A German-African cooperation between the cities of Dresden (Germany),
Kampala (Uganda) and Nairobi (Kenya)

Exhibitions | Workshops | Symposia | Residencies | Artist Cooperations | Exchange

WomanISM, funded in the TURN Fund of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (Federal Cultural Foundation of Germany), is an international project consisting of exhibitions, workshops, artist residencies and artistic cooperations, aiming to examine and encourage the dialogue on women's rights and women's position in the art world and in society in general, with a special focus on women of color and from other marginalized groups in the context of the situation of German women in art. It is the joint endeavor of curators and organizers Syowia Kyambi (Nairobi, Kenya), Teesa Bahana from the 32°EAST / Ugandan Arts Trust (Kampala, Uganda), Antka Hofmann and Andrea Hilger from the OSTRALE Center for Contemporary Arts (Dresden, Germany).

The OSTRALE - Center for Contemporary Arts has been organizing international exhibitions in Dresden, Germany and abroad since 2007. Throughout the years, the OSTRALE Biennale has grown to be Germany's third largest contemporary exhibition, with satellite exhibitions in more than 15 European cities abroad. Its cooperation with European Capitals of Culture focuses increasingly on exhibitions abroad. It is not a sales exhibition per se, which gives it the freedom to discuss socially relevant issues in a different way, regardless of market developments. OSTRALE's guiding principles, such as peaceful coexistence, acceptance of the stranger/unknown, respect for each other, religious diversity and internationality, are always reflected in the exhibitions. OSTRALE is part of the WOD (Weltoffenes Dresden) initiative of cultural institutions for an open-minded Dresden, and the network of the independent cultural scene of the city (Netzwerk Kultur Dresden).

The 2017 edition of the OSTRALE Biennale has seen a record number of 30,000 visitors, among them 9,500 students from local schools. The OSTRALE Biennale O19 will feature more than 250 works of 130 artists from more than 30 countries, presented in 9 different venues across the city of Dresden.

14 Artists from Germany and Africa were selected by the curators to participate in the project:

IMMY MALI (1990 / UGA, NL)
USHA (1974 / ZAF)

They will be presented at the OSTRALE Biennale O19 in Dresden from June 11 to September 1, 2019 and most of them will participate in an Artist in Residence program from June 11 to July 4. During their residency, the artists will get to know each other and organize workshops and symposia. In 2020, six women artists will then participate in the second Artist in Residence program in Nairobi (Kenya) from 13 to 26 March, where they will produce collaborative artworks. The research will contrast and present the results as research analysis and artistic elaboration in an exhibition in Nairobi and will then come to Rijeka. The program will also be accompanied by further workshops and symposia, one of which will take place on 27 March at the Goethe-Zentrum in Kampala (Uganda) with the participation of OSTRALE board members Andrea Hilger and Antka Hofmann.

The 12. OSTRALE stages its second Biennale under the leading thought of "-isms". While boundaries between reality and fiction are increasingly blurred by digital revolution and virtual reality, the demand for long established "isms" is on the rise. They are consulted to protect "our" values and worldviews, defend them and give them more support. Isms are most commonly applied as dogmas, confrontation, artistic categories or social values. Always manmade, they also pose as distinction to "other" worldviews. Nonetheless, or possibly even due to this power of individual spirit and collective bonds, "isms" can also be seen as a form of "liberty" to redefine values, or to serve the dogmatic interests of power.

In this broader context, with WomanISM we ask what lies beyond ism and what new perspective can be brought into the discourse, as opposed to just showing a representative sample of African art an international exhibition. The works at the exhibition of contemporary arts in 2019 will be presented as equal contributions in relation to the other "isms". Within the topic of WomanISM, the focus is on the dialogue between the contributions of the female artists of African and of German origin, to discuss cultural policy issues in the context of one's own work, to give a voice of the voiceless, and to assert their existence in the world and their presence in different spaces, as well as the work of repairing oneself and thus reaching equality instead of differences.

In 2019, the OSTRALE Biennale is staged as a decentralized exhibition, with the Historic Tobacco Factory f6 in Dresden as its core venue, and several exciting exhibition spaces all around the city. The different venues and opening dates of the decentralized exhibition are as follows:

OSTRALE Biennale O19
Goethe Institute Dresden (focus WomanISM) 12th June - 1st September 2019
Ausländerrat Dresden e.V. (focus WomanISM) 13th June - 1st September 2019
Historische Tabakfabrik f6 (CORE EXHIBITION) 3rd July - 1st September 2019

The selection of artworks in two of these exciting exhibition spaces, the Goethe Institute Dresden and the Ausländerrat Dresden is especially focusing on artists participating in the WomanISM project, and will also serve as venues for the project's workshops and symposia. Both of these venues are institutions already connected to the themes of intercultural dialogue between Germany and the world and strive to establish respectful relations with people of other cultures both domestically and internationally.

The Goethe Institute Dresden is the venue of language courses for German as second language, and is often the first point of contact with German language and culture for foreigners coming to live and work in the city. On the other hand, as a federal institution, Goethe Institut has a long history of grants and programs supporting the participation of German artists in international residencies and exchange programs. Ausländerrat Dresden is an NGO focusing on the integration and counseling of people with migrational background living in Dresden. They organize language and music courses, discussion evenings and other cultural events, with special offers for women and families. At both of these venues and at the core exhibition at the Historic Tobacco Factory f6 in Dresden, it is important for us that the artworks of the African and German participants of the project, as well as of other international artists, are presented as equals and in dialogue with each other.

Syowia Kyambi is the main curator of the WomanISM project from the African side. She is an alumnus of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has been the recipient of several awards, grants and fellowships. Her work examines how our contemporary human experience is influenced by constructed histories, creating installations that include a performative practice to narrate stories and activate objects; exploring cultural identities, linking them to issues of loss, memory, race, and gender. Syowia Kyambi practices both artistic and curatorial outputs. Her work has been shown in museums in Belgium, Finland, Kenya, Mali, United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, Zimbabwe, France, South Africa and the USA. Syowia Kyambi has also been part of the curatorial team that selected the artists to be exhibited at the OSTRALE Biennale O19.

Teesa Bahana is the main organizer of the WomanISM project from the African side in Uganda, and currently the director of 32°EAST / Ugandan Arts Trust, an art centre established in 2012 for the creation and research of contemporary art in Uganda. Teesa Bahana took over the leadership of the organisation in 2016 and since then has overseen 26 residencies, four exhibitions and the establishment of new programmes such as KLA ART Labs, a series of workshops around public art and audience engagement, and Palate, a supper club for the arts.

Antka Hofmann is an artist, cultural manager and curator of the WomanISM project from the German side. Born in 1977 in Großenhain, she lives and works in Dresden and Heiligendamm. She studied painting and graphics at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts (Hochschule für Bildende Künste, 1996-2002); and did her MA studies there as well (2002-2005). After a Research and Teaching Grant (2002-2003), she was member of the Produzentengalerie Komet Berlin (formerly Rakete Berlin 2007-2009). She is also co-founder of OSTRALE, board member and part of the exhibition building team since 2013. As and artist, she had solo exhibitions in Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden; as well as various group exhibitions in Germany, Poland, Russia, Belgium, Spain and Malta. She has also been part of the curatorial team that selected the artists to be exhibited at the OSTRALE Biennale O19.

Andrea Hilger is the founder and artistic director of the OSTRALE Center for Contemporary Arts, and the main organizer of the WomanISM project from the German side. Born in 1970 in Leipzig, she is also the founder of TANZart Dresden (1997) and HILLUMINATION – Light + Stage Design (2001), board member of Tanzbühne Dresden e.V. since 1999, and dancer of several German opera houses, among them the Semperoper Dresden up to this day, as well as stage and costume designer at numerous theaters in all Germany. She is the 2009 recipient of the Förderpreis of the City of Dresden, and member of the organizational team of the Konferenz der Konkurrenten (Conference of Competitors) for the participants of the application for the European Capital of Culture 2025 title.


WomanISM is funded in the TURN Fund of the 
(Federal Cultural Foundation of Germany)