Contested Terrains features four artists working in Africa who explore and subvert narratives about the past and present. Kader Attia, Sammy Baloji, Michael MacGarry and Adolphus Opara engage with ideas of history and identity that in Africa have long been shaped by the claims and disputes of conflicting ideological and economic interests. Drawing connections across time and space, their works examine the impact of imperialism, notions of historical truth, and the representations and mechanics of power.
Their interest in the construction of cultural narratives is reflected in their engagement with the aesthetics of museum or gallery display. Whether interrogating collections or archives, or playing with the conventions of portraiture or the showcase, each underlines the fact that the museum itself is a space where ideas and ideologies are asserted and questioned.
The works in this exhibition are loosely grouped into three sections. Opara’s photographic portraits and MacGarry’s ossuary reveal traditional and contemporary value systems in dialogue and under pressure. Attia’s slide installation, positioned alongside MacGarry’s hybrid sculptures, explores different approaches to grafting and repair. Baloji’s photomontages consider the remnants and realities of industrialisation and global trade.
These artists reveal that history is more than a straightforward succession of events and that the present remains contested terrain.
Kader Attia born 1970, Dugny, France
Lives and works in Berlin and Algiers
Sammy Baloji born 1978, Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo
Lives and works in Lubumbashi
Michael MacGarry born 1978, Durban, South Africa
Lives and works in Cape Town
Adolphus Opara born 1981, Imo State, Nigeria
Lives and works in Lagos