For two weeks last month Harare was alight with various performances, workshops, symposiums and exhibitions which were part of the first ever African performance Biennale in celebration of tradition, identity and creativity.
The Afiriperfoma Biennale was held at four venues – the Zimbabwe Germany Society (ZGS), First Floor Gallery (FFG), the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) and Alliance Francaise – with the participation of various local and international artists, curators and other art stakeholders.
On the opening day, Saturday 9 November, the audience at ZGS was mesmerized by Congolese artist Tresor Malaya who came on stage wrapped in newspaper and sellotape to captivate the audience in ritual like moves around a candle shrine shaped like a human body. His graceful moves drew the audience into an emotional trance centred on anxiety and uncertainty.
After the performance the audience was ushered into a fusion of African and Columbian music by DJ Oscar who hails from Columbia. He played while the crowd viewed a picture exhibition of different performances that have taken place across the continent.
Another major highlight of the Biennale was an exhibition Time to Pretend – Constructions of Heritage, Memory and Belonging at FFG, developed and curated by Martin Baasch the curator of the acclaimed Lagos Live Festival, Oyinda Fayeke of CCA Lagos Video Art Network and Jude Anogwih of CCA Lagos. The exhibition was a fusion of photography and a combination of multiple video installations which was part of the design and presentation as well as documentation. It embraced a concept relatively new to our city. Time to Pretend assembles a broad perspective, comprising works of eight artists working in Africa namely Waru Natasha Ogunji, Dennis Feser, Kemang WaLehulere, Marcio Carvalho, Mudi Yahaya, Jeannette Ehlers, Chriss Aghana Nwobu and Harare’s own Zanele Anne Mutema.
The symposiums held at UZ and Alliance Française brought various bright minds together engaging in discussions on the development of African art and its dynamism.
The Biennale closed on a high note on 20 November with performances by several artists including Bulawayo’s Fisani Nkomo at Book Café. The Afiriperfoma Biennale is the brainchild of Nigeria artist Jelili Atiku, one of Nigeria’s foremost innovative performance artists, who has been working to develop performance art in Africa through building up networks between artists and art organizations. It is expected to run annually in Harare celebrating African Culture.
Caption: From the opening of Time to Pretend Exhibition. Photo: Marcus Gora