8.1.2021   |  words by Giulia Celegon

In case of emergency… break down the barriers

Helping art and artists is not only a duty but also a privilege. Recently we met someone who does it very, very well: Valerie Kabov is the Chair of African Art Galleries Association (AAGA), which for some years now has created an incredible, international showcase and network of collaboration for emerging and non-emerging African artists. Because art has no barriers or horizons.

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When life becomes a little more difficult, art can become a surprisingly safe place. Underestimating the ability of art to improve the scents, steps, thoughts of existence is a mistake that must not be made. Why? Because we would be deprived of a North Star, capable of guiding the boldest travellers. But art is not just a way, a compass, a companion, it is also a deep and beautiful sea, which wraps, captivates, returns.
In a society like the present one, where people are often indifferent and cynical, where noises are not heard, where the skins of others are not worn, the world of contemporary art does not disappear, but it needs looks. AAGA is for artists. As Marina Abramović once said (and make), “The Artist is Present”. And AAGA is by his side.

AAGA was formed in 2016 and the current membership is 15 galleries, it was a part and a response to this situation of emergency of AAGA (African Art Galleries Association), whose main purpose is to support emerging art galleries and gallery professionals by providing a synergistic network of collaboration and mutual support with opportunities for sharing advice and resources; they also strive to the exchange between artists, developing and continuing artistic projects, joint marketing support and publications, and the association also offers legal support and advocacy galleries and art organisations on the continent.

First prize winner 2020 Eyasu Telayneh – Private Reputation of Colors, 2019

To the present day, the galleries that are part of AAGA are Afriart Gallery (Kampala, Uganda), Arte de Gema (Maputo, Mozambique), Artyrama (Lagos, Nigeria), Circle Art Gallery (Nairobi, Kenya), Ebony Curated (Cape Town, South Africa), Espaco Luanda Arte (Luanda, Angola), First Floor Gallery Harare (Harare, Zimbabwe), Guns & Rain Gallery (Johannesburg, South Africa), Kalashnikov Gallery (Johannesburg, South Africa), Mov’art Gallery (Luanda, Angola), Selma Feriani Gallery (Tunis, Tunisia), St-Art (Windhoek, Namibia), This is not a white cube (Luanda, Angola): all galleries who came together to collaborate, share, shine.
Creating a network of people might seem extraordinarily simple, especially considering the time in which we live, and it is, but it is instead difficult to make this network of contacts, of souls, survive the distance, the race towards one’s own horizons, or points of view, perhaps, sometimes, different. Why does it succeed? Because it has courage, the ability to act from the heart, knowing that in this great sea that is art, it is necessary to share a boat with which to travel.

One of the great projects that EAAGA pursues every year is Emerging Painting Invitational Prize (EPI), an international art platform developed to support and recognise the excellence of emerging painters living and working on the continent, and also to create new opportunities for engagement with art and art centres in Africa for local and international collectors, art professionals and general audiences. But not only: EPI is usually accompanied with talks, studio visits and interactions, because the great capacity of EAAGA comes from precisely leaving no one behind, and trusting the artists, the art, aware that unity is strength.
Each year a Nominating Committee made up by members of EAAGA, guest regional experts and previous year’s EPI finalists select 15-20 of the most promising painters under 30 from across Africa. The finalists are invited to present 3 works for an exhibition and Juried prize as well as an opportunity to attend the launch of the finalist exhibition, engage with fellow artists and international art professionals in a host African city. This year the edition was held online due to the global covid-19 crisis, check here the winners of the 2020 edition:
It is also possible to know the previous edition, which took place in Harare (Zimbabwe), here

Second Prize Winner 2020 Yolanda Mazwana – That’s the spot, 2020

It is therefore important that space is also given to emerging artists so that they can present their visions, make themselves known, and start proposing their own works of art.
But EAAGA is not for everyone: it is for those who want to improve. It is for those who want to know, to face, to meet. It is for those who look at that vast, marvellous panorama that is art, and understand that they want to be part of it, at the cost of becoming waves that, undaunted, crash against rocks of social prejudice, unjust indifference, heartbreaking selfishness. EAAGA is for the brave.

Third Prize Winner 2020 Kirubel Abebe – Chasing the end, 2020


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