The exhibition Multiple Transmissions: Art in the Afropolitan Age, takes as its starting point the group of African artists who completed residences at WIELS between 2015 and 2019. Today an integral component of the art world landscape, residencies put artists in motion around the globe, while simultaneously immersing them in one place for a definite period of time. Artists, and African artists in particular, have become successive locals of multiple places and cities: they have become “Afropolitan” artists. Mainly developed by the thinker Achille Mbembe, the concept refers to the transnational cultures and aesthetic of 21st century African-identified urbanites. Both on and off the continent, these artists’ mental and physical itinerancies have made their mental geographies radically plural. Created between Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Johannesburg and Brussels, the residents’ productions are presented alongside a range of other art practices enmeshed in these global flows.
The merit of Afropolitanism is to force us to reckon with the multiplicity of transversal and global influences and legacies that inform African artists today. At a time when political regimes in the world demonstrate an alarming rise of xenophobia, when borders are everywhere closing and migrants left to die on the shores of Europe, Afropolitanism offers a formidable example of transcendence of geographies, nationalities, languages and time zones.