Arts Research Africa 2022 Conference Proceedings

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    Passing Through Fragmented Scribbles: Moving Towards Movement, Dance and Choreography Grounded in the Embodied Ecosomatic Paradigm
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Ngwenya, Smangaliso
    This paper explores the artistic creation and embodied practiceled research in the context of creating an ensemble screendance titled “Fragmented Scribbles.” The work explores the embodied scribbles of knowledge that exist within conversations among intellectual, emotional, physical, social, aesthetic, creative, and spiritual realms. The research prioritizes the whole being as a site of artistic exploration, using Passing Through as a pedagogical method. The ecological perception and ecosomatic paradigm are employed to cultivate mindfulness, perceive relationships, develop conceptual flexibility, re-perceive depth, and intentionally use the imagination. The study also examines the unique narratives and associations between internal and physical ecologies of the performers and their sites of performance.
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    Exploring the Transformative Potential of Practice-based Design Research (PBDR) Methods in Architectural Design Pedagogy
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Felix, Sandra
    This paper discusses the application of practice-based design research (PbDR) methods in transforming the design practice of architecture students. It explores how reflection and diffraction, two PbDR methods, can be used to shape students’ design practice and challenge institutional biases. The author shares the experience of implementing these methods in a third-year architecture design studio at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. Changes were made to the curriculum, including the introduction of reflection and the use of diffractive methods, to foster personal and institutional transformation. The paper highlights the importance of collaborative dialogue, social reflection, and engaged pedagogy in this transformative process.
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    "I am Coloured": The Memoir as a Decolonial Methodology
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Wentworth, Raezeen
    This paper explores the shift from a “definitive” to a “descriptive” approach in the context of the coloured identity narrative. It reflects on the challenges of critiquing and redefining coloured culture and identity while still using language that reinforces existing tropes. The author argues for a move towards the descriptive, which allows for a decolonial perspective and selfarticulation. The text discusses the use of autoethnography and the creation of a production called (Un)becoming, where personal narratives were explored. It also suggests that published memoirs, such as Sorry, Not Sorry, Because I Couldn’t Kill You, and Ougat, contribute to disrupting normative cultural constraints and offer a decolonizing perspective.
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    Priority Mail Process Lab: An Experiment in Migrant Dramaturgy
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Kabwe, B. Mwenya
    This abstract reflects on the dramaturgy of the Priority Mail Process Lab, a month-long virtual residency program called into existence during the Covid-19 pandemic. The lab aimed to facilitate an exchange of objects, ideas, and insights between Francophone and Anglophone African artists. The paper explores the artistic research practice behind the lab, focusing on the themes of migration, mobility, and the role of African women. It discusses the curatorial intentions of prioritizing process over production, the importance of care, and the political implications of rest and emancipation. The paper also delves into the concept of migrant dramaturgy and the experiences of Black migrant cultural production.
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    "Ghostly Imprints": Revisiting the Tradition of the Death Mask in Digital Clay
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Stewart, Michelle
    This paper explores the representation of the dead through a creative project that involves 3D digital sculptures inspired by forensic facial photographs of unclaimed deceased in government morgues as well as posthumous photographs of the author’s mother-in-law. The project draws on the tradition of death masks and aims to create final portraits that commemorate the individuals and acknowledge the transcendental aspects of death masks. The author’s work is situated within the discourse of art theory and history, rather than forensic art, and emphasises the artistic and conceptual nature of the sculptures. The project is associated with the International Committee of the Red Cross’s Missing and Deceased Migrant Project and explores the humanitarian implications of migrant deaths in South Africa. The paper also delves into the history and evolution of death masks in Western culture, highlighting their significance as representations of true faces and their use in phrenology.
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    Re-Imagining the Role of Female Players in the Making and Restoring of the UHADI Musical Bow
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Pepu, Lindelwa
    This paper, written from an African feminist perspective, focuses on the uhadi musical bow, a historical instrument found in museums, particularly in Museum Africa in Johannesburg. The mislabelling and lack of contextual information about the uhadi bow in the museum collection hinder the understanding of its origin and the recognition of its makers. The research highlights the role of women as the likely original makers and performers of the uhadi bow. It explores the unique features, construction, and playing techniques of the instrument. The study also profiles female uhadi players, emphasising their contribution to reviving and preserving the instrument’s cultural significance.
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    The Scientific Lab as Studio/The Studio as Scientific Lab: Exploring Practice-Led Microbial Bioart in a Decolonial Context
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Farber, Leora
    This paper discusses the field of bioart, which explores the intersection of art and biotechnology. It raises questions about life, bioethics, and environmental interactions. The author’s praxis involves hands-on experimentation with living and nonliving materials in scientific labs, resulting in artistic outcomes. The concept of “intra-action” is explored, emphasising a reciprocal relationship between the artist and the material. The paper highlights the increasing collaboration between artists and scientists, leading to the establishment of bioart labs and art-science programs. The author’s own bioart praxis involves working with bacteria and yeast to create biofibers resembling human skin, which are then used to produce casts referencing colonial histories. The challenges and experimental nature of working with living materials are also discussed.
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    Articulating a Movement Pedagogy in Retrograde: Mapping an Embodied Research Process
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Johnstone, Kristina
    This paper discusses an artistic research project that challenges representationalism in South African contemporary dance. The author argues against the use of discursive methodologies that reinforce colonial scripts and instead proposes an alternative approach based on embodied practices. The paper explores the concept of choreography as embodied research and its potential to align with a decolonial praxis. The research project involves tracing embodied practices and creating a digital cartography to capture and explore these practices. The author also discusses the emergence of a movement pedagogy that unfolds in retrograde and disrupts conventional understandings of time and pedagogical continuity.
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    Epistemic Disobedience: Institution-Building as Artistic Practice
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Gurney, Kim
    This paper posits the Nafasi Art Space in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, as a paradigmatic example of independent art spaces in Africa. These spaces, known as offspaces, challenge the status quo by creating divergent infrastructures through creative refusals and re-imaginations. The author conducted a prior study called Platform/Plotform, which identified key working principles of offspaces, such as horizontality, performativity, elasticity, convergence, and second chance. The study visited five African cities to examine the correlations between artistic strategies and urban life. The paper focuses on the Nafasi Academy for Contemporary Art, Expression, and Inclusion, launched in 2020, and explores its curriculum and pedagogical domains that may, like the institution itself, build cultural infrastructures while functioning like a work of art.
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    A Musical History Through Vocal Expressions at the Abbey Cindi Cosmology Concert
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Moshugi, Kgomotso
    This paper reports on a research project that culminated in a concert honoring South African musician and activist Bra Abbey Cindi. The project involved reissuing Cindi’s album, forming a band of young musicians to perform his music, and creating a vocal group called No Limits to reinterpret Cindi’s earlier South African choral works. The paper proposes the use of music to explore the past, present, and future, linking generations and addressing social issues. It discusses specific compositions, their lyrical and musical merits, and the process of arranging them for vocal performance. The paper also highlights the role of community engagement and the value of reimagining historical musical works.
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    Uncovering the History of the Nazi Holocaust in Senegal Through Artistic and Historical Research
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Turpin, Joe
    This paper describes the author’s residency in Dakar, Senegal, where he created artworks in response to the history of anti-Semitic laws and the Sébikhotane concentration camp, established by the Vichy French Colonial Regime in West Africa. The artworks aim to inform audiences about this littleknown history and use symbolism that Senegalese people can relate to. The paper discusses the research conducted, the positive reception of the artworks, and the author’s role as an artist, researcher, and performer. The paper also provides descriptions and explanations of some of the artworks created during the residency.
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    Archiving as Artistic Practice
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Batzofin, Jayne
    This paper looks at the development of an online showcase repository for the ReTAGS (Reimagining Tragedy from Africa and the Global South) practice-as-research artistic productions, Antigone (not quite/quiet) and iKrele leChiza, and the methodology behind documenting and digitally archiving their processes. The paper reflects on the author’s involvement as the digital archivist for the ReTAGS research and the choices made and implemented on the online showcase repository. It considers the strengths and challenges of these archival choices and explores the possibilities of understanding the archive as a means of artistic engagement in its own right.
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    A Return to Practices and Pedagogies: Artistic Research as Untethering and Foraging
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Barry, Hedwig; Andrew, David
    This paper reflects on the intertwining of artistic research and pedagogies within the context of a collaborative project conducted at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. The authors explore the concepts of proximities, grids and flows, confrontations, and time as entry points into the space of artistic research. They emphasize the importance of untethering and foraging, challenging established boundaries and embracing discomfort as a catalyst for creative growth. The paper also highlights the significance of proximities and the relational aspect of artistic research, inviting a communal and interdisciplinary approach. The authors reflect on their experiences during the pandemic and the evolving nature of teaching and learning in relation to time.
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    Creative Curatorial Practice as a Means of Reorientating Display Tropes in Museums of Natural History
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Langerman, Fritha
    This paper provides a critical analysis of natural history museums and their display practices. It explores the contradictions inherent in the concept of “natural history” and the dominance over nature it implies. The paper argues that museums still promote authoritative classification and knowledge systems that reinforce hierarchical structures and colonial ideologies. The author, an artist-curator and printmaker, shares her experiences with three exhibitions that challenge traditional display methods. By disrupting linear progression, introducing complex interconnections, and emphasizing sensory experiences, the exhibitions aim to create alternative models of display that reflect the entangled and web-like nature of speciation. The goal is to move beyond colonial narratives and imagine new ways of representing and understanding the natural world within museum spaces.
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    Art in Action Research (AIAR): Integrating Tacit Knowledge Into Research
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Lammli, Dominique
    This paper introduces the concept of Art in Action Research (AiAR) as an alternative paradigm for art practitioners working in sociocultural settings. AiAR aims to accommodate diverse notions of art, theories, and knowledge bases, integrating tacit knowledge into research frameworks. The paradigm is grounded in the issues emerging from the work environment, focusing on real-life challenges to co-create a liveable future. The paper addresses the need for methodological guides in researching art practitioner perspectives and discusses the concepts of knowledge and tacit knowledge. It explores the problem of non-groundedness in art practitioner research and highlights the global turn and the need for retooling disciplinary perspectives. In sum, the paper argues that AiAR provides an alternative paradigm for methodology crafting that considers the global turn and acknowledges diverse notions of art and knowledge bases.
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    Making Atmospheres
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Bahmann, Dirk
    This paper discusses a practical methodology, developed for a second-year architectural elective project, that aims to make tangible the qualities of architectural atmospheres. It argues for an embodied practice of making sculptural artefacts. It proposes that these can articulate and make apparent atmospheric qualities. To be able to imagine or recognise atmosphere is a crucial skill for architects since atmosphere determines how people respond to space. The methodology is designed, through iterative cycles of making and critical reflection, to make students increasingly aware of atmosphere and develop their ability to create and articulate certain feeling tones within spaces. This artistic praxis relies upon a nonlinear, bodily knowing that seeks to challenge the dominance of ocularcentric practice in the discipline of architecture.
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    Developing a Healing Arts Pedagogy and Practices (HAPPy) Training: An Arts-Based Curriculum for Trauma Stabilisation and Stress Alleviation in the South African Educational System
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) De Beer, Welma; Draper-Clarke, Lucy
    This paper discusses the theoretical foundations and pedagogical principles underlying the “Mas’phefumle” project, which explores healing arts practices and pedagogy as a response to trauma in South Africa. The authors propose that artistic research has transformed and advanced arts-based pedagogies in the country, offering impactful healing practices that can help communities during challenging times and regulate individuals after traumatic incidents. The curriculum developed, called Healing Arts Pedagogy and Practices (HAPPy), aims to establish culturally sensitive activities that promote resilience and create safe learning environments. The foundations of the curriculum are based on healing, the arts, pedagogies, and practices, integrating elements of polyvagal theory, psychotraumatology, and the African philosophy of Ubuntu. The paper describes the action research method used and presents the initial cycle of the curriculum’s development.
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    The Body Matters: Making the Body and Materials Present in Post-Extractive Urban Terrains in Response to Issues of the Anthropocene Through Speculative and Performative Practices
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Stone-Johnson, Brigitta
    This paper explores the relationship between human actions, particularly in the context of extractive industries and colonial attitudes, and their impact on climate change. The text discusses the concept of the Anthropocene and its problematic implications, emphasizing the need to reframe the relationship between humans and the living world. It proposes embodied creative practices that engage with materials and the body to challenge extractive narratives and foster a more holistic understanding of matter and its agency. The paper highlights the importance of individual responsibility and collective action, drawing attention to the role of implicated subjects in addressing the material consequences of our actions.
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    Transatlantic African Sound Praxis: Communitarian Practices, Pedagogies and Research
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Pyper, Brett; Moutinho Ribeiro, Renan; Mendonca, Pedro; Freire, Juliana; Carneiro De Sousa, Felipe
    This paper summarizes the exploration of sound praxis, a decolonial approach in South African universities inspired by the work of Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire. The paper discusses the history and development of sound praxis, focusing on articles and research by Samuel Araújo and the Ethnomusicology Laboratory of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. The concept of sound praxis integrates dialogue, participation, and collective authorship in research, challenging traditional academic norms. The abstract also highlights the collaboration between Brazilian and South African activists, educators, and researchers, as they seek to apply sound praxis in their respective contexts and explore the potential for transformative pedagogy and artistic practice.
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    From Cosmopolitanism to Cosmology and Back Again: Co-Curating a Practice-Centred South African Jazz Collective, 2020-2022
    (Arts Research Africa, 2022-09-16) Pyper, Brett; Moshugi, Kgomotso
    Since 2005 as a researcher, and since the early 1990s as an organiser who worked in Pretoria as South Africa transitioned towards democracy, Brett Pyper has had the privilege of knowing a community of practice that occupies a distinct, under-recognised position in the country’s internationally famous jazz culture. Known variously as jazz appreciation societies, social clubs or stokvels (mutual aid associations), these township-based collectives played no small part, during the long night of apartheid, in preserving and developing the vibrant, cosmopolitan African cultures that were suppressed and dispersed under racial and ethnic segregation policies. They did so in spite of restrictions on public gatherings, and in communities with hardly any civic or cultural amenities. After the formal end of apartheid and the lifting of cultural boycotts in the 1990s, the country’s reintegration into circuits of international cultural exchange resulted in the establishment of several globally benchmarked festivals. Meanwhile, these community-based jazz societies underwent their own efflorescence, though in relative isolation from the festivals that take place in downtown convention centres for a globally mobile, relatively elite clientele. These developments emblematise the promise as well as the limitations of the post-apartheid transition: while the existence of platforms for international jazz luminaries serves as a powerful symbol of change and a vehicle for the assertion of transnational cultural and political ties, the audience for jazz music in South Africa remains largely excluded from participating in these celebrations of avowedly post-apartheid culture.