Feb 16, 2024 - Culture

ICA debuts exhibition challenging colonialism in Africa

A photo of an art installation at the ICA, it is white outlines on a black wall

"Options" (2018) by Nolan Oswald Dennis will be on display as part of "Traces of Ecstasy." Photo: Courtesy of ICA at VCU

VCU's Institute for Contemporary Art's spring season kicks off Friday with works that imagine a world in which Africa had never been colonized.

What's happening: "Traces of Ecstasy," an adaptation of an exhibition that premiered in Lagos, Nigeria earlier this month, will be on display on the first floor of the ICA, at the corner of Broad and Belvidere streets, until June 9. The exhibition features artists from Africa and its diasporas.

Why it matters: The project reflects on the Western ideas that have shaped Africa's post-colonial era, per a news release. It also inspires viewers to consider the diasporic connections between Lagos and Richmond.

  • The works span mediums and include sculptures, installations and digital and performance art, plus a reading room and a symposium.

Zoom in: "Black Earth Corpus," an interactive digital browser by South African artist Nolan Oswald Dennis, lets viewers use a joystick to look through a shape-shifting archive of texts, videos and images produced with uploads from people across the global African diaspora.

  • The piece's multinational nature challenges one of the most prominent Western colonial exports to Africa, the notion of national borders.
A photo of a screen as part of an installation
A screen that will be on display for "Black Earth Corpus" by Nolan Oswald Dennis. Photo courtesy of ICA at VCU.

Zoom out: On the second floor, the institute is unveiling a solo exhibition called "Tendrils; Blurs and Senses," by New York-based artist Patrice Renee Washington.

  • Washington's art, which consists mostly of sculptures, looks to reclaim narratives about facets of Black culture that have been altered by negative stereotypes. One work includes 152 ceramic Bantu knots polka-dotted throughout a space on the floor.
  • "Re-Read Misread Unread Re-Read (MURRMUR)" is also debuting on the second floor, with work and ideas from several artists, designers and writers. That exhibit explores why people keep certain items and discard others, and includes works made from items that were thrown away.

What to watch: The ICA will unveil all the exhibits Friday from 6-9pm.

  • There will be food trucks, refreshments and music, plus a live performance by Raymond Pinto, one of the "Traces of Ecstasy" artists. The event and general admission to the museum are free.
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