Spotlight: A Group Exhibition in Singapore Highlights the Harmonies Between African and Asian Diaspora Cultures

"Translations: Afro-Asian Poetics" is presented by Institutum, and brings together works by roughly 100 internationally acclaimed artists.

El Anatsui, Tse (2016). Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery.

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What You Need to Know: Based out of Singapore, non-profit institution the Institutum maintains an arts-centered mission focused on public outreach and education, specializing in projects that contextualize art and artists in Southeast Asia and beyond. Currently, the Institutum is presenting “Translations: Afro-Asian Poetics,” shown across six venues in Gillman Barracks and curated by Dr. Zoé Whitley. On view January 18–30, 2024, the exhibition brings together the work of roughly 100 internationally recognized artists, each representing a facet of the African and Asian continents. Works featured have been drawn from private collections across the region, offering an unparalleled opportunity to see a diverse array of important art not typically accessible by the public—and spanning paintings, photography, sculpture, textiles, video, installation, and performance art. Ultimately, the show is an homage to the intersections and harmonies between the two cultures.

Why We Like It: While diasporic art and culture are frequently examined within the art world, distinct diasporas are rarely juxtaposed and correlated within a rigorous exhibition context. Here, “Translations” offers a unique perspective on both diasporic art traceable to the African and Asian continents and highlight where they parallel and even overlap, speaking to a sense of humanistic universality. The importance and influence of these cultures is further emphasized by the numerous major artists and highly recognizable works featured in the show, from one of Ghanian sculptor El Anatsui’s “bottle top installations” to a fabric object by Do Ho Suh. Together, “Translations” presents a nuanced and comprehensive survey of the artistic output of these diverse and multifaceted factions within the context of Singapore and the perception of the art historical canon today.

According to the Gallery: “At its core, ‘Translations’ aims to celebrate the inherent commonalities between the African and Asian diaspora cultures, transcending geographical and color divides by emphasizing shared experiences, trials and tribulations, spiritual practices, and more. The exhibition also serves as a catalyst for cultural understanding and unity, resonating profoundly within Singapore’s multicultural fabric.

‘We seek to illuminate the threads that weave us together as people, transcending linguistic and cultural barriers,’ notes Dr. Zoé Whitley. ‘Singapore, with its rich tapestry of cultures and identities, serves as an ideal platform to celebrate and amplify these connections.’”

See featured works below.

Do Ho Suh, Stove, Unit 2, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA (2015). Photo: Taegsu Jeon. Courtes of the artist and Lehmann Maupin.

Do Ho Suh, Stove, Unit 2, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA (2015). Photo: Taegsu Jeon. Courtes of the artist and Lehmann Maupin.

Theaster Gates, Afro-Ikebana (2019). Courtesy of the artist and White Cube (Theo Christelis).

Yayun Chen, Scar Writings (2023). Photo: Joseph Nair. Courtesy of the artist.

Pio Abad and Frances Wadsworth Jones, Second-hand Time (2022). Photo: Andy Keate. Courtesy of the artists.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, The wedding of the astronauts 4 (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro.

Translations: Afro-Asian Poetics” is on view at Institutum, Singapore, through January 30, 2024.

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