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Africa/Soviet Union relationship during Cold War revealed

[Onejoon Che, M.M.C project_African Renaissance Monument - Built in 2010, Digital C-print, 66x51cm, 2014]

AN EXHIBITION highlighting the heritage of cultural relations between Africa and the Soviet Union during the cold war has opened up in the east end of the capital.

Organised by the Calvert foundation, the Red Africa season has brought together filmmakers, artists, photographers and writers working on the history of relations between Africa and the Soviet Union.

The highlight of the Red Africa season, the Things Fall Apart exhibition, will feature artists, filmmakers and groups from across Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Drawing on film, photography, propaganda, and public art, the exhibition presents interdisciplinary reflections on African connections.

“These are statutes in the socialist realist style. Women, men and children have raised their fists to the sky. They look like statutes typical of totalitarian countries of African socialists,” Ekow Eshun, Calvert’s artistic director said.

The exhibition surveys the contemporary traces of communism in the culture of several former communist countries in Africa.

The relationship was stronger during the second half of the twentieth century as post-colonial power struggles drew support from the East and the West, Africa News reported.


[Soviet poster from 1920, part of the Wayland Rudd Archive. Courtesy of Yevgeniy Fiks]

According to organisers of the event, African countries like Mozambique and Angola had received aid from the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Cuba and East Germany.

“Most people would not think that Africa and communism would go together. But in 1960/61 there were like 16 African countries that became independent after violent wars like in Algeria and like Nigeria where it was negotiated. And that provided the window for the Soviet Union to get involved in promoting their notions of socialism, democracy and so on as compared to that of the west,” Dr Mark Nash, one of the exhibitors said.

The exhibition takes its name from the famous novel Things Fall Apart written by Chinua Achebe and published in 1958.

Things Fall Apart is open to the public until Apr 3 2016 at Calvert 22 in London.

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