An Anticolonial Museum
8 September – 31 December 2022
Curated by Ana Sladojević, PhD
The exhibition was opened by Jelena Vesić, PhD, independent curator, art critic and theorist, president of AICA International Association of Art Critics Serbia.
In focus of numerous museums worldwide – and in particular those that exhibit African art – is currently decolonization of their work. The Museum of African Art – the Veda and Dr. Zdravko Pečar Collection, with its beginning tightly entwined with the ideas of anticolonialism and nonalignment, managed to open space – throughout decades of its activities – for somewhat different museum representation, especially in comparison with standard museum practice of Western collections.
Bearing this in mind, and relying of previous good practice, as well as numerous collaborations that museum had since its very founding with curators, theorists and artists, this exhibition (as just one part of a far more complex project of Museum reconceptualization), poses a challenge of anticolonial thinking and acting before one Museum in the making, concomitantly marking an end to an era of museum representation.
The concept of an Anticolonial Museum is based on the very history of the Museum of African Art, whose initiators, Veda Zagorac and Zdravko Pečar were active protagonists of the anticolonial struggle – referring here mostly to their engagement in the Algerian war for independence from the French colonial rule, that was ongoing between 1954. and 1962. year.
However, the exhibition is not just a historicization of Yugoslav anticolonialism, although it takes it as a starting point in its reflection. Relying on the MAA work over decades, as well as numerous theoretical and artistic interventions that problematised museum as such, the exhibition strives to trace a possible model of museum work that would rely on anticolonialism understood as an affective heritage of this place.
The exhibition content
The exhibition maps some of the key questions regarding the representation of Africa and African Art, understood within the cultural framework far wider than the Museum itself. Starting from cartographic representation of Africa, through press reports, articles, photographs, drawings, titles, sentences and quotations, it describes different registers within which the image of Africa and African art was created, that concomitantly – directly or indirectly – influenced the image that the MAA puts forward.
Relying on theoretical and artistic deliberation of this concrete Museum, as well as other museums that thematise representation of Africa, three artworks are presented within the exhibition.
Ana Vujović (Serbia), presents her work ‘Unknown African’ (2019), in form of an installation/triptych, that points at erasure of African authorship within Western institutions, telling of the necessity to recognize the corelation between certain stereotypes of a longue durée, and the current realities of social inequalities.
Koštana Banović (Sarajevo-born artist based in Utrecht, the Netherlands), has shot a short film on the MAA, under the title of ’Reading Museology’ (2017), where she re-thinks different eras of this Museum’s life, that have left its permanent display seemingly unchanged. She points as to how important institutional history is for representation of any kind.
Katarina Zdjelar (Belgrade-born artist based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands), participates with her work ‘Into The Interior (Last day of the permanent exhibition)’ (2014), consisted of the footage taken during dismantling the permanent exhibition at the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Belgium in 2013. It represents an end to an era of museum representation, opening symbolically the space for new models of representation.
Exhibition curator and catalogue author: Ana Sladojević, PhD, independent curator and art and media theorist
Complementary programmes and activities around An Anticolonial Museum exhibition
2, 9, 16 & 23 August 2022, from 11 to 13h
Workshops: Towards an Anticolonial Museum
As part of the exhibition methodology, during August we organised a cycle of talks under the title of “Towards an Anticolonial Museum“. With an excellent response and an active participation of constituents, questions such as decolonization of knowledge, museum representation of African art, race and racism, were considered. These deliberations will be translated within the domain of re-thinking and imagination aimed at devising what an anticolonial museum could be.
Sunday, 11 September 2022, 11h
Curator-guided tour through the exhibition with Ana Sladojević, PhD
Research Hour (Saturdays, October through December)
Within three cycles of the Research hour, during October, November and December, through talks that take as a starting point a museum or personal object, item, documentation, study collection, media content etc, some of the main issues that are in focus of the current research both directly and indirectly related to this Museum, will be presented.
More information: soon!
20-22 October 2022
International conference – ‘An Anticolonial Museum’
Renewed interest in nonalignment and anticolonialism, that exploded in the last ten years, is part of a search for the alternative models of existing in the world. It resulted, however, in an often-uncritical and one-sided view of this museum as anticolonial, not taking into account the research in the last eighteen years that has already delineated its colonial/imperial methodologies and discourses (besides anticolonial), as well as the regimes of in/visibility and normalized institutional erasure of certain data, features, contributions and people. The “anticolonial” in its prefix therefore deserves additional theorization as well as changes in museum practice – which are among the questions that the current project of museum reconceptualization (that the conference is only one part of) brings forward.
Taking therefore the Museum of African Art – the Veda and Dr Zdravko Pečar Collection in Belgrade as a case study, but also as an example of a decentred museum with layered history, we intend to open floor for topics that connect museums with dire realities of extractivist capitalism, institutional racism, and the enduring imperial paradigm of knowledge production, particularly in relation to cultural representation, art, museums and heritage.
Conference participants are professionals within the domain of Museum studies, museum representation, African art, institutional critique, decolonization, as well as museum practice dedicated to anticolonialism and antiracism: Natalie Bayer, Mark Terkessidis (Germany), Vitjitua Ndjiharine (Namibia), Elizabeth Asafo-Adjei (Ghana), Blessing Bee Azubike (Nigеriа), Jelena Savić, Ana Vujović, Jelena Vesić (Serbia), Paula Nascimento (Angola), Katarina Zdjelar, Koštana Banović (The Netherlands), Dubravka Sekulić (Serbia/Great Britain), with Bojana Piškur (Slovenia), Katarina Živanović, Ana Sladojević, Emilia Epštajn and Ana Kneževič (Serbia) in scientific and organisational board.
The conference will be organized along three main themes:
I Counterhistories, Anticolonial and Anti-racist Curating
II Art and Knowledge Production: Unlearning and Undoing
III Postcolonial and Postsocialist: Art, Art Criticism and Art Theory
The fourth segment will have an open form and will be dedicated to discussion and evaluation, as well as representation of artworks included in the exhibition An Anticolonial Museum.