Fiona Byrne-Sutton views Frontline States, exhibiting at the Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvingrove, Glasgow. Plus Andy Weiner and Gorbals photography from Joseph McKenzie.


Up Front!

A major feature of Mayfest’s visual art programme is an exhibition of work from the Frontline States of southern Africa. Fiona Byrne-Sutton takes a look at the work. and explores some ofthe issues facing the artists.

Art from the Frontline is emphatically an exhibition belonging to the 80s and 90s. In addressing modernity while at the same time seeking to develop a positive African historiography. the artists of Angola. Botswana. Mozambique. Tanzania. Zambia and Zimbabwe are actively engaged in the strategies of historical redescription and reclamation being undertaken by British black artists. women artists and the Celts.

The issue is one ofgeo-political place. African artists are contributing to the formation of modern national identities through work which departs from the traditional art of masks and carvings with specific functions. New strategies in the face ofurbanisation. industrialisation and

worker migrancy have led to the separation of

public and private spheres of life and an isolated sense ofself. Painting. printing. drawing and sculpture are extensively used. with artists producing work that is rooted in its particular history at the same time as it is full ofexperiment. adaption and reinterpretation.

The development ofcontemporary art varies greatly in each country. In Zimbabwe art has parity with theatre; Mzilikazi Art School is the home ofthe new ‘weld art‘. The Shona school of sculpture and Makonde sculpture in Tanzania (where drama predominates) are big art movements with apprentices. Mozambique and Angola have strong arts associations and courses but no art school; many of their artists study in East Germany and Leningrad. and are influenced by Socialist Realism. The exhibition selection aims to show both the homogeneity of the Frontline States as well as the diversity of visual art within them. Internationally renowned Mozambican sculptor Chissano has looked to Makonde carving in the north. At the same time the oppression of South African destabilisation is reflected in his work. as in the canvases of Malangatana and the expressionist paintings of Zimbabwean artist Joseph Jumah. An ambivalent relationship with Europe is evident in the paintings of Victor Teixxeira and Antonio Salo. where African symbols can be found within European techniques. The chronic shortage of

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art materials in the region has led to the very striking work of the Tanzanian Tinga 'l‘inga school ofpainters who use brilliant bicycle enamel on hardboard to depict themes from animal and bush life. and. more recently. social issues; while Style Kunda's naive and evocative landscape paintings reflect an emerging genre of pastoral painting. To date. women‘s work has largely been confined to the craft and tourist trade side of production.

Colonial administrations sought to devalue African culture and the premises of European Modernism developed in part out of Romanticism‘s cult of the Orient the ‘archaic home ofmankind‘. African artists. then. see that the history of imperialism determines how

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cultural relations are used. valued and seen in the international market. Under modernism a black artist in Europe could either be like a white artist. but black. or ‘an ethnic artist'. which. as John Roberts has pointed out. contains the black artist within the realm ofmulticulturalism and consequently outside the determining circuits of power.

The challenge for the black or white visitor will be of interpretation and a questioning of one's own history and subjectivity. with some 175 works by 76 artists to consider.

A rt from the Front/inc is a! the A r! ( iul/erv and Museum, Kelvingrove. (Ilus‘gumfmm I May until3 June.

The List 20 April 3 May I990 55