Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
The Sharjah Art Foundation hosted its annual March Meeting summit earlier this month around the theme “The Afterlives of the Postcolonial.” Each year, a critical topic in the art and cultural worlds is dissected through tailored talks, panels, and presentations, shedding light on the ideas, theories, and practices that shape it. For the 2022 edition, online and on-site lectures were held by artists, curators, activists, architects, scholars, and more to examine the past, present, and future legacies and ideas of postcolonialism. Whitewall was there to engage in this year’s programming and hear from changemakers that are questioning, continuing, and altering its narratives.
Encompassing challenges rooted in colonialism that have transformed the cultural and artistic worlds, the four days of mindful conversation at the Sharjah Institute of Theatrical Arts were joined by six new exhibitions across several spaces. Themes ranging from racism and reparation to climate change and structural inequalities dug below the social studies surface for a closer look at how indigeneity, sovereignty, and mass migration have impacted artifacts and surveillance, and both of their roles in society and art. New concepts that have emerged in educational settings in the last three or so decades were also discussed, such as intersectionality, coloniality, decoloniality, and gender identities.
Kicking off the March Meeting on March 4 was the conversation “Exhibiting the Postcolonial Archives,” led by Iftikhar Dadi, Ntone Edjabe, Naeem Mohaiemen, and Ala Younis. It explored historical events and landmarks in relation to postcolonial archives, and the idea of identifying works and artifacts that should or should not be exhibited and in varying contexts.
On March 5, Hoor Al Qasimi, the President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, offered welcome remakrs, followed by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's discussion on the “Imperatives to Reimagine the Postcolonial” before the dialogue “Persistent Structural Inequalities: Settler Colonialism, Segregation and Apartheid” between Noura Erakat, Premesh Lalu, Khalil Rabah, and Nathalie Handal.
That afternoon, talks continued with “Migrations to the North, Forced Repatriation, and the New Middle Passage” by Zahid Chaudhary, Ayesha Hameed, Bouchra Khalili, Rachid Koraichi, and Awam Amkpa, as well as “Persistent Structural Inequalities: Indigeneity, and Sovereignty” by Brook Andrew, Gerald McMaster, Jolene Rickard, Megan Tamati-Quennell, and Iftikhar Dadi.
The panel on March 6, “The Environment, Climate and Global Warming, and the Anthropocene,” was held by John Akomfrah, Carolina Caycedo, T J Demos, Hrair Sarkissian, and Amy Niang, focusing on the current environmental crisis. Later, “Restitution and Reparation of Looted Artworks and Artefacts” began, with David Adjaye, Ngaire Blankenberg, Chika Okeke-Agulu, Michael Rakowitz, and Salah M. Hassan guiding the public through museum practices and policy-making dealing with conserving and exhibiting looted artifacts in educational and cultural settings.
On March 7, through a pre-recorded conversation held on Zoom just days before, we heard from Angela Davis and Manthia Diawara about a range of topics spanning racism and inequality to current affairs shaping our world. From that conversation, Diawara joined Salah M. Hassan in conversation to continue speaking about the activism and art it has propelled for decades. Later that day, “New Concepts and Theoretical Imperatives: Intersectionality, Feminism, and Gendered Identities” featured Anjali Arondekar, Tina Campt, Naminata Diabate, and Nidhi Mahajan. The discussion exemplified the theoretical constructs of “intersectionality,” “feminism,” and “gender identities” that have been reintroduced or revised in the wake of postcolonialism.
That afternoon, the conversation continued on the thread of theoretical ideas and practices, this time with “New Concepts and Theoretical Imperatives: ‘Coloniality,’ ‘Decoloniality,’ and their Aftermath” by Muriam Haleh Davis, Walter Mignolo, Françoise Vergès, and Premesh Lalu. Here, the aftermath of postcolonialism was discussed in relation to the accuracy and relevancy of certain constructs that question power, decolonialization, representation and over-representation, as well as those in relation to literature, art, and culture. Ideas and constructs that shape our world—like the late sociologist Anibal Quijano’s “theory of decolonity” and the philosopher Sylvia Wynt’s “the over-representation of man”—were of note.
For the last conversation, “New Forms of Extraction and Surveillance” was discussed by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, CAMP artists Shaina Anand and Ashok Sukumaran, Fouad Makki, Nidhi Mahajan, and Surafel Wondimu Abebe. There to talk about the past four decades of extraction (namely “land grabbing”), surveillance, and illicit trade of natural resources, the panelists explored the new economic, political, and cultural practices that resisted or emerged from these phenomena.
In conjunction with the panels held at the theater, the six new exhibitions that opened on the Foundation’s complex and nearby—by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Khalil Rabah, CAMP, Aref El Rayess, and Gerald Annan-Forson—were open to March Meeting attendees. Each day, artist-led tours were held, as well as film screenings, dinners, and performances to elaborate on the context of each artist’s works. By the creators and curators themselves, guests were guided through the process of creating the work, and the frameworks they explored, such as surveillance at large by CAMP, sound and sonic images by Abu Hamdan, and states of emergency and displacement since the 1990s by Rabah.
A celebration of the exhibition “Gerald Annan-Forson: Revolution and Image-making in Postcolonial Ghana (1979-1985),” curated by Professor Jesse Weaver Shipley, closed out the annual event. Located at Al Hamriyah Studios—a free-standing exhibition and event space run nearby by the Sharjah Art Foundation—the show was presented in collaboration with The Africa Institute to feature countless images by Annan-Forson that showed the political and social life of Ghana during some of its most revolutionary and transformative times.