School of Arts - Arts Research Africa Project (Conference Proceedings)

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The Arts Research Africa (ARA) project at the Wits School of Arts, Wits University, is an initiative that explores the notion of artistic research in a decolonizing, Global South context. The project aims to advance the recognition of creative practice as a valid research modality in the South African context, while raising the banner for "artistic research" as an emerging field of study and inquiry in Africa. To achieve this goal the project is pioneering the exploration of artistic research approaches that challenge traditional academic boundaries and center African perspectives and methodologies.

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    Arts Research Africa 2022 Conference - Introduction
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2022) Doherty, Christo
    In the two years which have elapsed between the first and second Arts Research Africa conferences, the recognition of creative practice as a research modality in South Africa has increased in leaps and bounds. The question of what to call this research modality, be it practise-based, or practice-led, or artistic research remains unresolved, but these two conferences have gathered together a stimulating array of approaches to this new mode of research, while raising the banner for ‘artistic research’. This second conference, with its focus on how artistic research has transformed pedagogy as well as art practice in Africa, recognises that many academic practitioners, who have themselves completed advanced degrees with a creative practice component, are now looking to pass these learnings to their students through a transformed pedagogy. The 2022 conference thus provides an opportunity to assess the pattern of this development, still largely limited in Africa to the South African arts and education environment. The first ARA Conference was held as a live event on Wits campus in February 2020.1 Unknown to the organisers or any of the participants, the world was on the brink of the Covid-19 epidemic, and the draconian responses to the crisis by national governments, which locked down most of the world for the rest of 2020 and 2021. As a live event, however, the 2020 conference gave the ARA organisers the opportunity to experiment with different formats of presentation, breaking with the conventional mode of paper presentations and instead offering space for workshops and what we called ‘lecture-performances’ or ‘lecture-demonstrations’. The second conference, planned during the uncertainty that followed the waning of the pandemic in 2021/22, was initially envisaged as an entirely online event; but as the effects of the pandemic began to subside, we chose to offer the first two days as a purely online event to facilitate international engagement, and a third, final day, again on Wits campus, as a live face-to-face event. Sadly, as a result of this structure, the bulk of the 2022 conference presentations were conventional textual outputs, albeit often reporting on creative research that was embodied or performative in nature.
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    Arts Research Africa 2022 Conference Proceedings - Full
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2022) Doherty, Christo
    In the two years which have elapsed between the first and second Arts Research Africa conferences, the recognition of creative practice as a research modality in South Africa has increased in leaps and bounds. The question of what to call this research modality, be it practice-based, or practice-led, or artistic research remains unresolved, but these two conferences have gathered together a stimulating array of approaches to this new mode of research, while raising the banner for ‘artistic research’. This second conference, with its focus on how artistic research has transformed pedagogy as well as art practice in Africa, recognises that many academic practitioners, who have themselves completed advanced degrees with a creative practice component, are now looking to pass these learnings to their students through a transformed pedagogy. The 2022 conference thus provides an opportunity to assess the pattern of this development, still largely limited in Africa to the South African arts and education environment.
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    The Another Roadmap Africa Cluster (ARAC) Un/Chrono/Logical Timeline of Histories of Arts Education: From the Wits School of Education to documenta 15, Kassel Germany
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2022-09-16) Andrew, David
    This paper explores the development and evolution of the un/chrono/logical timeline of histories of arts education initiated by the Another Roadmap Africa Cluster (ARAC) Histories of Arts Education Research Project. The timeline, consisting of multiple iterations, challenges the traditional notions of history and engages with personal narratives, language, and multimodal elements. The research project aims to map and understand the diverse models of arts education, emphasising local perspectives and resistance to imported models. Drawing inspiration from the Medu Art Ensemble, the research framework employs intergenerational collaboration, dialogue, decentralisation, and a focus on language and ideology. The paper highlights the significance of the timeline in reimagining and practicing arts education.
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    Full Proceedings - Arts Research Africa Conference 2020
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020) Doherty, Christo
    The full proceedings of the Arts Research Africa Conference 2020, held at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, from 22 - 24 January 2020. Description: An international conference organised by the Arts Research Africa project in the Wits School of Arts. The conference featured a wide variety of inputs, from traditional conference paper presentations and panels, to performances, interactive engagements and workshops. The conference brought together artists, scholars, and artistic researchers to collectively address the question of artistic research in Africa in the 21st century.
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    Opening address: dynamics
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020) Schwab, Michael
    Emphasises the changing fabric of knowledge and that artistic research has already had an effect on this fabric. Argues for a historical epistemology, and for unsecured forms of knowledge. Uses the experience of editing the Journal of Artistic Research to explain the challenges in operationalizing this concept of knowledge.
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    Artistic research in Africa with specific reference to South Africa and Zimbabwe: formulating the theory of Afroscenology
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020) Ravengai, Samuel
    How can artistic research offer the opportunity to create knowledge based on African practice and produced from the African context? This presentation will delineate seven approaches to artistic research and argue for decolonial imperatives.
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    Creative practice and research: an artist-scholar perspective
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020) Stewart, Michelle
    How do measurable methods of research move between theoretical critique, technical reporting and creative practice? This question is explored with reference to her own practice-based PhD, the experimental animation, Big Man.
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    Perspectives on practice-led research in Visual Art at the University of KwaZulu-Natal
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020-07) Hall, Louise
    Drawing from Hall’s own experience with the first Practice-led Research (PLR) PhD in Visual Art at UKZN, this paper argues for the potential of PLR to generate a very particular kind of knowledge based on the dyadic relationship between the artist and the intelligence of materials.
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    Artistic research and African musical performance: listening beyond Euro-American canons
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020-07) Pyper, Brett
    Are certain forms of African music-making inherently advantaged or disadvantaged through engagement with artistic research? How does the quest to advance decoloniality factor into such efforts? What does such belated recognition mean for African musics and more general African arts practice outside academia?
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    Finding the lost fishermen: a study in recovery and performance as preservation
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020-07) Nii-Dortey, Moses
    This paper engages what strategic/ethical research options can be deployed for preserving, performing and documenting artworks such as The Lost Fishermen, a dying folk opera, which is arguably one of Ghana’s most successful musical artworks, created by Saka Acquaye in the immediate aftermath of Ghana’s political independence.
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    A PhD in Practice-based Design Research in Architecture at Wits University
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020-07) Felix, Sandra
    How does the new PhD in practice-based design research in the School of Architecture at Wits position itself? This paper is an account of the author-practitioner’s exposure to the long history of engagement with design research in the school through the example of architects such as Pancho Guedes and others.
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    Editor's Introduction - Arts Research Africa 2020 Conference Proceedings
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020-07) Doherty, Christo
    Editor’s overview of the ARA2020 Conference. Explanation for the strategic emphasis on pan-African outreach, and the conference theme of “How does artistic research decolonise knowledge and practice in Africa?” Justification provided for the experimental format-architecture of the conference, and the use of “performance-lectures” as a new genre of conference presentation.
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    The translated landscape: interpreting South Africa through Jewellery Praxis
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020-07) Groenewald, Joani; van der Wal, Ernst
    Can a landscape function as a visual text that could, in turn, be translated through various multimodal practices? Through an account of Groenewald’s own creative practice, which translates landscape images into jewellery/sculptural pieces, this paper unpacks the complexities of translation and language within the memory politics of the South African landscape.
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    Addressing artistic research at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute in Mauritius: challenges for a Small Island Developing State in Africa
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020-07) Ramduth, Hans
    Can small island contexts, through the extreme simplification of more complex processes that occur on the continents (e.g., ecocide), provide unique insights into binaries such as artist versus researcher, fiction versus non-fiction, and art-making versus writing?
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    Artistic research in music as Doctoral Study: challenges and opportunities for Universities in South Africa
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020-07) Sandmeier, Rebekka
    What are the opportunities and challenges of doctoral studies in South Africa, in music, through artistic research? What are the definitions of research— specifically artistic research—in the existing educational policies, and how can research and creative practice become one in a doctoral thesis?
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    The Norwegian Artistic Research School: structure and content
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020-07) Strøm, Geir
    How has the structure and content of the new Norwegian Artistic Research School built on the two-decades-long experience of artistic research in Norwegian universities and university colleges?
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    The philosophy of art in Ewe Vodu religion
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020-07) Adjei, Sela Kodjo
    How have miseducation and Eurocentric anthropological scholarship actively deluded Africans into perceiving their religion and arts as “inferior” and “barbarous”? Drawing from years of practice-based investigation into the art of the Anlo-Ewe Vodu religion, this paper interrogates and redefines the misleading theories of “fetishism” that have obscured the appreciation of Vodu art.
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    Closing address: Artistic Research in Africa - rethinking the "avant-garde"
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020-07) Deribew, Berhanu Ashagrie
    In order to implement artistic research in Africa need to recognize the different contexts - cultural, political and institutional – on our continent; and that artistic research is a subject not yet full clear in its function. The colonial model of the university has had the effect of “epistemicide” on indigenous knowledge. This aggravated by Western refusal to recognize traditions understand nature as Mother Earth with her own rights. Argues for a “rearguard” approach to art activism to learn from sources of embodied knowledge in communities.
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    Thinking about research and creative endeavour
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020-07) Olivier, Gerrit
    Are the binary oppositions postulated between theoretical and practical knowledge, and between western and African philosophy—as in the call for this conference—valid or useful for artistic research? This paper asks where this conceptual division should best be located and poses the question of whether it is valid, sustainable, and helpful to distinguish between African and European “modes of knowledge.”
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    What is the potential of creative practice to enable new modes and strategies of research?
    (Arts Research Africa (ARA), 2020-07) Moila, Molemo; Mokgotho, Nare; Gamedze, Thulile
    This roundtable discussion served as an open sharing session where a selection of young practitioners could reflect on themes such as claiming knowledge in unknowable spaces, claiming knowledge outside the epistemic bounds of the academy, and praxis as a research feedback loop.