Art is a creative way by which people connect to themselves and their stories, with authenticity that honours where they come from.
As a product of visualization, art is able to break barriers, and speaks for itself without the need of explanations.
That is why it is important for the arts industry not to exist only in a form of exclusivity, but should be one that is accessible and welcoming to all.
For Keabetswe Boccomino, creativity comes naturally and has always been part of her life. With experience and qualifications in Journalism and Intercultural Communications, she also believes that one of the ways of getting a new and authentic connection to Africa is via the contribution of artists; who are also influencers through arts by sharing stories of how they experience their art and culture. This is why she founded Afrinova – a creative platform for art and design from Africa and the Diaspora.
Based in Basel, Switzerland, Afrinova has for the last two years offered a range of contemporary African artworks for sales and exhibition, as well as assisted in artist development, representation and curation.
“Afrinova was inspired by my own creative background and awareness of the disconnect there was in understanding, African art, people and culture. I had been in Switzerland for a couple of years, and I felt that there wasn’t enough accurate representation of where I came from and this of course had a direct impact on how this society engaged with people from the continent”, Keabetswe said about the inspiration behind starting Afrinova.
“African art as a whole has often been reduced to traditional ‘tribal’ art, or to just be of less value to art produced elsewhere in the world. This means that a lot of the knowledge can be gained from our art, and more so contemporary artists are excluded from the conversation”, Keabetswe noted.
This also made her think of the space of exclusivity that the art world has created. “It operates off an elitist culture and creates barriers for artists to share their stories, and that’s not what African art is derived from”, she added.
Afrinova then became her own way of merging her skills and knowledge to bring a new and authentic narrative that reflected her experiences as an African creative. She aims at bringing a new cultural perspective to challenge outdated concepts of Africa, which she is doing very well.
“Art is not treated as a segment of society in our cultures, it is also a way in which we acknowledge our heritage and tradition – it is embedded in so many aspects of our lives. And so, through this constant showcase of African art, we also get to validate our experiences and systems of knowledge from which the art is derived from”, she said.
As an ambitious creative living in the diaspora, why does Keabetswe have an interest in African diaspora arts in particular?
“There is an already growing conversation taking place on how much more can we achieve if we choose to align ourselves with not only the history but the future, in the legacy that we live behind in these particular spaces”, she believes.
“We are not only challenging old notions of Africa, but creating new ones in the very spaces that have a history of telling us that we are not worthy. I believe that there’s so much power in that. By creating opportunities for artists in theses spaces we likewise make room for those that are yet to come”, Keabetswe added.
The Afrinova platform created and launched the Womanifesto exhibition in recognition and celebration of ‘Femmehood’, as a way of acknowledging the fact that women learn and draw wisdom from their various encounters. And so, the virtual exhibition speaks directly to manifesting a space where multiple identities and experiences are embodied through the work of the showcased artists, which can be a way of advocacy, healing or bringing a sense of renewal to communities.
Womanifesto will therefore be an annual all-female exhibition aimed at bringing new conversations to the table, that will remain a historic visual archive – a legacy of stories to be left behind.
Within this two-year period, Afrinova has collaborated with several reputable artists and institutions such as the Museum Rietberg in Zurich, where she was involved in a workshop series with diaspora creatives.
What does the future then hold for this forward-thinking creative platform?
“We are always evolving. As I grow and learn, inherently so does Afrinova. I look forward to bringing in more people from our community of collectives, creatives and artists”, says Keabetswe with so much optimism. For her, it is a continuous journey.
Keabetswe loves to read a lot, to understand different aspects of her work so as to know the conversations being held and how she can positively contribute to them. You may also find her meditating in her free time, or simply taking a walk!
Contact Afrinova directly: email@example.com.
By: Theresa R. Fianko
Additional Information: Afrinova and Keabetswe Boccomino.
****All images used with the full permission of Afrinova and Keabetswe Boccomino.