The Ossuary
Ivory, steel, perspex, felt, wood
880 x 500 x 920 mm
2009-2010
Private collection

"A great deal of what Africa's political elites and African states consume is, however, not produced locally but is imported. Elite and state consumption, therefore, does not create a significant market for African producers but instead acts as a major drain on national savings which might otherwise have gone into productive investment." [1]

"It would be axiomatic to say that modernity came to Africa as part and parcel of colonialism, but what is really interesting is the paradox that overturned the crude ambition of colonial power. If the ambition of modernity was to turn a section of African people into the faithful servants of colonial administration, this also, by the same token, opened the flood gates of modern consciousness that led to the present-day independent and modern Africa. Africa's struggle for independence, as in other colonised parts of the world, was not only for political self-determination but also for its people to be free from all structures of domination and oppression. Only when people were free to use their physical and mental capabilities to the full would they be able to improve their living conditions and develop their own modern culture. As African nations became free, unleashing the aspirations that had been suppressed or kept under control by the outgoing regimes, there was a sudden upsurge of new creativity leading to the modernisation of productive forces in many parts of Africa. But as the ideas of modernity were imported along with the means and expertise of modernisation from the West, this, in my view, created a fundamental problem of a philosophical nature for Africa's aspiration for it's postcolonial identity, its own worldview and modern vision. Africa has now acquired everything necessary to be part of the modern world. It has modern factories, airplanes, airlines, the latest cars, buses and lorries, radios and colour TVs, video players, computers and mobile phones, Internet providers and computer games, modern hotels with all facilities that one would find in London, Paris, New York, imported foodstuffs, Coca-Cola and hamburgers, etc, etc. The point is that it is not lagging behind acquiring what is required for a modern consumer society. It would indeed not be a surprise if one found that the children of rich families were going around wearing clothes imported from Paris and holding in their hands the latest mobile phones with image transmission as standard. It seems Africa wants to have everything that the West produces or possesses, regardless of whether this desire to have everything imported is in the interest of Africa or not. I am not suggesting that it is wrong for Africa to desire or have all these things, but what are the consequences of a desire which merely consumes but is incapable of inventing and producing anything by itself?" [2]

[1] Mbeki, M.; Architects of Poverty; Picador Africa; Johannesburg; 2009; pp.20-21.

[2] Araeen, Rashid; Modernity, Modernism and the Future of Art in Africa; presented as a paper at the AICA Seminar, Dakar, Senegal, 2003