A Note on The Pan-African Circle of Artists
The Pan-African Circle of Artists (PACA) was founded at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1991 by some young artists of Nigerian and Ghanaian origins. Part of the aim was to create a forum on which art and culture in Africa could be promoted and disseminated from inside by Africans and on Africa’s terms.
Over the years, PACA has initiated and organised some note-worthy activities as part of its effort at re-imaging the arts in Africa. Besides its numerous enriching workshops, lectures, and roundtables, PACA has organised major conferences and biennial exhibitions focussing on very thought-provoking themes and issues. For instance in 2002, it organised, with the support of Prince Claus Fund (The Netherlands), “the Pan-African Conference on the Status, Role, and Working Condition of the Artist in Africa” and thus provided an opportunity for artists and allied professionals to gather and discuss in Enugu issues in the making and dissemination of art as they affect the African artist. Also in 2002, the 4th edition of Afrika Heritage, the PACA Biennale, took place at four art centres in Lagos, bringing together about 80 artists, art critics, and historians from fourteen African countries, Britain, USA, and Japan. In 2004, PACA’s epoch-making Overcoming Maps 3 (sponsored also by Prince Claus Fund in the Netherlands) brought over fifty artists together in a study tour, by road, of 6 countries in West Africa, including Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Ghana. Overcoming Maps 4 was subsequently held in Kenya and Uganda in 2005 and the 6th edition of the PACA Biennale was held in Lagos, Nigeria in 2007. The 5th edition of Overcoming Maps was held in Zambia in January 2008 bringing together artists from different parts of Africa.
PACA’s strong belief in the power of the printed word has also encouraged it to pay much attention to documentation. In Africa’s art terrain where there has been dearth of publications (especially publications by Africans themselves), local initiatives in this area such as PACA’s remain a very significant watershed in the development of modern art in Africa. Besides its exhibition catalogues, PACA has released a number of meaningful publications through the Pan-African Circle of Artists Press.
So far, PACA has striven to establish itself as a possible tool for “returning the EuroAmerican gaze” in the art scene. This it has done by demonstrating to its members and other artists that one of the best ways of claiming a space in the international art market may not be by besieging Western art centres, but through sustainable engineering of home-grown art dissemination machinery through more responsive networking and professionalised activities inside Africa. Thus, part of PACA’s main concern is the creation of a more integrated art scene in the African continent through meaningful networking within Africa’s creative industry. It is the zeal to help in facilitating this situation that led PACA to initiate its study tour of Africa in 2001 more commonly known as Overcoming Maps.
PACA membership is open to all artists in Africa and elsewhere who are committed to exploring the potentials of art for the amelioration of the human condition, the promotion of peace, and the perpetuation of mankind.
The first edition of Afrika Heritage was held at Didi Museum, Lagos in 1995. The second edition also held at Didi Museum in 1997. The 1999 event was shifted to 2000 and events were held at the National Museum, Enugu, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Didi Museum, Lagos, and National Gallery of Art Lagos. Participation in 2000 included Senegal, Germany, Ghana, France, United Kingdom and Japan. This was further extended in the 2002 edition with the participation of over 60 artists from Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Benin, Japan, South Africa, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The 2002 event was also held at four centres in Lagos (Pendulum Centre for Culture and Development, Vivs Gallery of Masterpieces, Nimbus Gallery, and National Museum, Onikan); it embodied many conferences, lectures, roundtables, other useful gatherings. The 2004 edition, held at Alliance Francaise and the National Museum in Enugu and Pendulum Centre for Culture and Development, Lagos was equally well attended and had participation from different countries. Due to paucity of funding and logistic constraints, the 2006 event was shifted to 2007 and was held at Pendulum Centre for Culture and Development. This 7th edition of Afrika Heritage being held in Enugu in September 2009 combines various aspects of arts and culture, as it brings together artists, performers, writers, journalists, art teachers, art administrators and art students from Nigeria and elsewhere. A website (www.afrikaheritage.com) has been created to document and publicise the component activities of the 7th edition as well as all sponsorship received.