Black Lives Matter Is a Lived Reality for Us
Ms. Mutumba, what was your primary intention when you started ten years ago?
Yvette Mutumba: "Our intention was to establish a platform that could unite and represent the diverse spectrum of art creation in Africa and the global diaspora. The term “diaspora” encompasses both those who are possibly first- or second-generation descendants of people of African heritage and the historical diaspora, which includes the black population in the Caribbean, the United States, and Brazil. Our vision was to bring together these various local voices. It was crucial to us that our platform wasn't merely a means to showcase African art to a European audience. We were equally committed to fostering connections on the continent itself. We aimed to create a space where a genuine network among art and culture creators within the diaspora could flourish. Over the years, this network has grown. Today, we not only publish an art magazine but also organize educational initiatives like writing workshops in Nairobi and Rio de Janeiro."
How has the perception of contemporary art from Africa evolved in Europe and the USA over the past decade?
Yvette Mutumba: "There has undeniably been an increased awareness of this, due among other things to the growing number of biennials and fellowship programs. Moreover, it has become a more integral part of institutional identity to embrace a global perspective and address issues such as decolonization and the reevaluation of collections. However, it seems that such efforts often ebb and flow. Regrettably, addressing these matters is still not a given but is often perceived as a reflection of the current zeitgeist, a transient trend. It's as if museums are saying, “We need to engage with Black Lives Matter because that's what's currently in the public eye." Nevertheless, for hundreds of millions of people, Black Lives Matter is not a trendy subject; it's a lived reality."
What do you consider the most crucial initial step in the process of decolonizing museums?
Yvette Mutumba: "I view this step as primarily structural. We need to delve into the structural foundations of museums to comprehend their historical development, the underlying reasons, and how these structures can be reformed. But, it's not enough to just provide space for these discussions within museums. It also requires a genuine relinquishing of power. This means not only asking questions like: Who holds the reins in these institutions? but also: How are resources allocated? Who is invited as an expert? How are new positions filled? Who makes these decisions? Who serves on museum boards and selection committees? These represent various points of power, and they form an integral part of the intricate process known as decolonization. Part of this process might also involve embracing a productive sense of discomfort, wherein individuals must confront the uncomfortable truth that they continue to hold positions of power because they are the ones making these decisions."
Yvette Mutumba with one of C&'s latest publications. Foto: Dennis Wagner
To what extent does the art market contribute to promoting justice and visibility in the art world? For instance, the prices for artists like Amoako Boafo from Ghana are now comparable to those of Western artists.
Yvette Mutumba: "At the level you've described, the art market can certainly play a significant role. However, it's important to acknowledge that the substantial price increases often only apply to individual artists. People like Lynette Yiadom-Boakye or El Anatsui, who wield considerable influence in the market, play a pivotal role in shaping the broader perception. What is frequently underestimated or overlooked is that the art market is not confined to Europe and the USA. There's a highly influential art market on the African continent, with growing influence. Events like Art x Lagos or the Investec Cape Town Art Fair feature local collectors with the financial means and clout to drive change. These collectors are increasingly participating in European and American art fairs. Western fairs should not underestimate the significance of this development."