Simon Njami is an independent lecturer, art critic, novelist, and essayist. Njami has been artistic director of many biennales including Bamako (2000 to 2010), Dakar (2016, 2018), Kampala (2018, 2020), Lubumbashi (2000), and the Luanda and Douala triennials. He was co-curator with Fernando Alvim of the first African pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. Njami has curated numerous exhibitions, including the seminal show Africa Remix (touring exhibition 2004, 2007). He has published widely, and he is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the cultural magazine Revue Noire.
He is joined by Sammy Baloji who was born and raised in Lubumbashi. His work explores architecture and the human body as traces of social history, sites of memory, and witnesses to operations of power. Baloji has been exhibited widely, including solo exhibitions in galleries and museums all around the world. He has participated in several major international biennales, including Sydney Biennial (2020), Documenta 14 (Kassel/Athens, 2017), Lyon Biennial (2015), Venice Biennial (2015). A Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres, Baloji is the recipient of several prestigious residencies and awards.
They are joined by Mo Laudi, a multidisciplinary artist, composer, DJ, and producer renowned for his key contributions to afro-electronic music in London and Paris. He creates sonic landscapes and works that focus on deconstructing black futurity, African knowledge systems, and spirituality, to form new pathways of understanding multiplicities of cultures. His multi-layered sound installations have been shown in many exhibitions, festivals, and biennales, including Ernest Mancoba. I Shall Dance in a Different Society, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2019).
Johari – Brass Band, sculpture by Baloji, forms a unifying thread between the three, with a corresponding text by Njami and sound composition by Mo Laudi. Together they discuss the interrelation between history, memory, and music resonating across South Africa, DRC, Cameroon, France, and the United States. The conversation examines how ways of living, remembering, and writing are interwoven on the continent and asks — Should we reinvent or question the semantics and the way history was written? How can we find other rhythms, new entry points and recreate languages? What are the instruments and tools for the reappropriation, reinterpretation, and rewriting of history?
An ongoing research project was initiated in 2019.
The 2021 programme is supported by Pro Helvetia Johannesburg financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) through its Regional Arts Progamme.