Samson Kambalu

13th Room: The General Economy in Meschac Gaba’s Museum of Contemporary African Art

'My research examines how the Meschac Gaba’s Museum of Contemporary African Art is animated by the problematic nature of gift giving in anthropology. The practice component of my PhD is an imagined 13th Room of the Museum developed in response to my research and a critical look at Gaba’s approach. Bataille’s theory of the indispensability of excess in systems and organisms, the general economy, developed from his studies of the problematic of the gift, forms the theoretical basis of my hypothesis.

My exploration of the general economy in Gaba’s Museum is supported by African philosophies of excess with a focus on nyau of the Southern African (the place of my origin) and Vodun from West Africa (Gaba’s place of origin); and various other anthropological scholarship on the problematic of the gift from Mauss to Derrida encompassed within aspects of Bataille’s general economy.

The research also includes the contextualization of Gaba’s Museum within the general economy of the post colonial state as explored by Achille Mbembe in his book Postcolony (2001). Gaba’s preoccupation with the problematic of the gift as an artist is situated within contemporary art and re-interpreted for my art practice through Situationist art practices of the ’50s and ’60s which employed Marxist theory and aspects of the problematic of the gift to question values of the restricted economic models of late capitalism.


Professor Neil Cummings

Dr Michael Asbury