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Creative Outlet

Art of the Ordinary – Contemporary Art

How is contemporary art made? What is its cultural value? Where is it displayed?

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Art of the Ordinary - Contemporary Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Art of the Ordinary - Contemporary Art
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by Ntuthuko Mpofu

I was not one of those people who understood the art industry and its policies, but I really wanted to involve myself in the art world; I felt there was a lot I could do there. I had no clue where to start, but I knew I had to learn. My solution to understanding or discovering the beauty of art was to walk into an art gallery or museum. I explored by visiting my local Art Gallery for the first time. It was a defining moment – my first contemporary art experience, as I was pushing myself towards boundaries.

It may sound a little counter-intuitive, but do bear with me; I was left with no choice but to do some research during my exhibition experience. I read the artist’s biography and the artist’s statement. I can’t recall the artist’s name, but I remember that he was a contemporary artist based in Moscow. What is contemporary art? Is there any economic or financial generation? How does it differ from the art of the previous generation, how can I approach it? How is contemporary art made? What is its cultural value? Where is it displayed? “In galleries of course…” after getting the clue. How does an individual begin to make it relevant in our own lives and experiences? Who then makes contemporary art? Kudzanai Chiurai, Gareth Nyandoro, Richard Mudariki, Portia Zvavahera, Rashid Jogee, Bukhosi Nyathi and Israel Israel. These are some of the artists whose work I have managed to interact with.

How does art remain contemporary? What is the relationship between art and its time? The answers to that, we shall continue to explore. Art is always in dialogue with its time and thus will always be a part of its present reality. The language around contemporary art is daunting, while the art objects themselves can be mystifying. Times are changing but is the world of art adapting to reflect the change?

What is Contemporary Art?

It is artwork produced during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Oxford defines it as “Art that is of the moment or the very recent past, in distinction to modern art, which is a more all-embracing term and can be used to cover many of the avant-garde movements of the 20th century as well as art that is contemporary...” Most scholars would define it as an art of recent years and the present day, being work including that which was produced after the modern art movement to the present day. However, modern artwork is not just art produced during a specific time frame. This style of art is difficult to define because the work is of a wide variety.

Artists of the past were often influenced by religion; today’s artists can be inspired by much more and the work often grows out of their own interests. The work they do is reflective and can reflect a diversity of narratives or perspectives. This then makes this type of art have many points of view or objectives. Contemporary Artists’ work may be influenced by their culture, globalisation, and capitalism. Common themes that might be examined include sexuality, identity, technology, globalisation, migration, urbanisation and popular trends. This makes Contemporary Art a complex examination of the present day. The advantage of this type of art is that one can empty his thoughts or state of emotions, than follow a common theme or subject. It does not limit an artist to explore ‘’orthodox’ ‘concepts like religion. The coronavirus impact will definitely be one of the subjects that will be common in most spaces.

Art of the Ordinary - Contemporary Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Title: Achtung! Men Ahead
Acrylic on Fabiano Paper
Artist: Work extract from Ivy and Alison Co.
In post-colonial Zimbabwe, Gender-Based Violence has been continuously used by men as a weapon to intimidate women and to cause physical harm and psychological damage. A lot still needs to be done by both the government and the citizens to curb GBV. 
*Achtung is a German word which means ‘Caution’.
Art of the Ordinary - Contemporary Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Title: Waiting
Acrylic on canvas
Artist: Work extract from Ivy and Alison Co.
This work seeks to demystify the perceived isolation of the boy child as an object around which toxic masculinity evolves. The sharp edges of paint and paper present a texture that drapes the figure with hardship and affliction.

Creative Outlet

Is History Important In Art? – Ntuthuko Mpofu Continues On His Journey Of Learning More About Art

When talking about art, history will not move away from the concept of philosophy.

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Is History Important In Art? - Ntuthuko Mpofu Continues On His Journey Of Learning More About Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Rock art in the Nswatugi Cave in Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe
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To the readers of Asante Afrika Magazine, thank you for the opportunity to share, learn, reflect, and connect with you. We haven’t seen each other eye to eye, but I know we are connected artistically, because be it the movie you are watching, the music you are listening to, the clothes you are wearing, or under that roof you are in, someone invested their craft to it. As a team, we strive to give you different content that will be informative, whether you are an aspiring artist or collector. Many people have asked me why there are so many terms used in the arts, so I decided to unpack a few things and summarise the importance of art history.

They say the further we go back in history, the harder it gets; but what about more recent stories, with a solid basis? Imagine telling someone without any foundation of art that Claude Monet, Marina Abramovic, and Jeff Koons, are some of the best creatives in the world who influence artists, even up to this day?

Is History Important In Art? - Ntuthuko Mpofu Continues On His Journey Of Learning More About Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Artist: Oscar-Claude Monet (1840 – 1926), founder of French Impressionist painting.
Painting: Landscape near Monte Carlo – Oil on Canvas.

“A simple mistake causes a chain of errors that can change not only art history, but also our traditions and our society.”

Misunderstanding will always lead to clueless remarks, hence we will learn together. When talking about art, history will not move away from the concept of philosophy. Philosophy is a Greek word that is derived from philologia, composed of ‘philos’ – friend/lover, and ‘logos’ – speech. It is a discipline which studies texts of various natures and from different periods, in order to determine their original form and meaning. As time passes, some texts are lost, others destroyed or ruined, while many are mistranslated. As a well-noted Latin expression states, “errare humanum est”, meaning, mistakes happen. Yet, some mistakes are more important than others. A simple mistake causes a chain of errors that can change not only art history, but also our traditions and our society. That is why the work of philologists and translators is so important, and we shouldn’t underestimate it.

Prehistoric art is a term that refers to Stone Age, Paleolithic, and Neolithic art and artifacts – literally referring to the time before recorded history, as well as a select few architectural ruins. Art from this period was a powerful form of communicating information between tribes and generations; the Lascaux caves in Southern France demonstrate hunting techniques through the use of basic narrative structure and iconography, dating back to 15,000 B.C. 

In a research proven by the British museum, rock paintings were also there in Africa. African art history has played a significant role in shaping the culture and history of the world. The belief that Africa is the cradle of the history of mankind is virtually unshakeable. Origins of African art history lie long before recorded history, preserved in the obscurity of time. Rock Art is very old, and shell beads fashioned for necklaces have been recovered in the caves as well. Personal ornamentation and engraved designs are the earliest evidence of art in Africa, and are inextricably tied up with the development of human cognition. With art, as we look across the continent, we may tap an abundance of raw talent that is hindered by location to access resources like social media and publications. Art history was and is still an inspiration to our people in practicing art, since their history motivates them as a people.

To realise the transformation of targeted social groupings, we need to work out of the ethical spaces, and propagate much information as possible. The issues in this publication are reflective of art as a history of what the world is going through, and how the development will look like. There is no contestation in terms of recognition when it comes to the recognition of cultural creativity. With this art background, as a people, why are we finding ourselves talking about the controversy around the funding agencies in Africa in support of art up to this day? Ask yourself if there is any role played by the art industry when it comes to issues of poverty reduction? When colonisation in most of sub-Saharan Africa took place in the 1840s, a lot of African art was acquired by travellers, traders and missionaries in the century before, and they left the continent with it. There was never merit given to the locals. This should have been an eye-opener. As much as people say the work was not preserved, there was a greater influence of art from empires like Great Zimbabwe, land of Punt, Kingdom of Kush, the Mali Empire, Kingdom of Aksum, Carthage and Songhai Empire.

Art history and the history of art history become so closely intertwined as to be almost indistinguishable. The interest in historiography and method is manifest in a broad spectrum of the literature of art history. It aims to explain what art is, and also how it was written. This is a way to present overviews of the different ways art histories have been written, covering such large topics as Marxism and post-colonialism, as well as the influence of the work of individual historians. In other words, the ways in which the methods are used, define the artwork. With art history, one can trace how the world is interlinked.

Thanks for reading this. I cannot wait for the next issue for us to build a conversation from where we left off.

Is History Important In Art? - Ntuthuko Mpofu Continues On His Journey Of Learning More About Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Rock art painting depicting the life of people in the stone age 
Is History Important In Art? - Ntuthuko Mpofu Continues On His Journey Of Learning More About Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Rock art painting depicting the life of people in the stone age 

Is History Important In Art? - Ntuthuko Mpofu Continues On His Journey Of Learning More About Art Asante Afrika Magazine
Rock art painting depicting the life of people in the stone age 

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Creative Outlet

I’m Afraid Of The Dark – A Poem by Tarisai Krystal Mhishi

I shy away from the dark, to protect my innocence, in a sense, for nothing good ever comes from darkness, and to make it worse, one never sees it coming, perhaps because of the lack of light.

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I'm Afraid Of The Dark - A Poem by Tarisai Krystal Mhishi Asante Afrika Magazine
#EndGBV Makeup Art by IG @makeupbyrenee_seckel
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I’m afraid of the dark.

Not because of the absence of light, 

But because even my incense doesn’t burn in its presence, to protect its fragrant light. 

I shy away from the dark, to protect my innocence, in a sense, for nothing good ever comes from darkness, and to make it worse, one never sees it coming, perhaps because of the lack of light.

 It just astounds you all at once, with the rage of a tonne of bricks on your tender soul, and there’s no flight.

I’m afraid of the dark, because it is when all things that creep manouver.

Last night I saw a stark naked woman, in a woven basket, roaming the dark skies. 

You may laugh, but it is true; turn your lights down low, and see for yourself.

A woman on a mission she was, creeping strategically in her basket, like a vampire hiding from the sun.

I’m afraid of the dark, because things I would rather not, become apparent to me, and I cannot hide from the truth it reveals.  

I’m afraid of the dark, because that’s when they prey on us, and a crippling fear grips me so tightly, that even a prayer cannot escape my lips. 

I’m afraid of the dark. because I want to protect my light, despite the hyenas that stalk, and the vultures that circle my perimeter. 

I’m afraid of the dark, because in my part of town, Sabrina doesn’t exist, and Harry Potter is merely a joke,

Because on this side, we are not morons who believe in an oxymoron,

If it’s not black, it’s white – no shades of grey.

I’m afraid of the dark, in hopes that my fear will protect me from the monsters under my bed.

And so, apart from sleeping with one eye open,  I keep the lights on too, so that they burn, if they dare escape to come for me.

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Creative Outlet

Awake – A Short Story

“…not only will you heathens be subjected to eternal damnation, but it also smells like rotten eggs down there!”

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Awake - A Short Story Asante Afrika Magazine
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Tiisetso Muloyi

A blinding white light obscured my vision. My ears rang from the piercing wail of a car hooter – a truck, perhaps? I couldn’t tell. For a moment, I felt as though I was in a state of suspended animation. A weightlessness of sorts: in limbo. Breathing became a great and painful feat. Every breath that passed through my dry, cracked lips felt like swallowing broken glass. Slammed forcefully into what I could only deduce was a deep, narrow gorge, with steep, towering sides, the feeling of weightlessness left me.

Awake - A Short Story Asante Afrika Magazine

The wheezing of my shallow, painful breaths gave me an inkling of what was going on. The taste of iron and metal on my tongue was nauseating as it made its way forcefully down my throat; choking me slightly. I couldn’t feel my legs, although that provided me with no comfort at all. My left arm lay at an awkward angle, bent backwards at the elbow, the white of the bone was visible through the torrential flow of my blood. The contrast was sharp and gruesome, making me heave through what felt like shattered ribs. I tried to move but an excruciating pain burned through my body, like a fire iron, rendering me immobile yet again.

The ache was both harrowing and stomach-churning. Turning my face to the side to expel my empty guts, bile rose up instead, and burned its way through my already parched throat. Small black dots danced around my vision, growing bigger and bigger, until finally, my eyes rolled into the back of my head.

And then… blissful darkness!

I was jolted abruptly into consciousness by some veiled force; a feeling of total disorientation descended upon me. Sitting up so suddenly left my body feeling heavy and my mind vertiginous. With heavy limbs and a thumping headache, I attempted to get my bearings, while simultaneously taking a mental inventory of my physical state. There was an oppressive weight pressing down on my already heavy chest, offset only by what felt like a sudden shocking jolt delivered to my heart. The consistent thump to my chest caused my already rapidly beating heart to flutter – no… to palpitate, violently – leaving my chest feeling both battered and bruised. Lifting my right hand to rub at the abused flesh, I took notice of a painful pinching sensation in the crook of my arm. The feeling was one akin to having an intravenous central line fed into your arm, but that couldn’t be possible.

Glancing down at the arm in question, I saw no imaginary needle; only the soft, wrinkled skin of the crook of my elbow – but the pinching sensation persisted.

Furrowing my brows in confusion, I took note of more puzzling occurrences; a faint beep, beep, beep… rang in my head, only to fall into the background, as I caught sporadic clipped conversations: “… clear. Patient still not responding… give me 360 joules…”. The command sounded like it was coming from somewhere inordinately far.

Awake - A Short Story Asante Afrika Magazine

“All clear!”, there it was again, followed by a shocking thump to my chest. What was the meaning of this? Was I hearing voices? How hard had I hit my head? Had I completely lost my mind? It was only during my decline into a mental breakdown that I deigned to study my surroundings.

It was the smell that hit me first. How had I not noticed it before? It was overwhelming! And now that it had gotten my attention, it worked its way into each one of my senses. My eyes began watering; my nose hair felt singed, and I gagged forcefully. The stench wrapped itself around me, almost like a living thing.

Brimstone. Fire and brimstone. A vague memory of high school flashes quickly in my mind: “…ah, brimstone,” intoned Mr. Mabala, speaking passionately to the uninterested group of pre-matriculants. Religious studies was not my idea of a good time, but the class was a breeze with its ‘no exam’ policy. “Reverently referred to in biblical times as ‘burning stone’, but now more commonly known as sulphur, it is found deep in the Earth’s core,” he said. “As a matter of fact, a number of books of the Bible often used it to describe hell. So, not only will you heathens be subjected to eternal damnation, but it also smells like rotten eggs down there!”, was his weak attempt at a joke, in order to receive some sort of gleeful reaction from the uninterested youth. Heavy sighs of obvious boredom were heard around the small classroom along with the shuffles of students impatiently waiting for the loud shrill of the final bell. Oh, how I wish I had listened during that lesson!

The echoing sounds of gnashing teeth and high-pitched wailing knocked me out of my reverie. Quickly wiping away the salty tears that obscured my vision, I stood on weak legs, aimlessly turning in circles, trying to find the origins of those haunting sounds.

My legs felt almost as though they were not my own, like they were borrowed. Admonishing the strange thought, I rid it completely from my mind. I had more pressing matters to attend to, like getting far away from this seemingly hellish place.

With scant visibility and rocky terrain, I couldn’t ascertain where exactly I was. Reaching for the imposing black rock wall at my side, I began looking for an exit. The walls were damp and the smell of must and rot permeated the dark, cavernous space. I must have been in a cave, an unbearably hot one at that. Sweat dripped into my eyes, stinging them slightly. It seemed that I may have been approaching the mouth of the cave as the heat became stifling, making it even harder to breathe.

The wails reverberated all around me and bounced off the cave walls. They were primal, guttural, and carried with them a debilitating sort of anguish and sorrow. Shrieking notes of pain and terror weaved themselves into the deafening cacophony. Had my hands not found purchase upon the slimy cave walls, I would have dropped to my knees under the unbearable weight of the suffering and torment heard from the relentless cries.

The gnashing and grinding of teeth grew so loud that it had begun to sound like the harsh screech of nails on a chalkboard. The jarring sounds shook me to my core, so much so that I had begun to gnash my teeth also.

I had made it to the mouth of the cave. The exit. Or was it just another door into a terror far more frightening than the screams of what seemed like thousands, if not millions, of tortured souls? The prospect of walking through the gaping maw was daunting; however, it had to be done, if I hoped to leave this place.

Scaling the side of the mountain on borrowed limbs proved to be an arduous task. I had slipped and almost fallen more than I cared to admit. Even drenched in sweat, and struggling to draw in my next laboured breath, I had made it out of that blasted cave. The sight before me had me wishing I had stayed in the cave. I had finally found the source of the disembodied keening.

I found myself traversing between two vastly different valleys. On one side raged an all-consuming, vicious fire, and on the other, a biting hail and snow beat down obstinately on the rough terrain. Thousands of what I assumed to be sinners bore the sweltering heat and the blistering cold. This went on until these tortured souls had had enough – whereupon they’d leap into the other, where the suffering continued, albeit in a slightly different way.

It was purgatory. An expansive pit shrouded heavily in ominous shadows. A vast obscurity teeming in all manner of things that go bump in the night. The shrill screams rose in crescendo and I could see why. Beneath the choking darkness, globules of inky black flames hung suspended in the air. Ascending high out of the flaming pit, then continuing its descent just as quickly. In each globe, was a soul. A singular human soul, damned to suffer burning in agony, as a solitary creature, without even the company of their fellow damned souls around them.

So distracted by my own musings, and the horrific sight that lay before me, I failed to take notice of the menacing creature that stalked my stationary form. By then it was already too late – a pair of what felt like burning hot, scaled, elephantine appendages, thrust me violently into the screaming chasm. My anguished scream faded into the deafening din along with all the others.

And then… I was falling!

A startled gasp ripped from my throat as I sat up abruptly. A bright fluorescent light blurred my vision, and a loud, incessant beeping noise, broke the silence. “We’ve got a pulse,” stated a loud voice to my immediate left. “Vitals are stabilizing,” it continued behind the face shield, draped in medical scrubs.

I was back. I was awake. It was a dream. While vivid and so life-like, it was naught but a lucid dream. Before the relief could settle my wary bones, an errant thought struck me. If it had been only a dream, then why did my back throb as though I had been burned by a pair of monstrous hands forcefully propelling me into darkness?

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