Koyo Kouoh

Curating as Unearthing

Understanding what Artistic Practice Does in Society

“Curatorial practice is a field of proposition and negotiation.”

Koyo Kouoh has been the Executive Director and Chief Curator at The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) in Cape Town, South Africa, since March 2019. Prior to that, Kouoh was the founding Artistic Director of RAW Material Company in Dakar, Senegal, a center for art and critical education as well as a renowned residency program founded in 2008. She considers her curatorial practice as aligned with aspects of storytelling, mediation, and understanding what artistic practice does in the society. “I also understand the practice of curating as a practice of enabling, of making possible, unearthing, opening, and channeling ideas and energies toward a culmination of issues that can be political, historical, social,” she adds. “Curatorial practice is a field of proposition and negotiation. I rather call this work ‘cultural producing’ because I really believe that the multiple layers and fields that a curator can invest in are far bigger than what we have learned to consider the space of the exhibition”

Curated by Koyo Kouoh
Installation views of Word! Word? Word! Issa Samb and the undecipherable form, at OCA, Oslo, 2013.
Installation view of Word! Word? Word! Issa Samb and the undecipherable form, at OCA, Oslo, 2013.
Curated by Koyo Kouoh
Ulrike Ottinger, The Conquest of the Happy Islands—A Colonial Opera, (Film still), 1984. Installation view in Still the Barbarians, EVA Biennale, Limerick, 2016.

In her independent curatorial practice, she has organized timely exhibitions such as Body Talk: Feminism, Sexuality and the Body in the Works of Six African Women Artists, first shown at Wiels, Brussels, in 2015. She curated the 37th EVA International, the Irish Biennial in Limerick in 2016, titled Still (the) Barbarians, and, more recently, she participated to the 57th Carnegie International in Pittsburgh with the deeply researched Dig Where You Stand, (2018)—a show within a show drawn from the collections of the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. Kouoh was the initiator of the research project Saving Bruce Lee: African and Arab Cinema in the Era of Soviet Cultural Diplomacy, co-curated with Rasha Salti at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow and Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin (2015–2018).

“Education, knowledge production, transmission, and grooming young professionals has been an integral part of my practice for more than twenty-five years,” she says, “so being part of Forecast to follow, work with, travel, think, and dream with an up-and-coming curator is an incredible privilege.” As a mentor, she is looking for applicants who are “curious, engaged, obsessed, dedicated, and unflinching in their pursuit of mediation and translation of what artists do and who are not shy of disrupting the established order.”

Curated by Koyo Kouoh
Otobong Nkanga, installation view of Double Plot, 2018, in Acts at the Crossroads, Zeitz MOCAA. Photo: Anel Wessels.

Active in the Pan-African and international art communities, Kouoh has a remarkable list of publications to her name, including the upcoming RAW Académie: A Matter of Knowledge; Word!Word?Word! Issa Samb and The Undecipherable Form (2013); and Condition Report on Building Art Institutions in Africa (2012), to name a few. She has served as Curator of the Educational and Artistic Program of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair for eight consecutive editions in London and New York, as well as on the curatorial teams for Documenta 12 and 13.

Watch the video message to find out more about what Kouoh is looking for in proposals:

Curator and museum director Koyo Kouoh on her work and role as mentor in Forecast's fifth edition.