artists & participants

press release

Opening February 10, 2002, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994, a landmark exhibition exploring African culture through art, film, photography, graphics, architecture, music, literature, and theater. Featuring works by more than fifty artists from twenty-two countries, the exhibition will occupy the entire three floors of galleries at P.S.1. Curated by Okwui Enwezor for the Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, The Short Century is the first major survey to examine this dynamic and politically-charged era in African art and history, and how liberation movements and art have been bound together in the forging of new cultural identities. The Short Century presents a cultural context in which the intense politics of African freedom movements are displayed: from the initial struggles for independence following the Second World War, to the collapse of apartheid in South Africa and the establishment of democratic governments in the nations of Africa.

“I am very pleased that we are able to present The Short Century at P.S.1.,” states Glenn D. Lowry, Director, The Museum of Modern Art, “and I am deeply grateful to The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art for their support of this initiative. The Short Century is an extremely important exhibition that examines in detail the complex relationship between African Liberation movements and the creation of new visual languages to express the powerful intellectual and cultural forces associated with these movements.”

On the occasion of The Short Century, P.S.1, The Museum of Modern Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and NYU’s Institute of African American Affairs and Africana Studies Program have joined in an effort to engage a broad scope of audiences in the issues addressed by the exhibition. The programming includes film screenings, lectures, performances, dialogues, and panel discussions featuring artists, art historians, curators, and academics that will take place at each of the institutions. The Museum of Modern Art presents The Short Century Film Program, a series of nine films by major African directors organized by Laurence Kardish, Senior Curator, Department of Film and Media, The Museum of Modern Art, in association with Okwui Enwezor and Mark Nash. Jay Levenson, Director, International Program; Astrid Persans, Programs Associate; and Amy Horshak, Museum Educator at The Museum of Modern Art have also organized the African Museum Professionals Workshop, an important initiative that will provide fifteen curators and educators from sub-Saharan Africa an opportunity to experience institutional practices in New York, while establishing relationships with museums and galleries in New York City, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. P.S.1’s Education Program has developed a series of programs specifically for the New York presentation of the exhibition, including artist-led tours and workshops for students and teachers, interactive projects, special performances, and family guides that connect the issues in The Short Century to local concerns. The Studio Museum in Harlem presents two exhibitions and lectures in conjunction with The Short Century, including Yinka Shonibare and Africaine: Candice Breitz, Wangechi Mutu, Tracey Rose and Fatimah Tuggar. P.S.1, The Museum of Modern Art, and The Africana Studies Program at New York University have organized a lecture by the prominent African novelist Chinua Achebe.

The crucial dates of 1945 to 1994 relate to the events that mark the beginning and end of Africa's struggle for independence. In 1945, the 5th Pan-African Congress gathered in Manchester, England, to intensify its demand for immediate self-rule. The Short Century focuses on key historical events taking place after this radical proclamation such as the articulation of the principles of the right to self-determination; the Negritude Movement; Pan-Africanism; Pan-Arabism and the rise of Arab Nationalism; the Algerian, Mozambican, and Angolan wars of independence; and the liberation movement in South Africa. The exhibition concludes with the creation of a post-apartheid constitution in South Africa, marked by Nelson Mandela's election as president in April 1994.

Conceived by Enwezor, The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994 is a contemporary biography of Africa in the post-war period. Enwezor and his curatorial team of Mark Nash, Co-Curator, Film; Rory Bester, Associate Curator; Lauri Firstenberg, Associate Curator; and Chika Okeke, Associate Curator, investigated a variety of sources to document European domination from 1885–1945, the development of political and cultural consciousness from the mid-1940s through the 1950s, the decade of independence from 1960-1970, and liberation movements in African nations.

The Short Century
Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994
Kuratoren: Mark Nash, Rory Bester, Lauri Firstenberg, Chika Okeke