Life as a visual artist and curator

Friday November 8 2019

Art curator Gadi Ramadhan PHOTOS | SALOME

Art curator Gadi Ramadhan PHOTOS | SALOME GREGORY 

By Salome Gregory

Have you heard about a career as an art curator? In contemporary art, the title “curator” identifies a person who selects and often interprets works of art. In addition to selecting works, the curator is often responsible for writing labels, catalogue essays, and other content supporting exhibitions.

Gadi Ramadhan, 33, is a visual artist and independent art curator. He has been working in the art industry in the country for more than seven years. In 2012 he started KokoTEN studio.

The studio is an independent curatorial hub dedicated to the research, development and presentation of contemporary art and culture in Dar es Salaam and conceived as a platform to fill the gap of critical discussion about art in the region and to bridge the local visual arts with the international production.

As he shares on his career with Success, he says; the role of curator in Tanzania is still in early stages. “The country does not invest in the creative industry, this makes it difficult for people interested in this field to know if there are colleges or universities that train curators in the country or even just having them in the system,” he says.

According to Ramadhan, a curator’s role is to understand you are working from history, cultural perspective and the people in order to operate. A curator has to translate, compose and develop exhibitions and can also operate as an art manager or collector’s scout on the domain that he/she is working from.

“It takes talent to interpret what you want your audience to know. Knowledge about what you want to curate and curatorial skills which you need to learn in school. You can also get these skills through an experienced curator who will be willing to share with you some technical know-hows. For example, I’m part of Asiko International School under the supervision of late Bisi Silva, I was privileged to be Bisi’s alumni,” says Ramadhan.

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Under the mentorship of Bisi, Ramadhan was able to learn necessary skills and even be challenged with various tasks. Through her he was introduced to so many big curators who are well respected in the art world.

The skills he has accumulated over the years go beyond Tanzania. Ramadhan is well-travelled, and through his trips he has learned that artists need to help each other steer the creative industry forward.

Ramadhan is well-educated. From 2005 to 2008 he took a course in Design Foundation and Printmaking Arts, National Qualification Forum Level 4 and 5. This was under a scholarship by Media Printing Packaging Sector of Education and Training Authority South Africa (MAPP-SETA).

From 2008 to 2012 he became one of the early artists, Board Member and Manager of Nafasi Arts Space in Dar es Salaam. He says, his experience as a manager at Nafasi gave him an opportunity to improve on his skills as an artist and curator. This is partly thanks to the workload he was subjected to, one which enabled him to put his expertise to good use.

About his studio

Ramadhan says KokoTEN studio does curatorial services, training and produces art worls. He is currently working with Dr. Isabela Mshana, who works at Ardhi University, on developing and architect model for KokoTEN to construct the buildings that will allow accessibility of the arts to people in Kigamboni.

Commenting on how he represents Tanzania at international events, he says he uses such platforms not only to show his skills as a local art curator, but also show his artistic prowess.

Ramadhan has taken part in art events across the globe. He has been a part of art residences, took part in international exhibitions, symposiums and curatorial activism, which have made him become one among a few art curators based in Tanzania to represent the country on the global art stage.

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