Coined and organized by Performa Curator Adrienne Edwards, the title is a neologism that riffs off of the term polyglossia, defined as multiple languages co-existing in one area, for which the abbreviation “Afro” references the incredible complexity, heterogeneity, and multiplicity that is Africa. AFROGLOSSIA highlights a range of artistic voices and coalesces diverse perspectives from various regions of the African continent, into a single program platform, allowing viewers to experience distinct approaches to experimental interdisciplinary art and ideas currently being made by artists from Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Morocco, and South Africa. Questions of what is radical, how the conditions of everyday life inform artistic choices, and what constitutes experimentation in cross-boundary performance emerge as important animating forces in the program’s commissions and projects. AFROGLOSSIA’s commissions are each points of convergence with each artist taking up the specific set of social, historical, political, and economic scenarios and experiences in their own distinctly formal ways. Intermingling fiction, poetry, essays, films, performances, painting, music, videos, and photography, the program provides a means through which we can contemplate the intersection of radical art and radical politics as articulated by artists themselves from Africa and its diaspora.

Through travels to these countries over the past two years, discussions with the artists, and given the current political climate here in the United States as well as there, the power of the voice, the resonating ways an individual can speak to the concerns and realities of the collective, became the thrust of this Performa 17 platform. The fact that these voices are often challenging, even opaque, obscure, and defiant, made them an especially compelling focus, reflective of their creative lives and values. For the assembly of artists in AFROGLOSSIA, the vast majority of which were born in the 1970s and came of age in the aftermath of their various independence movements, experimenting with cross-boundary artmaking with a distinct ethical dimension is a natural and logical expression of their tendency for radical rule bending. 

AFROGLOSSIA commissions and projects include:

  • Yto Barrada
  • Teju Cole
  • Kwani Trust
  • Julie Mehretu and Jason Moran
  • The Nest Collective
  • Wangechi Mutu
  • Tracey Rose

Co-presented with Anthology Film Archives, AFROGLOSSIA’s commissions are contextualized by a special four-day film program comprising moving image works that influenced the participating artists’ commissions or their overall practice. 

Image credit: Typeface created by Kenyan artist Kevin Karanja and commissioned by Nairobi based The Nest Collective