Sharjah's Africa Hall will reopen on September 25
Sharjah's new Africa Hall to house the Africa Institute
In the 1970s, a number of cultural and political initiatives sought to explore South-to-South communication, such as Brazilian-Mozambican collaborations, Egyptian-Indonesian partnerships, and a variety of North African-Arab projects — which the UAE was an integral part of. Sharjah hosted the 1976 Arab-African symposium as the inaugural event in its Africa Hall, built to recognize the shared territory between the two continent’s cultures.
In less than two weeks, the Africa Hall will be reopened in a major new initiative led by Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, who is also the director of the Sharjah Art Foundation (though the two entities will be separate). Launching on September 25, the Africa Hall will be home to the Africa Institute, which will serve a centre for academic research into African and African diaspora studies, with a particular emphasis on the links between African nations and the Arabian Gulf.
“The establishment of the Africa Institute, the first research and archival institution of its kind in the region, pays tribute to this rich history” of Sharjah’s cross-cultural connections, Al Qasimi said in a statement. The Institute will be headquartered in a building adjacent to the Africa Hall designed by the Ghanian-British architect David Adjaye.
The Institute will offer Master’s and PhD programmes while also operating akin to an interdisciplinary think tank, hosting seminars, public lecture programmes, and commissioning and funding research. The Institute looks set to revive the earlier spirit of South-South collaboration while also providing a means (and resources) to look into African and particularly North African art forms, which have been largely understudied even in a self-consciously global art world.
In addition to the film and performance programme that has already been announced, with performances by the likes of Youssou N’Dour, the Institute will also be launched by a symposium on geographical forms of abstraction convened by Al Qasimi, Okwui Enwezor, and Salah M. Hassan, on Sunday, September 30. The latter, a professor at Cornell and an expert on African thinkers and artists such as Ibrahim El-Salahi, a Sudanese painter whose work straddles both Arab and African identities, will serve as an academic advisor to the Institute.