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DOI 10.1215/10757163-2009-004 © 2010 by Nka Publications DOI 10.1215/10757163-2009-004 Journal of Contemporary African Art• 26• Spring 2010 38 • Nka ANTÓNIO OLE Nadine Siegert From the Border of the City to the Shore of the Island Siegert Nka • 39 F or a long time Angola was a blank spot on the map, practically unmentioned except in shocking reports of events during the civil war that lasted for decades. Yet within a few years Luanda, the capital of this oil- and diamond-rich country, has secured an outstanding position for itself as a metropolis of the future; it is sometimes referred to as the Dubai of Africa. Since the end of the civil war in 2002, tremendous restructuring processes have been set in motion there. After nearly thirty years of war, the situation had scarcely returned to normal when the oil wealth unleashed an aggressive, dynamic movement, evident not least in the fact that Luanda has become one of the most expensive cities in the world.1 Although the majority of the population has either no income or a low income, a small but increasing economic elite makes an ostentatious display of wealth. Around one-third of the Angolan population lives in this urban area, and more arrive every day, even though the city does not have the capacity to absorb them all. In many places around the city, ruined buildings from the Portuguese colonial period and the few buildings dating from the period of socialism after 1975 are being pulled down and replaced by prestigious new building complexes. António Ole’s studio is right in the center of Luanda, in the Teatro Elinga on Largo Tristão da Cunha. This historic nineteenth-century building was almost demolished in 2009 to make way for a big new multifunction building and integrated cultural center. In a city where no value is attached to old buildings as witnesses of history, the function of art as a form of memory is all the more important. Indeed, Luanda’s ruins are not abandoned: the art scene has moved into the dilapidated houses, sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, with its population of 6 million. Since the 1990s, the theater has been one of the most important places for the city’s young artists, and Ole has often held exhibitions there. It still houses some of his earlier projects, such as his larger-than-life angels made from scrap materials, like guardians watching over events from the sidelines. António Ole, Township Wall, 2004. Africa Remix, Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, July 24–November 7, 2004. Wood, corrugated iron, plastic, iron, glass, 360 × 960 cm Journal of Contemporary African Art• 26• Spring 2010 40 • Nka National and International: Forty Years of Artistic Work Ole was born into a mixed Angolan and Portuguese family in 1951. During his childhood he lived for a time with his grandparents in Portugal, then returned to Angola to attend secondary school. After that he never left Luanda again for more than a few weeks, except for the period he spent in the United States as a student in the early 1980s. The works he has produced over the past forty years were inspired by the history of his country: he first experienced and recorded the struggle for independence from Portugal, and subsequently the insanity of a civil war that flared up repeatedly between 1975 and 2002. His first exhibitions in Luanda took place at the end of the 1960s, before independence.2 Shortly after Angola’s independence in 1975, Ole worked for the state television station and was sent by the ministry of culture on a trip to Lunda-Norte, the country’s northeastern province. Ole’s discovery of the art of the Chokwe during this trip was a major event in his artistic career. Inscribed in his memory, these visual experiences still serve as a source of inspiration for his work: “Whenever I come into direct contact with these things in the field, I’m accumulating experiences and knowledge that inevitably have repercussions in my work.”3 In the early 1980s, Ole left Angola to study at the University...


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