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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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Multimedia installation "To Be King" by Christine Dixie at Iwalewahaus


Christine Dixie's installation To Be King was officially opened on May 11, 2022 at Iwalewahaus Bayreuth. Curated by Nicole Klug and Prof. Ute Fendler the exhibition had been initiatied by Prof. Enocent Msindo. The artist was present for the opening that attracted many guests from all over the world as well as local officials.

Text: Christian Wißler/Sabine Greiner Photos: Fabrica Lux/Robert Götze

On May 11 2022 the multimedia installation To Be King by Christine Dixie was officially opened to the public at Iwalewahaus in Bayreuth. The exhibition had been initiated by Prof. Dr. Enocent Msindo from the African Cluster Centre at Rhodes University in Makhanda, South Africa. The Cluster's Deputy Spokesperson and dean of Internationalisation and Public Engagement Prof. Dr. Ute Fendler together with Nicole Marina Klug, research associate at Iwalewahaus curated the exhibiton and event.

Christine Dixie's installation To Be King was inspired by the 1656 painting Las Meninas by Spanish painter Diego Velázquez and by the essay of the same name by Michel Foucault, published in 1966. Following on from the baroque group portrait, which is characterized by eye contact and involves the viewer's point of view, the French philosopher argues that the "order of things" and the power structures built upon it are not objectively fixed. Rather, they change with the perspectives of those who gaze upon these structures. The one who rules through gaze is "king".

Against this background, Christine Dixie tells a story of a loss of power in her installation To Be King: the king is "dethroned." In the process, the artist stages an interplay between different positions in the space that are networked by lines of sight: the place of the central observer, the king, is now taken by characters from the periphery. In this way, the positions are called into question, and the fragility of the established order becomes visible and tangible. "My shifting roles as mother, artist, and academic, as well as the reality of my life in post-colonial Makhanda, South Africa, were the lenses through which I viewed both Foucault's text Las Meninas and Velásquez's painting Las Meninas," the artist explains. "My fascination with this text and this painting was the beginning of a process that led me to create To Be King."

Renowned artist Christine Dixie has exhibited regularly in South Africa, the United States, and Europe. Thorough research, particularly her engagement with archival imagery, is characteristic of her approach to the subjects she works with artistically. Her work is represented in national and international collections, including the New York Public Library, Smithsonian National Museum, Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Durban Art Gallery, Iziko Museum of South Africa, and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Christine Dixie's artistic work questions historical influences on seemingly firmly established gender roles. The colonial history that informs her home in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape –formerly Grahamstown – continues to provide inspiration and impetus for her engagement with European heritage in Africa. To Be King was presented in 2014 at the National Arts Festival, Africa's largest arts festival.

  • To Be King will be open to the public at Iwalewahaus until the beginning of July

A conversation between Christine Dixie and curator Nicole Klug

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