NEWS: At the Performa Biennial in New York, African Artists Will Take Center Stage

Performa, the biennial for performance art of myriad kinds in New York, will showcase two new programming platforms within its run this November: a “South African Pavilion Without Walls” and “Afroglossia,” a series of commissions featuring artists from Kenya, Ethiopia, Morocco, and South Africa. The combination of the two will make up the majority of this year’s Performa 17, which will be dispersed across various venues and locations in New York City from November 1 through 19.

The pavilion will be organized largely by RoseLee Goldberg, the founding director of Performa and a native of South Africa. “Afroglossia” will be organized by Adrienne Edwards, a Performa curator since 2010 and, as of last year, also a curator at large for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

The two correlating platforms owe in part to travels Goldberg and Edwards made over the past two years to Africa to talk to artists working there. (A fellowship grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and supplemental funds from the Ford Foundation made that research possible.)

“My interest in performance takes me back to growing up in South Africa, where there wasn’t a big separation [between artistic disciplines],” Goldberg told ARTnews. “You weren’t going to painting shows or sculpture shows—rather, there was this idea of different ceremonies, different rituals, and different ways of articulating aesthetics that played out live. Performance was a natural way to approach different subject matter.”

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