Art
Keturah Benson

8 Black Art Moments You Can't Miss During Art Basel Miami 2018

Our guide to Blackness at this year's fair.

It's that time of year again. Art Basel is bringing its magic back to Miami. The annual art fair that showcases modern and contemporary art, is set to have more than 4,000 artists displaying work across all mediums. The Miami iteration of the week-long fair has become a space for artists, galleries, collectors and countless art lovers to connect, be inspired and party for the last 16 years.

Here are some Black art must-sees during Art Basel:


Art Africa Miami Arts Fair presents "Black Art Matters"

This year, the Art Africa Miami Arts Fair turns eight years-old and the theme is "Black Art Matters: It's Not A Choice." The fair will explore the role Black art has played in being an "intellectual, political and artistic rereading, trying to think of the contemporary condition of peoples that have been involved in struggles to stay human." There will be the "Art + Film" event featuring a screening of Through The Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People and " Art + Fashion" a dance party where attendees are the art. Art Africa Miami Arts Fair was founded by visionary and architect, Neil Hall, with not only the intention of showcasing Black art but to celebrate the community that birthed the festival, Overtown. The community that was once called "Colored Town" during the Jim Crow era also became a cultural hub in Miami. The fair has also been credited with amplifying Black Art in Overtown during Art Basel Week.

Zina Saro-Wiwa—Table Manners

Nigeria-born and Brooklyn based artist, Zina Saro-Wiwa, created the video series "Table Manners" that explores the " performative practices of food consumption as indispensable to the imagination of belonging in West Africa." It features Ogoni people eating Nigerian dishes like Roasted Ice Fish and Mu , Sorgor Salad with Palm Wine or Garden Egg and Groundnut Butter. Each video is minimal but colorful, creating an intimacy between the eater and the viewer. Saro-Wiwa said, "A powerful exchange takes place when one not only eats a meal but watches a meal being consumed. One is filled up with an unexplainable and potent metaphysical energy that we normally pay no attention to." The work is a highlights the eating practices with cultural specificity and what it says about self.


PRIZM Art Fair 2018

PRIZM Art Fair, has become one of the leading showcases of international artists from across the African Diaspora and emerging markets at Art Basel. This year, programming comprises of events like PRIZM Film which includes screening of Life is Fare a film that explores three different perspectives of Eritrea and PRIZM Panels that will tackle everything from redlining to the meaning of art. They will also be presenting two exhibitions curated by PRIZM Founder and Director, Mikhaile Solomon and artist William Cordova that are steeped in futurism. Cordova's exhibit will explore the connections between futurism, ritual and the folkloric.Solomon's will focus on re-appropriation, reclamation and creating an inclusive future. Read: 5 Black Artists You Can't Miss at PRIZM


assets.rbl.ms


PUSH

Liberian-American and Philadelphia based artist, Keturah Benson, will be presenting PUSH, a live interactive experience she said,"tears the veil between the artist and the audience." Instead of showing the glamorous finished product of a piece, Benson wants to showcase the often uncomfortable and grueling creative process. After attending Art Basel last year, she immediately began prepping and creating for this one. Whether it was leaving a 9-5 job, scrapping ideas or losing a venue for an exhibit, Benson captured it all. She will be showcasing three works: "The Self-Love Project", "The Quiet Place" and "I Create The Filter." Benson said, "The key is to remember you are not alone in this process, we spend a lot of time on social media comparing ourselves and this whole show is based around transparency.The goal is to motivate artists to push through."

"AfriCOBRA: Messages to the People" Opening Celebration

"AfriCOBRA: Messages to the People" is an exhibition presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (MOCA) to celebrate of America's longest running artist collectives. AfriCOBRA is a black artist collective that began in 1968 in Chicago. They looked to explore the Black aesthetic and defined it during The Black Arts Movement. This year, the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the collective. There will be a meet and greet with Curator Jeffreen M. Hayes and the founding members of AfriCOBRA. Artists like Napolean Jones- Henderson, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Carolyn Mims Lawrence and more. They will be discussing their work with AfriCobra as well as their current works.


Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi

South African photographer and visual activist, Zanele Muholi, has spent more than a decade documenting the lives of the LGBTQIA community in South Africa. She will be exhibiting some of her works that span from black and white portraits to colorful displays of individuality. Read an interview with Zanele Muholi

Allison Janae Hamilton's PULSE Miami Special Project: Sweet milk in the badlands.

Allison Janae Hamilton is a multi-disciplinary visual artist. Her work comprises of photography, video, sculpture, installation and even taxidermy. The Kentucky-born and Florida raised artist will be presenting Sweet milk in the badlands. at PULSE. The photo series explores landscape and its role in our understanding of the past and the present. It is described as a look "toward ritual, storytelling, and trance in search of the connections between landscape and selfhood, place and disturbance. It invites an uncanny cast of haints to lead the viewer through the beginnings of an epic tale that animates the land as a guide and witness."


Serge Attukwei Clottey at UNTITLED Miami

Based in Accra, Ghana, Serge Attukwei Clottey is a Ghanaian artist with a broad discipline in sculpture, drawing, performance and video.

His work showcases and explores the power and presence in everyday objects. Clottey is known as the creator of "Afrogallonism"—a creative practice that sits at the intersection of environmental and social justice. He took the highly prevalent yellow gallon containers in Ghana and turned it into art that not only is a critique on overconsumption and an exploration of restoration. Catch Clottey showing work with Ghana's Gallery 1957 in Booth C7 at UNTITLED Miami.

Interview
Image: Courtesy TIFF

Jenna Cato Bass is Capturing the Horrors of an Unhealed Nation

The film marks the South African director's third debut and stride towards making a name for herself in the international film circuit.

Ever since premiering her debut film, Love the One You Love, which won the Best Feature Film at the Jozi Festival in 2015, Jenna Cato Bass has been a name to watch on the international film festival circuit. Her 2017 feature, High Fantasy, was the first of her films to land on the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) lineup, followed by Flatland in 2019. Her latest offering, Mlungu Wam (Good Madam), debuted at TIFF in September of 2021 — marking her third time at the esteemed Canadian film event.

Often provocative, always thought-provoking, Bass' films have come to establish her as a director who looks at South Africa's youth, the lives they're living and the future that awaits them, with a nuanced, open-minded lens. For the first time in her career, Bass uses the genre of horror to dig into an enduring mark of the country's past — that of the fraught, complex relationship between madam and domestic worker, in Mlungu Wam (Good Madam). Set in Cape Town, the film follows the unusual, disturbing things that start happening when a young woman moves back in with her estranged mother, who is the longtime caretaker for a rich, white household.

Bass also co-wrote the film Tug of War (Vuta N'Kuvute), which became Tanzania's first film to be selected for TIFF this year, and she co-wrote Rafiki, which was Kenya's first film at TIFF in 2018.

She spoke to OkayAfrica about playing in a new genre and her hopes for African cinema.

Still from Bass's film Mlungu Wam Image: Courtesy TIFF


This story revolves around the relationship between a domestic worker and her 'madam.' What made you want to make a film about this subject?

When I make films, I like the concept to revolve around something that we all have in common - because, despite the many fractures in our society, these shared places exist. And in South Africa, we felt that everyone - in some way or another - has been deeply affected by domestic work and domestic workers, who are a keystone in our society's structure. Additionally, the 'maid' and 'madam' relationship is the ultimate symbol of race relations in South Africa - as well as how they haven't changed significantly, despite almost thirty years of democracy. So a domestic worker was the perfect character around which to centre a South African horror.

The genre of horror works really well to explore this subject and tell this story — when did you know it would be the genre you'd want to use?

The early stages of developing a film aren't always linear for me. I'll be thinking about a genre I'm interested in, and then parallel to that I'll have an idea for a story or a character, and later on, will realize that these pieces all fit together. In this case, I'd been wanting to make a horror film for ages, but hadn't found the right story… until I had the idea for Mlungu Wam, and I realized I was finally ready to try this genre.

What challenges did you face in making a horror?

It was my first time working in this genre, and it was intimidating because there's no saving you if you fail. We were also working on a very, very limited budget, so it wasn't possible to show as much as we'd like to - but then again, this story was all about the subjective and the unseen, so I did as much research and planning as we could, and just had to trust it would work.

Where did you film, and did that have any impact on the process at all?

We filmed in a house in Cape Town, in a gated community in the Southern Suburbs. The house and the environment had a major impact on the film - especially because we were also quarantining there for the full 7 weeks of rehearsal and shooting. The house was our set and our accommodation, so it was very intense, very claustrophobic, and very triggering for many of our team members.

How did you and co-writer Babalwa Baartman work on the story? You've included cast members in the writing process in your previous work — did you do that here too?

Mlungu Wam was made along similar lines to my first two films, Love The One You Love and High Fantasy, where we started with an outline, cast actors, then workshopped the characters collaboratively before completing the story breakdown and using improv for the dialogue. Babalwa and I had worked together using this method on a short film we made in 2019 called Sizohlala. She really understands the process, and it was a really rewarding experience exploring the story with her and our cast.

How did Kristina Ceyton, who produced the excellent acclaimed horrors The Babadook and The Nightingale, through Causeway Films, come to be involved in this film?

I had met Sam Jennings, who is also a producer with Causeway Films, several years ago at a festival. We really connected and kept in touch over the years, sharing our work, and hoping there'd be a chance to collaborate. So when we were developing Mlungu Wam, I pitched her and Kristina the concept and they were immediately supportive. It has been a massive pleasure working with them both.

Your films are known to venture into themes of identity and healing from the past — how does this film speak to that?

Mlungu Wam is definitely about this too - it's a story about three generations of women (actually four, if you include Tsidi's grandmother, who is an unseen character in the film), how they are haunted by the past and eventually refuse to remain chained any longer. Their healing is collective, linked to each other, and wouldn't be possible for them alone as individuals.

Still from Bass's film Mlungu Wam Image: Courtesy TIFF


You've been at TIFF before - how has your experience of it been this year, with it being a hybrid of virtual and in-person?

Things have been quieter and a bit harder to navigate, but the TIFF staff have done incredible work getting the festival off the ground, despite endless challenges. It has felt very surreal to be here, and a privilege - and inspiring too, that we can still get together to celebrate films, even though our world is in such a mess. We had over 200 (socially distanced) people at our last screening, and that was an amazing feeling.

Yours is one of few African films on this year's line-up - is there anything you'd like to see happen to try improve that?

Regarding African cinema, TIFF has a real range of films this year, across several sections. Compared to many other festivals, they seem really invested in supporting cinema from the continent. Of course, this could be better, but it's also an example to other festivals who claim there aren't enough African films, that this is clearly not the case.

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.

Tanzanian Filmmaker Amil Shivji is Making History with a Story of Love and Resistance

As the first Tanzanian film to be chosen for TIFF, Shiviji's film is sure to get the African country a seat at the table.