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Dhaka Tribune

‘Africa is complex. It has to pass through you’

The continuation of four art institutions and the story of the struggles behind it

Update : 10 Feb 2020, 11:43 PM

On the fourth day of Dhaka Art Summit 2020, ‘The Death of the Collective’ presented a panel with Cosmin Costinas as the moderator and panelists from four individual art institutions. Panelists from Centre for Historical Reenactment of South Africa, Green Papaya of Philippines, Depth Of Field of Nigeria, and Shomoy Group of Bangladesh shed light on the struggles behind the art institutions they have been able to hold on to, till date. The shared journey was discussed by the guests at 11 in the morning on the ground floor of the event venue. 

Cosmin Costinas, the moderator of the panel and executive director, and curator of Parasite Hong Kong, at the opening of the panel said: “There is something fundamentally conservative about preserving an institutional structure.” 

Saying this, he also stated that this mere idea of continuity results in a progressive act. Since 1996, Parasite has been the oldest exhibition to exist in Hong Kong. The institution, which was used as a way to be a part of global conservation since the beginning, addressed the lack of political issues, and occasionally acted as museum and sometimes as school. However with time, as five of the seven founding members withdrew from the institution due to personal growth, a new method was introduced. The members came to a mutual agreement to recruit curators. This new method resulted in the continuation of Parasite in Hong Kong. Gradually, it began to be recognized on an international scale. 

The artists of ‘Depth Of Field,’ with few curators, are now well known in Africa as one of the famous photography teams since it was founded in 2005. In order to give a voice to their political context with contemporary art, artists evolved in sharing their stories with the people. Soon, sharing stories with local people just wasn’t  enough. The artist said: “Africa is complex. It has to pass through you.” The team of ‘Depth Of Field’ (commonly known as DOF) was initially a collective of five artists. Later they made it fluid. They brought in more artists, because they realized that “collective is not just centered around the stories of the five collected artists.” Gradually, with a growing number of new artists, DOF carried stories and movements about their identity, and colonial conversations, to address people about who they are and what they do. Even if one member withdraws, several other backups are there to address the same issue. For this, they call themselves the ‘Trans African.’

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