Based on the meeting about the exhibition Processes: The Work defying the Artist, Filipa Pontes (FP), the creative director of Processes, drafted a set of questions that are presented in the form of interviews with the artists.
Maimuna Adam, Butcheca and Jorge Dias express their opinion on the participation in the project, on the current contemporary art scene in Maputo and in Mozambique, and on their representation in the world.
FP) About the participation in Processes: You have been invited to take part in the Processes Project and challenged to create a work based on your own individual process of artistic production. Some years have passed, what do you now have to say about your experience as an artist in this exhibition? Which work did you submit?
Maimuna Adam – I developed the “Bookcase” installation, as a dialogue between my work process, the audience and myself. I chose to include objects found in various locations, including the Germany-Mozambique Cultural Institute, which generously gave me books, and my collection of printed books and sketchbooks. In conversation with different people, including the curator Filipa Pontes, the Kulungwana director Henny Matos, the administrator of the gallery Maria José Friães, and the artists Félix Mula and Gemuce, the installation ended up becoming a proposal that made use of the gallery sofa, offering everyone who entered the gallery a place of comfort, contemplation and participation, and with books avaliable to those who can and want to give a moment of attention.
Some years have passed since then. My participation in the Processes was a conceptual challenge that afforded me an opportunity to experiment with the installation format, a bit different from what I had shown previously, but which I was developing “intuitively” while working in my studio. Some objects had already “spoken” to me, objects that in themselves recounted narratives of journeys, such as a globe of the world, ancient and broken and a small battered trunk, found in the house of my paternal grandparents.
Butcheca – “Circumference” is a work constructed from thin trunks, small branches, upon which a circumference is painted, representing the space surrounding us, the world, nature that creates and allows us to create, which we challenge and which simultaneously challenges us. This work allowed me to explore some natural materials, deriving directly from nature (sticks, rope, sisal) and I used it to try to represent the world in a simple way. And so, the world and its representation appear in a circumference with no beginning and no end. The work challenged me in the sense that it was the materials themselves that guided the construction, materials drawn from nature, representing nature, these very same materials that challenged me and also suggested the construction of the work itself, that suggested the construction of the work, leading me to think about the place of people in the world and transporting the world to the work. The world inside the work and the artist within the work.
“The last traveler” – in which I used materials and techniques that I had never used before: iron bars, iron blocks and soldering. It was a new experience that I embraced during the creation of the work where a seated figure appears, a woman or a man, an anonymous figure, that could be on any type of transport, an aircraft, a train, a motor car… This “last traveller” also represents a position of risk, the last person to embark on the journey. It could be said that it is a position of risk, a place of uncertainty, where the probabilities of remaining or departing are equal…
And lastly, “Maputo-Catembe” has the shape of an animal’s head and I sought to represent a nomadic beast with no fixed abode. This beast represents someone or something moving to a place where they feel good. It also represents a crossing, a search for a new place, a new space. As an inhabitant of this side, in Maputo city, this work was in the nature of a pronouncement and led me later to another place on the other side. And it is this crossing that I am now doing, almost daily, from here to there, to Catembe on the other side of the river, to the other side of Maputo Bay, where I am building a new work space, a new studio, a new house.
I feel that basically, and bearing in mind the topic of this project, these works have interfered directly in some aspects of my life. If the objective was the work challenging the artist in a real way, I can say that these works represent new challenges, both at the artistic and the personal levels, taking me to areas of action and of thinking, either through the materials used, or via what each one represented or even what each led me to discover.
Jorge Dias – It was a great privilege for me to participate in the Processes project. To have worked with a curator who was present throughout the whole process of production, from the launch of the project to discussions with artists and monitoring of my work, which for me opened up and broadened my horizons, with regard to the context of our work space and the place of art in the context of the present day and where we work.
We must take account of the fact that artists in Mozambique generally have little opportunity to discuss their political and social circumstances. There is a certain weakness in the active role of artists in the public debate about numerous situations in the social and political life of the country. I do not mean to suggest that art in Mozambique should necessarily be linked to social and political problems in the country. But art is also a vehicle for the formation of public opinion. Another feature lacking in art and among artists in Mozambique that we have been able to perceive is the fact of artistic work being simply the production of images that are often not even thought of as art. I presented an installation where I journeyed through my creative processes, taking the greatest possible potential from the materials employed by me in the course of my career and the possibility of merging three projects into one, making that work more robust. The first project was ″Cocoons″ begun in 2000 in Brazil and developed in Maputo in other directions. The second project was ″Thing″. That project was started in 2003 in Maputo. The third project was “DNA″, also started in Maputo in 2007. With these three projects, the perfect opportunity was created to speak of transformations in a context of density, of organicity and to which something visceral could be added. But I must somehow acknowledge the works presented by the artists David Mbonzo and Berry Bickle that were present at the same edition as mine, they had an approach that added a lot to my. I was working alongside David Mbonzo. He suggested some of the materials that I employed. The space was a challenge for me. Normally I have a tendency to expand my work to excess. In this space I had to take into account the limits of the area to be occupied. This somehow helped in the final assembly.
FP) Regarding the Processes project: The Processes project was created on the basis of a desire to create a space for the production, discussion and dissemination of contemporary art in Maputo. What is your opinion on the project? How important was it on the national and local scene? What relevance did it have for your artistic profile?
Maimuna Adam – It is hard for me to say how important an exhibition has been for the national and local scene. I participated in the Processes: Artist, Artwork, Public (Processos: Artista, Obra, Público), in 2014, and that was a project that to me seemed to create the conditions, with the help of Kulungwana, for each artist to try to express, in images, words, and objects. I think each artist has his or her own ideas, and this is possibly why it is difficult for them to explain their processes to others.
The only thing I’m sure of is that my intention with “Bookcase” was to ‘provoke’ anyone who participated in the work of reading and interpreting what they saw based on their own personal experience, ‘guessing’ or imagining what “entered” or influenced the development of the work. The only certainty that I have is that my intention with the “Bookcase” was to provoke those participating in the work to read and interpret what they saw on the basis of their own personal experience, “guessing or imagining” what “went into” or influenced the development of the work. The two screens on either side of the installation show similar images, originating from digital photographs from waves in the sea of Maputo Bay, which I joined together to suggest windows that show an alternative reality, digital and with a certain nostalgia, in addition to what each person experienced around them when they entered the gallery.
Butcheca – I found the Processes project to be very interesting and which, in my opinion, should continue. It is interesting above all because of its freedom to be creative on a topic previously suggested by another person. I think that the results obtained were also very interesting as the project gave me an opportunity to interact with other artists in languages different from my own.
In the national and local context, it was an innovative project in the format in which it was presented, bringing together artists with different languages and profiles, creating a platform for very diverse interaction and space for dialogue that was suitable for discussion and reflection, both at times of creativity and in the course of conversations and meetings that it encouraged.
As regards my own artistic journey, I think that it helped me to understand better how to create a work of art on the basis of a specific theme. In that way, I was led to seek and find other things and to make new discoveries that I later saw reflected in my further work in the project.
Jorge Dias – This project has undoubtedly added something important to the art scene in Mozambique, specifically in Maputo. Through it, young artists try out spaces for production, and discuss art in ways that are not common in the art scene in Maputo. Despite Maputo being a city where the vitality of the art scene is a point of reference in the region, it still lacks projects where the people are involved, such as curators, artists, audiences and places for art are truly in harmony with the production, awareness and circulation of art.
I have some difficulty in speaking about the importance of this project, since it rarely reaches the more remote corners of our country, to realize the real penetration of it at national level. Art events held in Maputo usually perish in Maputo, except for some initiatives that allow exhibitions in other cities in the country. Beira is the city that normally benefits from initiatives emanating from Maputo. As far as I know, there are no artists living in other provinces that participate in any section of this project. If such participation were possible, these artists would have a chance to share the experience of the project.
As has already been said, the project has strengthened in me the way in which I relate to art and other artists. Faced with a challenge, I was able to reflect on my life as an artist and return to the conceptual tools that I have developed. I could challenge myself and take some work to the exhibition space that would not have been achievable previously, without regular discussions with the curator and other interested parties. In the last analysis, that is the essential role of the curator. It is to guide the artists towards the limits of their creativity. To take the artist to places that they have never reached before and constantly to break these limits.
FP) On the topic of contemporary art in Maputo, Mozambique and the world: What does contemporary art in Maputo mean to you? What is your opinion on the art context of Mozambique nowadays? How do you think Mozambican contemporary art is viewed in the context of world contemporary art?
Maimuna Adam – More and more, I ask myself what is the importance of “analyzing” “contemporary art”, either in Maputo or in any other place. If we were to imagine that the category of “Contemporary art” meant “a specific visual language” I would say that it seems to be more misunderstood than not, if it were generalized to the context of Maputo. If it were defined as art made in the present day, I think it is a vivid activity, of which we can only gain when we live aside categories and “labels” using this work to serve as a catalyst to draw a personal and subjective reaction from each person.
In retrospect, I would suggest that contemporary art on a world scale may be understood as an economy in itself, and it is one that I feel, even without having statistics to hand, there are few Mozambicans who can say, or even feel, that they are part of it. This is a world of galleries and museums, collectors and institutions and diverse organizations, to which African artists in general and Mozambican artists in particular will open up even more in the course of time, demonstrating the plurality and diversity of our “visual voices”. In my view, art in general includes all possible creative endeavors, it is a profession sphere that like all the rest depends on many individual and artistic pieces, and that is only one of the pieces.
Butcheca – As a rule, what I find in contemporary art that pleases me is its innovative character in general, in that it is constantly uncovering new things that feed the spirit and the mind. New languages that cross each other, new forms of crossing without pre-established rules that bring new challenges and greater freedom of expression, allowing us to make use of everything that the world gives us.
However, I feel that contemporary Mozambican art, in the context of contemporary world art, still has to project itself more. I feel it is still being born, establishing its presence. This is a presence that is beginning to gain space, little by little, it is gaining space, through new projects, new forms of interaction and sharing. Faced with an almost total lack of any local and national art market, and of few opportunities for local artists to have any visibility, bit by bit, some windows of opportunities are opening up to launch Mozambique in the world. However, I still think there is a long way to go, and as artists, we must make the most of all opportunities that appear in order to show our work, discuss it, question it, share it and in this way launch it into the world.
Jorge Dias – It is difficult to say what is contemporary art in Maputo and Mozambique nowadays, since the scene is constantly changing. On the one hand, there is local validation and on the other, there is validation and legitimation by curators and gallery owners in other places that determine the space occupied by Mozambican contemporary art. Moreover, there is weak capacity locally to undertake negotiation and legitimize current output. There are artists with potential who have no opportunity to show their work outside of Maputo. Showing art works also opens up opportunities to appear in magazines, websites and articles with worldwide circulation.
A lacking uncommitted output and debate on contemporary matters are perhaps the main problems we face. Over the last ten years, we have begun to be published in art books in Mozambique. What is written and what is published is painfully insufficient for what is produced. Output is still very low, but imagine then the little that is written about what is produced. Dra. Alda Costa has written an important work on the history of art in Mozambique. Gianfranco Gandolfo has published two books about the Makonde artists, Reinata Sadimba and Matias Ntundo. Other photo books published by the Kulungwana Association have been used as references for art studies and photography in particular. We should not forget that despite these advances, the constraints are many, particularly the following: 1) public and private Mozambican collections are not open to contemporary art. 2) Such institutions as museums and cultural centers do not have the capacity to meet the new challenges. 3) The art promotion fund FUNDAC has done what it could, but it is still very far from responding financially to new production. 4) Public policy is basically geared towards traditional and modern art. 5) There is no competitive market for art.
Contemporary art in Mozambique is still viewed with some distrust. Unfortunately, the art market if we look at the art markets in the principal art markets, Mozambican artists are more or less invisible.