Ashraf Jamal on ‘Art & Lies’: Institute of Advanced Studies Public Lecture Series

Wednesday 3rd October 2018, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM @ IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building, UCL, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

The Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) is delighted to welcome Ashraf Jamal for this talk.

In ‘The Waiting Country: A South African Witness’, published in 1995, Mike Nicol arrives at the core of this paper. ‘We lie to accommodate’, he says. ‘We lie because we think it does not matter. We lie because we think that in the face of so many years of misery, a lie that is for the good is not a lie at all. And we lie because we have no self-respect. We lie because we are victims. We lie because we cannot imagine ourselves in any other way’.

Nicol wrote these words in the immediate aftermath of South Africa’s first free election, intuiting then, as we all do now, the era of post-truth, and the subsequent bankruptcy of global democracy. It is all the more ironic, therefore, that it is now, in this era of fake news, that South African art, or ‘Contemporary African Art’ more generally, should assume its global ascendancy.

I will deliver this paper at the same time as 1-54, the largest trade fair committed to African Art in the northern hemisphere, is underway in London. What does this fascination with African art mean today? How real, or how cynical is its current appropriation and commodification? And what relevance does it possess today? Is it merely a new-fangled fetish, profoundly disingenuous in its inflation of the Idea of Africa? Is it a new cool exercise in miserabilism? Or is it a genuine attempt to overcome an inherited pathology?

The best African art, therefore, rewires prevailing prejudices and needs, it alters the state of play and conditions for being – it emphatically refuses to lie. To do so it must challenge its relevance, refuse its commodification, rout out its cynical neo-liberal accommodation, junk its victimhood, and radically re-imagine itself differently.

This is a FREE event. Please register at eventbrite.