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Goethe-Institut Lagos, Goethe-Zentrum Harare, Uganda Museum, 32° East and Femrite.