Ekow Eshun - On Curation

In this episode, Gem Fletcher chats to writer and curator Ekow Eshun. His writing has appeared in publications including the New York Times, Financial Times, The Guardian, Granta, Wired and Aperture. He is Chair of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, overseeing London’s most significant public art programme, and the former director of the ICA. 

In this conversation, we discuss how his upbringing in London informed his creative work. We discuss what he is looking for in emerging artists and his devotion to Black culture. We unpack his latest book Africa State of Mind that gathers together the work of an emergent generation of photographers from across Africa, including both the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. It is both a summation of new photographic practice from the last decade and an exploration of how contemporary photographers from the continent are exploring ideas of ‘Africanness’ to reveal Africa to be a psychological space as much as a physical territory – a state of mind as much as a geographical place. Dispensing with the western colonial-era view of Africa in purely geographic or topographic terms. The book is presented in four thematic parts: Hybrid Cities; Inner Landscapes; Zones of Freedom; and Myth and Memory. We move on to talk about his role as a guest curator in the Barbican’s Masculinities: Liberation through Photography exhibition. We talk about the camera as an ally or enabler in addition to a tool of violence and oppression. We talk about motivation, unlearning and the constant commitment to the work. 

Africa State of Mind By Ekow Eshun is published by Thames & Hudson and is available now.

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