African Artists in the Soviet Union

Calvert 22 Gallery in London, an institution dedicated to the display of Russian and Eastern European art, recently launched an ambitious project to explore Cold War artistic connections between Africa and the Soviet Union. A team of researchers under the leadership of curator and Royal College of Art lecturer, Dr Mark Nash, are in the process of collecting film and archival material, sourcing interviews and commissioning new works to tell this fascinating and largely unknown story.

Dating from Khrushchev’s ‘Thaw’ in the 1950s, African artists and filmmakers were invited to study for free in the USSR. Participants included leading writers, directors and producers, such as the Senegalese ‘father of African film’, Ousmane Sembene, Souleymane Cissé and Abderrahmane Sissako from Mali, and Ethiopians Seyoum Wolde and Bekele Mekonnen. The initiative was part of Khrushchev’s efforts to re-engage with the international community after the isolating Stalinist years, and also an astute policy to strengthen Soviet influence over former colonies in the process of establishing independence.

The two-year programme, entitled Socialist Friendship, is set to conclude with a series of events. You can find out more at the Calvert 22 Gallery website and sign up to receive more information as the project develops.

Image: Cejuma, Dissertation Works, Tashkent, 1986. Courtesy Calvert 22 Gallery

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