Supported by A.R.M. Holding and Tashkeel, the third iteration of Residents comes with a focus on the African continent through the works of six emerging artists. Invited for a residency that encourages the exploration of meaning-making and the construction of logic through the curatorial lens of South Africa based Kabelo Malatsie, the artists – from Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe – have set foot in Dubai for the first time to work on solo presentations.
Canvas: How did your involvement with this year’s Art Dubai Residents come about?
Kabelo Malatsie: This is my first time working with Art Dubai, and actually, my first time in Dubai at all! In my capacity as an associate director at the Stevenson gallery in Johannesburg, I have attended many art fairs around Africa and the world, which has introduced me to a more global art scene, but we do not know or hear much about art from this region. That makes the focus on Africa this year all the more timely. I was delighted to receive an email from Pablo del Val, the international director of Art Dubai, asking to speak to me about this opportunity. I definitely wanted to catch up on what had been done in this region and see what I could bring.
Canvas: Can you tell us more about the concept behind the curation of this year’s works?
KM: My curatorial approach is less thematic and more a disparate collage of ideas that I try to connect. To me, this is how life is – you are given many elements and you weave a narrative for yourself and the world. My ongoing research explores the exhibition model as an unlikely starting point that places incongruous practices and thoughts together to try and think of alternative ways of making and reading the world we inhabit. My current obsession is with patterns – behavioural and institutional – and how they shape one’s perceptions. I am trying to unpack how trust is established when we know so little, how truth has been challenged and how plurality opens up infinite ways of creating meaning. So, I am interested in what contributes to how we perceive the world, and this includes our body’s internal logic. The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley informs a lot of my work, and especially my intervention in the fair this year.
Canvas: How were the artists chosen for this edition?
KM: I’ve selected three male and three female artists with whom I’ve worked before, cleaved evenly between painters and installation artists. I’m very excited to see how they’ll fare in the different contexts of the GCC. It was important for me to also include different geographies across Africa, so we’ll see Gideon Appah from Ghana, Wallen Mapondera from Zimbabwe, Tizta Berhanu from Ethiopia, Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu and Tonia Nneji from Nigeria, and lastly, Longinos Nagila from Kenya.
Canvas: What can we expect this year?
KM: All six artists are in Dubai for a six-week residency, making works influenced by my ideas of spatial intervention. The individual presentations to be unveiled at the fair are like unfolding conversations between myself and the artists, shifting how I work and, in turn, how they work. To me the most interesting part is how we all discussed ideas before coming to Dubai, and how these are now changing, taking on different shapes and moulded by to the specificity of the region. Such movement won’t necessarily manifest itself in overt ways, as one cannot get a sense of a city in such a short time, but it will certainly have an influence.