Haus der Kulturen der Welt


The Short Century
Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945-1994

A project of Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, in co-operation with Haus der
Kulturen der Welt, (House of World Cultures) Berlin.
Curator: Okwui Enwezor
Co-Curators: Rory Bester, Lauri Firstenberg, Chika Okeke, Mark Nash
Presented by the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

From May 18 to July 29, 2001, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt will be
showing the exhibition "The Short Century" in the Martin-Gropius-Bau in
Berlin. The exhibition has already had enjoyed extraordinary success at its
first venue in Munich, having met with international media acclaim. The
exhibition is curated by Okwui Enwezor, artistic director of Documenta 11.
In Berlin, "The Short Century" will be shown for the first time in its
entirety, being shown as it will be at its next destinations of MoMa/PS1,
New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. With this
exhibition, Okwui Enwezor encompasses the many faces of African Modernism
and redefines Africa's place in the annals of 20th century history.

"The Short Century. Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa
1945-1994" examines the brief period of liberation from the yoke of
colonialism from 1945 to the end of the Apartheid regime in 1994. In this
"short century", the peoples of Africa won their independence from the
European powers which had divided the continent among themselves in 1884/85
at the Berlin Conference, with the aim of total colonisation. When the
first Ghanaian Prime minister, Kwame Nkrumah, spoke of the 20th century as
the "century of necessity", he was describing both the path to emancipation
and that of rebuilding African identities.
The interdisciplinary approach of the exhibition links historical documents
with modernist and contemporary artistic standpoints, and confronts the
creations of colonial and anti-colonial propaganda - film and photography,
but also poster art, print media and textiles - from both private
collections and government archives. This exhibition proposes that unique
examples of artistic currents, from the Egyptian awakening to South African
resistance art can now be seen in Germany for the first time. Architecture
and town planning are shown here as an expression of a new, collective
self-confidence manifest in the young African states, but also is a subtle
excursus in to the politics of space.
The exhibits show personal and collective self-representations of an Africa
undergoing urbanisation which is in constant dialogue with the major cities
of Europe and North America due to its artists and intellectuals living
abroad. Official representations of history are reframed by private pieces
of memorabilia: family albums, shrines to memory, memoirs, fashions in
dress and popular music take their place alongside traditional art and
revolutionary pictures.
Visitors to the exhibition become witnesses of the time in a multimedia
archive which provides new evidence for a "biography" of the African
continent, which retrospectively outlines the interplay of culture,
politics and art in building a new social space by Africans and for
Africans. "The Short Century", however, not only shows the intellectual
side of decolonisation, but also its collective memory. This memory belongs
to the people on the street who have created the foundation for
The tour the exhibition offers through the various thematic stages
clarifies the extent to which the fine arts and architecture, photography
and film, literature, music and theatre have contributed to a modern
self-definition of the continent. In doing so, the important role played by
those African artists, literati and intellectuals as modernisers of their
continent, who were in continuous dialogue with the European avant-garde
and the American civil rights movements, then becomes clear. In this
respect, the director Ruy Guerra worked closely with the European artists
Jean Rouch and Jean-Luc Godard. The South African artist Ernest Mancoba was
a co-founder of the COBRA group. The Ethiopian painter Gebre Kristos Desta
lived and worked primarily in Germany. The Indo-Ugandan writer Rajat Neogy
published works by Chinua Achebe, John Pepper Clarke and the Nobel Prize
winner Wole Soyinka in his publication "Transition". Léopold S. Senghor and
Aimé Césaire, co-founders of the Negritude movement, were publicly
supported by Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, André Breton and Picasso.
The meeting of Africa and modern European art is a story of interaction.
While European artists became familiar with the formal elements in African
sculptures and objects stored across Europe in the ethnology museums,
African artists were stimulated by examples from European modernism.
However, in doing so, they came up against historical and methodical
hurdles which forced them to grapple with both issues of modernity and
tradition simultaneously. These issues have been and still are now of
fundamental importance for the aesthetic standpoint of modernist and
contemporary African artists.
The question which runs through the whole exhibition is this one: how can
African modernism realise its modernity? This issue is neither based on the
ideology of a definition of artistic periods valid for all African regions
and styles, nor is it based on mere recognition of and assimilation of an
autonomous European modernism. The fine arts, the film oeuvre, photographs,
documents, books, posters, textiles, the great variety of archive materials
which have been brought together in this exhibition make it possible to
experience these dialectics intensively. This provides a way of seeing
which accords the African conception of the world the status it deserves,
both within African cultural life itself and within the general modernism
of the 20th century.

Participating artists:
David Achkar, Georges Adéagbo, John Akomfrah, Jane Alexander, Ghada Amer,
Oladélé Ajiboyé Bamgboyé, Jean François Bastin/Isabelle Christiaens,
Georgina Beier, Zarina Bhimji, Skunder Boghossian, Willem Boshoff, Frédéric
Bruly Bouabré, Ferid Boughedir, Ahmed Cherkaoui, Jennifer Clyton, Gebre
Kristos Desta, Manthia Diawara, Uzo Egonu, Ibrahim El-Salahi, Erhabor
Ogieva Emokpae, Touhami Ennadre, Ben Enwonwu, Dumile Feni (Mslaba), Samuel
Fosso, Kendell Geers, David Goldblatt, Flora Gomes, Kay Hassan, Kamala
Ishaq, Gavin Jantjes, Isaac Julien, Marion Kaplan, Kaswende, Seydou Keïta,
William Kentridge, Bodys Isek Kingelez, Vincent Kofi, Rachid Koraichi,
Sydney Kumalo, Moshekwa Langa, Christian Lattier, Djibril Diop Mambety,
Ernest Mancoba, Chris Marker, Santu Mofokeng, Zwelethu Mthethwa, John
Ndevasia Muafangejo Thomas Mukarobgwa, Mark Nash, Iba Ndiaye, Malagatana
Ngwenya, Amir Nour, Demas Nwoko, Uche Okeke, Antonio Olé, Ben Osawe,
Ouattara, Raoul Peck, Gillo Pontecorvo, Ricardo Rangel, Marc Riboud, Jean
Rouch, Gerard Sekoto, Ousmane Sembène, Yinka Shonibare, Malick Sidibé,
Gazbia Sirry, Abderrahmane Sissako, Lucas Sithole, Cecil Skotnes, Pascale
Marthine Tayou, Tshibumba Kanda Matulu, Twins Seven-Seven, Sue Williamson

Exhibition venue
Martin-Gropius-Bau, Niederkirchnerstrasse 7
Underground: Potsdamer Platz, Anhalter Bahnhof
Urban railway (S-Bahn): Potsdamer Platz

Opening hours:
Daily except Tuesdays 10am-8pm, Sat until 10pm
Entrance fee: DEM 10, concession DEM 6
Combi-ticket with "Europas Mitte um 1000" DEM 14
Catalogue (English): DEM 78, Journal: DEM 3

Exhibition website: