Our decisions as consumers in the global marketplace have very real effects on the lives of children, women and men

Anjan Sundaram is an award-winning journalist who has reported from Africa for the New York Times and the Associated Press. He is the author of Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo.

 

In a recent editorial for the New York Times you criticized the scarcity of means by which the American media cover a few hot spots in the world: what are the negative consequences of this?

It means that our understanding of the world today, and also of human history, is based on a narrative with significant holes in it. Great events like the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has killed 5 million people, are reduced to footnotes. Ultimately, this limits our understanding of ourselves.

Your book is a very powerful and moving report of an event that we would have otherwise little understood: When did you decide to write it?

I decided to write the book as I was leaving Congo. The idea was to convey some sense of what the crisis feels like, and how it is lived, rather than to come at it through statistics. I felt I needed to write something to convey the immensity of what I had experienced, and this became the anchor for the book.

You have been changed by the events that you describe in the book?

It is difficult to see the world in the same way after traveling through a place like Congo. You learn a great deal by watching people overcome catastrophic circumstances. Congo also supplies the world with elements used in jewelry, telephones, electric cables and circuit boards. Now when I see those things I’m reminded of their supply chains, of mines in Congo in which children would work. I remember a mass grave of children who had died of exhaustion from hauling minerals.

What are your relations with the Congolese?

I don’t pride myself on any special relationship with the Congolese. I’m an observer. I am always keen to listen to what people have to say about my writing, or about anything else.

What can we learn from what’s going on in the Congo?

There are places in the world we are intimately connected to but know very little about. Our decisions as consumers in the global marketplace have very real effects on the lives of children, women and men. The first step to taking some responsibility for how we affect those people is to learn about them.

International critics have greatly appreciated your talent in describing the places, people and feelings that the Congo has sent you: When you wrote the book were you aware of the power of your words?

I’m grateful when I hear that people were affected by what I’ve written. The world is full of people talking these days: television, radio, books, blogs, social media. My words are but a few in that conversation. More broadly, I was moved by many of the things I experienced in Congo, and I think it’s only natural that the emotion came out when I described those things.

The purpose of our site is to promote a vibrant and active cultural and artistic life of many African countries because we believe that the cultural isolation is one of the main enemies of democracy. What do you think of this?

I absolutely support it. Through such exchange comes understanding of oneself and of ‘the other’. I wish you the best.

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A show of contemporary African Art re-interpreting Dante’s “The Divine Comedy”

Simon Njami, the curator of the exhibition THE DIVINE COMEDY at SCAD Museum.

Do you think the common perception of Africa is correct, or do people need to be better educated?

Big shows regarding Africa are always held, for technical and economical reasons, in the West. And the West has always thought that they had an encyclopedic knowledge of the world. Hence a lot of misunderstanding about what is Africa, and what could be art made by Africans. But in Africa as well there are a lot of misunderstandings. Particularly because the notion of contemporary art is still vague for a lot of people.

I have not been curating African art, but rather work from African artists. Everybody around the world has an idea of Africa, be it taken from the news, from fantasies or from journeys. It is always interesting to observe how works are given a new meaning. Be it right or wrong, it does not matter.

In what way does “The Divine Comedy” contribute to the understanding and promotion of African culture?

It is not about art, or Africa. It is about meanings. Some of the artists in the show are Muslims, some are Christians some don’t believe in any the traditional God and they all live in the third millennium, when Dante’s Poem was written in the 14th century. I wanted Dante’s work to be deconstructed from new perspectives. The challenge, if there was one, was to make people, the audience, understand that Dante, like any artist, belongs to everyone. And it is my conviction that our reflection is always richer when we are confronted to something that doesn’t seem to belong to us. That’s how Western modern art was created, when Picasso encountered the African masks.

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The art market this is a big key to export a new vision of Africa

Massimiliano Zane, Wired Italy contributor, Museum management.

What would you like to achieve in your work?

The most important achievement to me is growing in culture. I would like to match together art and culture in order to let them be known by people interested in communication, new technology and contemporary languages. Museums are places of mass communication ahead of its time and today offer fertile grounds for cultivating new relationships with cultural heritage and technology that extend far beyond the walls of the museum by connecting communities, tools and innovative approaches to the narrative of museums can help them develop their cultural resources.

Of the projects that see you involved, which are the ones you care about most?

Usually I work in art business with collectors, auctions, art galleries and cultural institutions in charge of consultant, dealer and advisor; I really appreciate this kind of job, it’s very exciting for me. It’s a charming journey between timeless beauty, power and elegance in art’s world.
In the last period I’m very busy with a big (and secret) project regarding the development in museum’s communication. My focus is to create a new paradigm of digital culture matching social media and cultural heritage.

In what way art market does it contribute to the understanding and promotion of African culture?

Market is market and good art is good art, and now the African Art it’s a new frontier of good art and it is fundamental for promotion of African culture. Now the collectors travel across the Africa’s continent to discover new trends and artists, and the attention of international institutions and museums (such as the Tate) have set up committees for the acquisition of the Contemporary Art of Africa.
The generally European aesthetic concepts are inclined to confine the African Art, wrongly, only like the ethnic and primitive art regards as a unique restricted expression: “African/Tribal” art and culture.
But for the Art Market the Contemporary African Art is not just that: the African Art, crossbred and hybrid, it’s an a interesting mirror, lights up a varied artistic production, the result of a vibrant cultural environment steeped in artistic expressions, be it in music, language, drawings or sculpting, but if it’s true how the market it’s market, and the geographic categorization is purely technical, with
not hierarchical agenda, the art market this is a big key to export a new vision of Africa.

Do you think that the perception that common people have of Africa is
correct or do they need to be made more aware of it?

Today, a new awareness of what it means to “Africa” is required. The general perception of ordinary people about Africa is wrong,
superficial and often driven by interest. Today, the Africa is growing, economically and socially, isn’t only a land to the poverty and civil war, it’s new frontier of energy, technology, culture and art in his all multiple nuances.

Our mission is to promote the development of Africa counteracting the lack of information about the high quality of its art and culture: what do you think about this?

The Africa, born by the multiculturalism of its many nations and histories, is a mysterious surprise to discover and tell. Today, even though international investment in the country are worth millions, much remains to be do to achieve an a real reconciliation with our realistic vision of Africa in Europe and, in generally, in the World. Africart work is a great contribution in order to make more visible the different directives of international perspective and reconciling diversities of this special country. Good job guys!

What inspires and drives you to accomplish your work?

Art is my inspiration, is always a surprise, never mind to be bored.

Africa doesn’t feature much on our media landscape, except for Ebola and Pistorius

Katie Silver, ABC journalist; ex-CNN ex reporter/producer with Sky News Business.

You lived and worked in many different places. What is the impact of this on your work?

I have been lucky enough to have lived in a few different countries. Really, really lucky. I think it helps provide some context to the stories I later tell as well as making me more aware of stories. For instance, my interest in Latin America means I follow local blogs and see stories I wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. Also it gives me contacts should a story of international import occur.

What are some common myths about the journalism profession?

One is that you are always out and about.  I think sadly too much time is spent behind a desk nowadays.  You’re fortunate as a journalist if you work in an organisation with the resources to allow you to pursue original, resource-heavy stories. Also something people are often surprised by are the hours – overnights, weekends, early mornings etc. 24 hour news has changed things.

The news can have a big impact on people and the decisions it takes. How important is this knowledge in your work? 

Hugely, this is what my postgrad studies are in.  I think it’s a privilege that one has to continually remember. As journalists, we have the power to change what people think- but there’s a big responsibility in that as well.  Objectivity is the goal.

In what way journalism does it contribute to the understanding and promotion of African culture? 

In Australia, I wish it did more.  Sadly Africa doesn’t feature much on our media landscape, except for Ebola and Pistorius.   I love when I see stories on African music and culture.  There was a beautiful documentary recently about the resurgence of Soweto through choir.  I think stories like this are great for breaking down stereotypes.

Do you think that the perception that common people have of Africa is correct or do they need to be made more aware of it? 

I personally don’t know as much as I would like, in order to even answer this question.  I am yet to go to Africa and so my view is informed by what I see in Australia and the people I meet.  All I know is I have much to learn!

Our mission is to promote the development of Africa counteracting the lack of information about the high quality of its art and culture: what do you think about this? 

I LOVE IT!   As I said, there is so much more I want to know about Africa.  I’m really excited to have found your organisation and look forward to following what you do.

The media treats Africa as if it is the 17th century there and the 21st century here

Michael Klein, director of Michael Klein Gallery (1980s-90s) before leading Microsoft’s Art Collection. Now director of The Little Gallery

What would you like to achieve in your work?

Now that I have entered my decade of the 60s I would like to work for some 25 more years. I have always been interested in contemporary art and although the contemporary artists I championed early on are now historic figures I am still very keen on their work and where they have gone. Alice Aycock for example, was in the first museum show I organized in 1976 and today is still creating impressive monumental sculptures, installations and works on paper. Many of her installation plans have never been realized and I would like to see those built and placed in some great collections worldwide. Another is Jonathan Borofsky who I try to visit once a year to keep up with his new work; last visit I saw wonderful new paintings and wall installations. I collect his earlier work. Finally there are some book projects that I would like to develop, some individual studies on the work and career of some artists. Another is a history of Minimal painting that has yet to be explored and documented. A few years ago I curated a show entitled PAINTING IN PARTS which looked at a variety of artists whose work could be labeled Minimal, some of whom began to show in the 60s like Jo Baer and Robert Mangold and others representing a younger generation of painters aiming at the same aesthetic like Luke Frost and Yunhee Min. This could be for me a great assignment because it brings together my interest in art history and my knowledge of the art of the last fifty years.

Where too are the great museum shows about the 70s and what about the 80s? So much in those two decades laid the ground work for much today. One saw the birth of the international art world both in terms of market and events. There were overlapping generations at work: Pop artists, Minimal artists, Conceptualist, Performance and so on…all happening simultaneously and with different camps gaining different attention. Most of the artists once associated with Leo Castelli Gallery have received enormous attention others less so. It is time to look back and reevaluate the history of those two important decades. I would hope my work in the field would help to reinvigorate some of those careers.

Personally I want to continue to collect work by new talent. This year I bought works by a California painter named Mark Petersen. I found work by two Belgian artists: Alain Biltereyst and John Van Oers. And I continue my quest for Peter Schuyff’s works.

Borofsky People Tower 2008 20m Beijing

Borofsky People Tower 2008 20m Beijing

Art: Richmond Burton, Photographer: ©2014 Andy Wainwright (Andrew G.Wainwright)

Art: Richmond Burton, Photographer: ©2014 Andy Wainwright (Andrew G.Wainwright)

magdalene-dundo-300

magdalene-dundo-300

Ousmane Sow Untitled 1984-87

Ousmane Sow Untitled 1984-87

Rosen, Untitled Form, 2014

Of the projects that see you involved, which are the ones you care about most?

Dividing my time between promoting artists and selling art works. I care deeply about the history of art and about artists who over time have fallen between the cracks or have had little attention paid to them or their life’s work needs to be looked at again. The painter Grace Hartigan for example; Robert Mallary, a sculptor championed by the late dealer and collector Allan Stone and almost totally forgotten or the British sculptor Kenneth Armitage. I am intrigued by what turns up in collections; what discoveries are made and still can be made whether it is a work by Dan Flavin that has been quietly at home in a collection in Europe or a work on paper by Norman Lewis that reenters the marketplace five decades after it was originally made.

I am also interested in more contemporary artists who continue and need more attention: Richmond Burton, Ellen Phelan, Thom Merrick and Jane Rosen to name but four. There are many artists working today deserving of more attention and evaluation; the market is not always the best or fair judge. Smart collectors and institutions need to look beyond the headlines to find great works.

In what way an art gallery or a private collection does it contribute to the understanding and promotion of African culture?

My first exposure to African art came when I was 11 and my family travelled to Europe and Africa. We visited Morocco and I got a chance to see art there .Years later when I was Curator for the Microsoft Collection I thought it was important to add artists to the collection from all the countries the company did business in as well as translate their software. I found El Anatsui in a gallery London and wanted to buy an early work then and was also looking at William Kentridge’s prints. I felt this was just the tip of an iceberg that needed more time and research. There was a collector in Seattle who was busy collecting South African artists, it is quite a collection and peeked my interest in art being made there as well as what was happening in other countries in Africa. Many years ago on a trip to England I discovered the work of Magdelena Odundo that were on view at the Crafts Council. I learned she was from Kenya but lived and worked in England. She makes extraordinary ceramics. Her work was my introduction into contemporary African art and that was in the mid 80s.And a few years ago I was also introduced to the sculptor Ousmane Sow who now resides in Senegal. The large figurative piece was in an estate of a prominent collector.
Do you think that the perception that common people have of Africa is correct or do they need to be made more aware of it?

Americans know little of Africa. The media treats Africa as if it is the 17th century there and the 21st century here. We don’t know that there are some 54 countries exiting on the continent, the diversity of cultures and religions and the history of Africa before colonization and afterwards. Because I am a radio junkie and listen to BBC on line I follow reports on business and culture in Africa.

Comparative Literature cannot exist without intercultural communication

Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center, CUNY – City University of New York
http://www.gc.cuny.edu/home

https://www.facebook.com/cunycomplit

 

 

The discipline of comparative literature has been defined in a myriad of ways. What, in your view, is Comp Lit?

Comparative Literature is at its core an interdisciplinary field that studies the interactions among literary works arising from different geographical, historical, and linguistic contexts. Through our knowledge of literary history and our application of critical theory, our goal is to understand the relationships that exist among the literatures arising from diverse cultures. We examine how different literatures have influenced one another, we seek to better understand one society’s literature through the lens of another, and we endeavor to determine the commonalities inherent to all literary works, regardless of socio-political context.

What would you like to achieve in your work?

We hope to foster cross-cultural dialogue as we examine literatures arising from multiple civilizations, deriving better understanding of these societies through the examination of their artistic output. We also work to promote the Comparative Literature department’s collaboration with other disciplines originating in both the Humanities and Social Sciences in order to better comprehend literature’s intersections with ethical, historical, philosophical, and political frameworks.

Of the projects that see you involved, which are the ones you care about most?

The Comparative Literature department is very proud of its recent creation of a certificate program in Critical Theory. Critical Theory provides a framework with which one is able to read any text, whether a work of literature, an ethical code, or a sociopolitical construct. It therefore serves as a universal language to promote cross-disciplinary dialogue. The certificate is comprised of courses offered by multiple departments and is available to all doctoral candidates at the Graduate Center, so it has provided students and faculty from different programs across the Humanities and Social Sciences with an opportunity for collaboration. As part of this initiative, we created the “Critical Theory Today Lecture Series,” which has brought influential theorists such as Fredric Jameson and Slavoj Žižek to the Graduate Center.

We also hold two conferences each year, which bring scholars from all over the world to the Graduate Center to exchange their ideas. We are in the process of creating a concentration in Translation Studies, which will help us continue in our efforts to improve our understanding of language, literature, and cultural exchange.

In what way CompLit@CUNY does it contribute to the understanding and promotion of intercultural communication?

Comparative Literature cannot exist without intercultural communication, as it is built upon the interactions of different languages, geographies, and time periods. In addition to the courses our department offers, as well as the aforementioned Critical Theory certificate, Translation concentration, and conferences, the Comparative Literature program’s diverse student body prompts intercultural communication. Our students hail from over 25 different countries and speak as many languages, so the everyday interactions they have with their colleagues, both in and out of the classroom, provide them with a window into a separate and distinct culture.

Do you think that the perception that common people have of Africa is correct or do they need to be made more aware of it?

Africa is a continent with a rich literary heritage. Its many encounters with other cultures (including those of North America and Europe) have contributed to a diverse and vibrant tradition that have preserved African literature and thought while still incorporating elements of the cultures and languages that have influenced its history. Its literature reflects its unique historical tapestry and allows us to better understand Africa’s culture and philosophy.

What do you think of our mission to share the cultural vibrancy of African countries with people in Europe, America and elsewhere in the world?

We are very happy to see an initiative that seeks to stimulate the exchange of ideas and to promote a better understanding of a culture through its artistic and literary creations.

Sustainability leader: “an organisation or individual that inspires and supports action towards a better world”

Dr Wayne Visser
Senior Associate, Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership
Writer at The Guardian
Professor, Gordon Institute of Business Science & Deakin University
Director, Kaleidoscope Futures
Founder, CSR International
Ranked one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior in 2013

www.waynevisser.com

What, in your view, is sustainability leadership?

In the research I’ve done on this topic at Cambridge University, we define a sustainability leader as “an organisation or individual that inspires and supports action towards a better world.”

What are the pillars of visionary leadership?

We have a framework on sustainability leadership that suggests that visionary leaders understand the changing global context (including all the challenges we face) and respond with certain traits, styles, skills and knowledge, translating these into actions for a better world. For example, typical traits of sustainability leaders include:
Caring / morally-driven
Systemic / holistic thinker
Enquiring / open-minded
Self-aware / empathetic
Visionary / courageous

What are the main challenges that our world must face to create a better future?

I believe the three biggest challenges we face are: 1) redesigning capitalism to have checks and balances against excessive short-termism and greed, 2) decoupling growth and environmental impact to tackle resource scarcity, biodiversity loss and climate change, i.e. achieving a circular economy, and 3) finding socio-economic and cultural-political mechanisms to reverse the trend of increasing inequality (the gaps between rich and poor).

What do you think of our mission to share the cultural vibrancy of African countries with people in Europe, America and elsewhere in the world?

I do believe we should be focused on discovering, building and promoting Africa’s distinctive contribution. What is it that Africans do well, better than anywhere else, and how can this be leveraged? I think it has something to do with their hospitable culture, together with their music, dance and style. So maybe Africa’s distinctive gift to the world is through its vibrant culture, which may manifest in the arts, fashion and tourism. Let’s stop trying to make Africa compete with China and India as a low cost producer. The continent needs to discover its source of pride and to blow the world away with its energy, its colour and its warmth.

What inspires your art and drives you to accomplish your work?

You will find some of my views on art here. Art cuts through the veneer of daily life and triggers more intuitive and primal responses. Art is the catalyst that the world desperately needs right now. I am convinced that we will not scare people into changing their lives, or caring about future generations. No amount of doomsayer facts or gloomy predictions will move the majority of people to shift their perspectives or modify their behaviour. Art is all about moving people – emotionally, ideologically, spiritually and pragmatically. Art provides what we desperately need more of, namely inspiration to act on

How does art help to make your life meaningful or fulfilling?

My art, like my poetry, allows me to create interesting worlds. Art is like magic – it describes the world around us and inside us, and by doing so, it also creates these in other people’s minds. Art is the way we share our imagination with others, and – as Einstein said – imagination is more important than knowledge. Art also allows me to capture the spirit of what inspires me – such as Africa. All forms of art, I believe, should first be for the satisfaction of the artist.