International Conference of African Cultures: Mapping the Future

Fadzai Muchemwa's picture
Call for Papers
March 20, 2017
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Fine Arts, Popular Culture Studies

Calls for Papers & Conference Participation

Mapping the Future

11-13 September 2017

National Gallery of Zimbabwe



International Conference of African Cultures: Mapping the Future

Conference Dates: 11-13 September 2017

Abstract Deadline: 20 March 2017

The National Gallery of Zimbabwe is seeking new and in-progress research papers to be presented at the International Conference of African Cultures (ICAC). The overall theme of ICAC is Mapping the Future. The purpose of this 3 day conference is to bring together local and international delegates in the art, culture and heritage industries to deliberate important issues surrounding the future and history of art and culture from Africa. Like the first ICAC in 1962 this event will be important not only for the region, but for the whole continent. Its impact will map out the ways in which institutions, governments, academics and practitioners engaging with the continent will further art and culture. The central topics include:

1) The Historical Dimensions of Art in Africa

2) Development of Contemporary Art on the Continent.

3) Building from Scratch & Plugging the Holes: Spaces for Contemporary African Art

4) The Design Tradition in Africa and Its Impact on Arts and Culture

5) Conservation and Restoration in Africa today and tomorrow.


ICAC will be divided into substantive sessions and break away groups, providing participants opportunity to deliberate on specific areas from their own perspective and national experiences. The main conclusions of ICAC will be reflected and incorporated into a publication.


 ICAC Then

The first ICAC in 1962 opened up important debates about Africa’s underplayed contribution to the global art world as well as the sophistication and holistic nature of the continents visual culture. The conference aimed at showing in the midst of Africa, the greatness of African culture in the arts and music and demonstrating the influence of African art and music on 20th Century culture. This brought together important personalities, scholars, museum professionals, directors, artists, poets, writers and critics from around the world. Amongst them Alfred Barr the MoMA director, William Fagg the Keeper of the Department of Anthropology at the British Museum, Tristan Tzara the poet and essayist known mainly as a founder of Dada, Nancy Thomas prominent figure in the British Boardcasting Corportation’s Talks Department, Roland Penrose C.B.E Chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Art London, S.O. Okeke of the National Museum of Nigeria and Pierre Guerre who was French Art Critic.

ICAC as a discursive platform was decades ahead of its time. The initial conference looked at a number of issues that included: language, literature and drama, media, visual arts, music, dance, religion, philosophy, archives, identity, cultural diversity, contemporary cultural issues, African diaspora, and the role of women among other issues. A full-scale African art exhibition coincided with the conference and consisted of ethnographic objects from different parts of Africa as well as a broad contemporary art section.

It is not surprising that the first ICAC to a certain extent, threatened colonial governments and inspired societies all over Africa to take pride in their indigenous artistic history. Therefore, to say that the first ICAC was a success is an understatement. It was an event that inspired festivals and conferences on black and African culture in other parts of the world.  Namely, the First World Festival of Negro Arts (Dakar) 1966, The First Triennial Symposium of African Art held in Hampton, (Virginia) 1968, the Second World Festival of Black Arts and African Culture (Lagos) 1977. In the 1980s major conferences that were held include the Art Toward Social Development: Culture and Resistance which was held in (Gabarone), the Diversity and Interaction Conference (Durban) 1985. In the 90s, The Dak'Art biennale (Dakar) 1990, the Visual Arts Encounter: African Americans and Europe conference (Paris) 1994, and later, the 2010 World Festival of Black Arts (Dakar).


ICAC 2017 will be made up of 4 major elements:

  • Conference
  • Exhibition Program
  • Art Week
  • Visit to Great Zimbabwe (optional trip on the 14th of September 2017)



The conference will be central to ICAC. The theme of the 2017 conference is thus, Mapping the Future.  It will captivate many international and local delegates in order to map the future of art, culture and heritage from Africa. It will provide various players with an opportunity to interrogate the future of art institutions in the face of the current socio-economic challenges.  Today the situation has changed and the challenges that were there in the sixties, seventies and eighties are not the same today. ICAC comes at a time when art institutions around the world need urgent attention from both the local authorities, corporations and their governments.

Exhibitions Program

The exhibition program set to run alongside the conference will showcase distinguished artists, both living and late from all over the continent. It will highlight pivotal African narratives while exploring African and Western meeting points against a background of contemporary concerns.

Art Week

The fourth element is the staging of inaugural art week designed to offer the mushrooming art spaces of Harare an opportunity to celebrate with us and showcase their work. This will promote Zimbabwe’s most contemporary and cutting edge galleries, collectives, craft centres and art related organisations all around Harare.

Visit to Great Zimbabwe

The third element will be an optional visit to Great Zimbabwe (one of the greatest symbols of African Civilisation) where a tour will stimulate interesting discussions. The whole aim of the tour will be reinforce our own narrative, and the historical contributions African societies have given to the world.


Suggested topics may include, but are by no means limited to:

Main Theme:

  • Mapping the Future


Central Topics

1) The Historical Dimensions of Art in Africa

  1. Context, Culture and Contradictions: Exhibiting in Western / international centres.
  2. Whose taste is on display: questioning the autonomy of art and culture from Africa.
  3. History of African points of archived engagement.
  4. European Collections in African Spaces: Questioning their relevance today.
  5. The evolution of the histories: New narratives of art in Africa.



2) Development of Contemporary Art on the Continent.

  1. Education and Training.
  2. Changing times: Examining the Future of Public Art Institutions in Africa and the West.
  3. Contemporary Art and entrepreneurship.
  4. Exploring the role of curatorship in Africa.
  5. Reviewing African Pavilions at the Venice Biennale: Visibility on international platforms.
  6. Addressing the challenges of touring exhibitions on the continent.
  7. Making Representations: Discovering nonaligned appropriation



3) Building from Scratch and Plugging the Holes: Spaces for Contemporary African Art

  1. Traditional and non- traditional spaces.
  2. Spaces inherited and Spaces created.
  3. Architecture today: Super imposing the new spaces on the old structures.
  4. The political overtone of art museum spaces and capacity to engage.


4) The Design Tradition in Africa and Its Impact on Arts and Culture

  1. Cultural institutions as knowledge hubs
  2. Cultural institutions: diversity, audiences and relevance
  3. Sustainable design.
  4. Urban architecture and its influence on urban identities.
  5. The future of African cities.
  1. Historic moments in design from Africa.
  2. Commonalities amongst the Global South.
  3. Diaspora as gatekeepers: Extension of the West or African lobbyists



5) Conservation and Restoration in Africa today and tomorrow.

  1. Conservation of heritage objects and sites.
  2. Conservation of non-traditional art/ New Media
  3. Cultural Genocide: Re-addressing curatorship and repatriation of stolen art objects.
  4. Heritage and Identity under threat: Africa Responds.
  5. Building robust heritage Industries.  
  6. Intangible Heritage



By March 20, interested parties should send a CV, an abstract of no more than 300 words, a letter of interest to Tandazani Dhlakama at or

All parties will be notified of the outcome by end of April 2017.













Contact Info: 

Tandazani Dhlakama and Fadzai Muchemwa

National Gallery of Zimbabwe, 20 Julius Nyerere Way, Harare, Zimbabwe