Mous Lamrabat, Fresh from the garden of Compton, 2019. Courtesy Loft Art Gallery
1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the leading international art fair dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora, holds its first-ever fair in Paris from Wednesday 20 to Saturday 23 January at Christie’s Avenue Matignon location and online.
1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the leading international art fair dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora, holds its first-ever fair in Paris from Wednesday 20 to Saturday 23 January at Christie’s Avenue Matignon location and online.
Delphine Desane, Peculiar Tint, 2020. Courtesy Luce Gallery
The fair welcomes 20 international exhibitors: 31 PROJECT (Paris, France); 50 Golborne (London, United Kingdom); Galerie Dominique Fiat (Paris, France); Galerie 127 (Marrakech, Morocco); Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris, France); Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire/ Dakar, Senegal); Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris, France); Galerie Lelong & Co. (Paris, France / New York, USA); Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium); GALLERIA CONTINUA (Beijing, China / Havana, Cuba / Les Moulins, France / San Gimignano, Italy / Rome, Italy); Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana / London, United Kingdom); Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca, Morocco); Luce Gallery (Turin, Italy); MAGNIN-A (Paris, France); Nil Gallery (Paris, France); POLARTICS (Lagos, Nigeria); SEPTIEME Gallery (Paris, France); THIS IS NOT A WHITE CUBE (Luanda, Angola); THK Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa); Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland).
Prince Gyasi, The 12 Powers. Courtesy Nil Gallery
1-54 online, powered by Christie’s is now open physically and online. The online platform allows global audiences to view and buy all works presented as well as instantly organize shipping through new technology from fair partner Convelio.
1-54 SPECIAL PROJECT
In the foyer at Christie’s, 1-54 presents Aloalo, a new installation showcased by the non-profit organization Azé, in collaboration with André Magnin and Emmanuel Perrotin. Originally erected to honor deceased relatives, aloalos are traditional sculptures that have been crafted by the Mahafaly from south Madagascar since the 18th century. This special project brings together work by Efiaimbelo, one of the first sculptors to have painted aloalos for decorative purposes. Each aloalo depicts a situation inspired by daily life, fairy tales, or legends, the knowledge of which has been shared down by the clan since the teachings of his ancestor Soroboko.
Kwesi Botchway, Metamorphose in July, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957
This special edition not only welcome galleries from across Africa and Europe, but also 1-54 Forum, the fair’s multi-disciplinary program of talks, screenings, performances, workshops, and readings
Entitled Crafting wor[l]ds: for a vernacular economy of art and curated for the first time by LE 18, the only navigating through, but also engaged with the deep material and epistemic fractures produced and reproduced by capitalism, modernity, and (neo) colonialism over the past centuries. While questioning the very role that the artist can play in a world in crisis, 1-54 Forum looks in particular at the ways in which new ecologies of cultural practices are emerging, drawing from vernacular principles and circular dynamics. The all-digital program is taking place over the evenings of the fair, and then throughout the month of February.
I’ve grown roses in this garden of mine takes its title from Gabrielle Goliath’s latest work This song is for…, a cycle of dedication songs chosen by survivors of rape, that evokes for audiences a sensory world of memory and feeling. This work sets the framework for a wider exploration of processes of healing from multiple geographies and generations.
The exhibition reflects Goodman Gallery’s long-standing commitment to artists whose practices confront entrenched power structures and champion social change. It is anchored by seminal works by major contemporary artists: Ghada Amer, El Anatsui, Broomberg & Chanarin, David Goldblatt, Alfredo Jaar, William Kentridge, Shirin Neshat, Yinka Shonibare CBE, Mikhael Subotzky, Carrie Mae Weems and Sue Williamson.
A new generation of international artists originating from Africa and the Middle East are introduced to UK and European audiences, including Kudzanai Chiurai, Nolan Oswald Dennis, Gabrielle Goliath, Haroon Gunn-Salie, Grada Kilomba, Gerhard Marx, Misheck Masamvu and Naama Tsabar. Many of these artists address postcolonial contexts by placing emphasis on personal experience and ‘alternative’ approaches to healing while rejecting the possibility of being cured.
Kudzanai-Violet Hwami An evening in Mazowe, 2019 Oil on canvas – Work: 180 x 130 cm
A number of featured works use language as a lens to confront wounding experiences of ‘othering’. Whereas Kudzanai Chiurai perceives language as a silencing, colonizing tool, Grada Kilomba embraces words as a means of owning the narrative.
Alfredo Jaar and Shirin Neshat also treat language as a valuable tool, believing in the power of words to connect people and, in the case of Jaar’s text-based neons, to inspire empathy with the demonized ‘other’. Neshat’s meticulous hand-written Arabic inscriptions overlaid onto portraits of Iranian and Arab youth poignantly link contemporary Iran with its mythical and historical past.
Broomberg & Chanarin’s recent series Bandage the Knife not the Wound layers photographic images, using deconstructed cardboard packing boxes as the printed surface to play with contemporary ideas around image overload. The piece selected for the exhibition is a homage to the South African landscape merged with an image of a man taking his pulse. It is displayed unframed with perforated folds exposed, lending the work a frail, bodily quality.
In her experimental practice, Naama Tsabar invests in the power of charged everyday materials as subversive tools for transformative thinking, challenging oppressive gender roles.
Ghada Amer’s explicit embroideries use a needle and thread as radical tools of seduction, creating obscured pornographic forms that transform this traditional ‘women’s craft’.
Ghada Amer -WHITE GIRLS, 2017 -Acrylic,embroidery and gel medium on canvas Work: 162.6 x 182.9 cm
Racial bias in contemporary America and apartheid South Africa is exposed in the photographic works of Carrie Mae Weems and David Goldblatt respectively. Mikhael Subotzky expands on this interrogative approach by deconstructing colonial maps and piecing them back together using sticky-tape, which appear like plasters over a battered image. Using a distinct visual language of ‘folds’, ‘collapses’ and ‘entanglements’, Gerhard Marx also works with reconfiguring fragments of decommisioned maps, working to shift perception and disrupt hierarchies.
Yinka Shonibare’s famous ‘African print’ sculptures convey the hybrid nature of cultural identities, challenging an ‘essential’ visual language that is assumed to be African. Also embracing fragmentation to create iconic large-scale works, El Anatsui uses discarded materials to reveal the ongoing effects of colonialism on consumption and the environment. Here thousands of tightly stitched together bottle tops form grand glistening metallic tapestries and become a tool for radical transformation.
Yinka Shonibare CBE – Planets in my Head, Young Navigator, 2019
The exhibition presents as yet unseen work in the UK by Paris-based artist Kapwani Kiwanga and digital healer Tabita Rezaire who have recently produced significant projects at London institutions. Both artists address the exhibition concept by uncovering African narratives of healing.
Kiwanga engages with methods of colonial resistance taken up during Tanzania’s Maji Maji war (1905-1907) – one of the first major uprisings on the African continent – by highlighting the rallying impact of traditional healer Kinjeketile and comments on how this has been ethnographically documented in Europe’s museums.
Kapwani Kiwanga – Rumours that Maji was a lie…, 2014 Mixed-media installation -Variable Dimensions Photo: Romain Darnaud / Jeu de Paume
Through a lens of uncompromising self-care, Rezaire lays out the insidious histories of systemic social prejudice and uses ancient African technologies to restore physical and spiritual health with an emphasis on elevating women of colour. Kudzanai-Violet Hwami’s vivid paintings draws on digital representations of Diasporic black bodies to ask questions around colonial routes, displacement and spirituality.
Works by artists Misheck Masamvu and Nolan Oswald Dennis highlight a layered web of post-colonial wounds through distinct abstract visual languages. Masamvu’s pioneering approach to oil paint-on-canvas combines German Expressionism with visual commentary on the Zimbabwean context, lulling audiences into a sense of familiarity in order to evoke a surprising sense of discomfort. Dennis’s site-specific approach to exploring ‘a black consciousness of space’ brings diagrams and drawings together to unveil hidden narratives of oppression alongside healing technological and spiritual systems in view of reconfiguring the limits of our social and political imagination.
My wounds will never ever heal completely, and I grow them (I have grown roses in this garden of mine). I care with much tenderness for this little corner of myself, because I know there is no cure, there are but ‘remedies’ taken in small doses to alleviate the symptoms of this silent wound.
A woman who chooses to withhold her name, in Gabrielle Goliath’s, This song is for…, 2019
The continuously blooming Contemporary African Art auction results
The global art market is essentially characterized today by geographical regions, countries or continents. In that perspective, African art gaining momentum is reflected in the latest Sotheby’s London art sales of their new 2017 department on modern and contemporary African art. Already showcased worldwide in dedicated art fairs, exhibitions, foundations or museums, the contemporary African art scene is indisputably a hotbed of major talents. The most famous names under the spotlight are El Anatsui, Hassan El Glaoui, Skunder Boghossian, Ibrahim El Salahi, Ablade Glover, and Cheri Samba. With some entering auctions for the first time, they exceeded the price expectations, establishing new auction records for 11 artists. Congolese Cheri Samba’s painting “J’aime la couleur” from 2005 estimated around £40,000-60,000 resulted in a £93,750 – $122,344 auction selling.
As expected, Ghana with the famous sculptural installation artist El Anatsui ranked at the top, with the bottle tops tapestryZebra Crossing 2” sold for about $1.5 million.
The works of the most recent and nonetheless swiftly growing artists like Congolese Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga are sought to become more and more in demand, and the current estimated prices are thus unlikely to remain the same.
Eddy Kamuanga -Illunga Palm
Morocco and Ethiopia’s art heritage are introduced with the paintings of Hassan El Glaoui “La sortie du Roi” and Alexander Skunder Boghossian “Harvest Scrolls”, the countries’ aiming to be the heart of Africa’s art, giving their national artists new platforms.
Nigeria, South Africa as major players already thrive through their own fine art auction houses, and through their artists’ international renown in the past years. (Nigerian artists like J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, Ben Enwonwu, Uzo Egonu were sold at the auctions)
The past sales by Bonhams had shown immense promise, but the London April 2 sales of over 75 lots are a testimony of a stratospheric rise, demonstrating the continuous chain effect for long-time celebrated masters but most importantly for young and booming contemporary artists. While native African collectors represented the majority of the buyers by far, Western collectors as well have shown a surge of interest for the important investment opportunities that the sales’ total of $3 million foreshadows. The interest from wealthy collectors and art institutions like Sotheby’s is influential in assessing once again that the African art market has a positive future and a global audience.
Special Projects at 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair
Image courtesy Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD, Night of the Long Knives I, 2013
Returning to London for its 6th edition, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be held this year at Somerset House. The 42 galleries from across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and North America bring together a diverse set of perspectives from around the world with over 130 participating emerging and established artists, with 10 solo shows from selected galleries
“We are so proud of how far we have come since our first London fair in 2013. Following the launch of our inaugural Marrakech fair in February and our fourth New York edition in May, we have gone on to develop new audiences for contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora across three fairs and three different continents. The growth and popularity of the fair is a real testament to the shift away from Euro-centric art-historical narratives.” states Founding Director of 1-54, Touria El Glaoui.
African Art Fair : Spotlight on Ibrahim El-Salahi and Athi Patra Ruga
This year the fair celebrates one of the most significant figures in African and Arab Modernism, Sudanese artist Ibrahim El-Salahi, with his piece Meditation Tree that will be exhibited in the Somerset House courtyard as an extension of one of his first public sculptures. Represented by Vigo Gallery,El-Salahi’s artistic practice has been influenced by the Haraz tree which grows along the banks of the Nile and is indigenous to Sudan. This specific tree drops its leaves during the rainy season and flourishes throughout the dry season. In its idiosyncrasies, is said to be very near the Sudanese character, underscoring his ongoing investigation into the tree / body metaphor.
Ibrahim El-Salahi , Meditation Tree, 2018 Polished aluminum 68 x 54 x 46 cm
Internationally renowned South African artist Athi Patra Ruga will also be exhibiting a free exhibition in collaboration with Somerset House as part of the Special Projects program, Of Gods, Rainbows and Omissions (4 October 2018 – 7 January 2019). Marking his first major solo UK exhibition, he brings together three seminal bodies of work – The Future White Women of Azania (2012-15), Queens in Exile (2015-17), and The Beatification of Feral Benga (2017- present). Ruga reveals a mythical world which challenges ones perception of cultural identity and parodies the construction of the South African nation-state in the post-apartheid era. Through his work, he explores a possible humanist vision for the future, immersing visitors in his vibrant world filled with powerful and striking characters.
1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair – Hours
Somerset House, London, 4 – 7 October 2018 Thursday 4 October 11:00 – 19:00 Friday 5 October 11:00 – 19:00 Saturday 6 October 11:00 – 19:00 Sunday 7 October 11:00 – 18:00
Gam ’s Vivid Artworks on the Life and Legacy of Sankara
Pierre-Christophe GAM, The Murder, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 60×45
Upper Volta was a colony of low strategic importance to France in economic terms, yet she subjected its people to harsh colonial rule. Growing up surrounded by stark inequalities, even after its independence from France in 1960, a young man was moved to pursue social justice: Thomas Sankara. His all-too-short life story remains an inspiration, both across Africa and in his own country, which he renamed Burkina Faso in 1984: “the land of the upright people”.
Sankara’s remarkable life story and his transformation of Burkina Faso during his four short years (1983–1987) as Prime Minister is brought to vivid life in the works of Pierre-Christophe Gam. The Cameroonian-Chadian artist’s mixed media installation, “The Upright Man”, offers a body of work that functions at the crossroads of the political, the personal and the spiritual. It encapsulates Sankara the man, the myth, and the visionary Pan-Africanist. The artist, who was 4 years old when Sankara was assassinated, captures in his works both the perspective of a child seeking the trail of his idol, and that of many contemporary Africans today seeking the truth of a shared past. Gam’s pieces feature certain milestones in Sankara’s time in power, expressed through both Christian iconography and visual symbolism specific to twentieth-century political history, such as the three colours (red, green and yellow) of pan-Africanism. It is an intriguing approach than befits Gam’s own definition of his art practice as that of a modern griot: a West African oral historian and storyteller.
The Battle, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 100 x 74 cm
In his representations of this towering political figure, Gam takes inspiration from a widely spread aesthetic practice in West Africa: commemorative cloths, which are printed textiles often featuring patterns, scenes, and memorial portraits. These colourful textiles, printed for commemorating everything from political campaigns to royal anniversaries, tell stories about people, movements, culture and society. Gam’s techniques include pencil colour drawing, pixel art, photography and digital manipulation; the results of this experimental mix are unique, yet somehow familiar to anyone who sees images mostly through a screen in their day-to-day lives. But to understand the story that these pieces visually narrate, it helps to grasp the significance of Sankara in post-colonial African history.
Some said Sankara’s visions were too grand, for he was impatient with those who insisted that a poor country should not set their sights too high.
Unlike the country’s previous military interventions, Sankara came to power in 1983 in a takeover that was conducted with the direct collaboration of several leftist civilian groups, resulting in a hybrid military–civilian formation at the helm of the country. From 1983 to 1987, Sankara transformed the institutions of the state fundamentally, so that they would cease to protect the interests of the few political elite. His aspirations for his fellow Burkinabé were rooted in social mobilisation and Pan-Africanist aspirations, but took direction from the needs of the majority of people. These included ecologically sustainable development, women’s emancipation, free education, accessible healthcare and community self-help projects. Some said Sankara’s visions were too grand, for he was impatient with those who insisted that a poor country should not set their sights too high. Yet Sankara’s quest was not impossibly utopian. In four years, he demonstrated repeatedly through initiatives that much social, political and economic progress could be made. His assassination in 1987 is widely confirmed by historians as having direct support from France, and other foreign powers alarmed by the Sankara’s policies.
The Temptation, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 60×45 cm
Sankara’s strong stance against neocolonial dependency reflected in his programs for agricultural self-reliance, healthcare, and anti-corruption campaigns. From the outset, he also emphasised the emancipation of women as one of his central social and political goals – a rarity for any president in Africa at the time. These social and economic leaps are visualised with strong symbolism and joyful colours in several pieces of Gam’s series: Agricultural Reform, Battle of the Railway, The Emancipation of Women, Education for All and Self-Reliance (all 2017). Each concept is explored in two prints: one featuring Sankara initiating or demonstrating the task at hand, and the second featuring the people of Burkina Faso putting it into action together. A nod, perhaps, to the Sankarist approach to development, which was notable for its reliance on social mobilisation and community self-help.
Although Gam’s works illustrate key points throughout Sankara’s life and political career, there is also a strikingly original interpretative exercise at play: the religious and spiritual undertones to his art. Gam’s framing of Sankara as a Christ-like figure — both prophet and martyr — blurs the lines between the material and the spiritual world, as it does between the political and the personal. This acknowledges the contemporary relevance of West African traditional religions to social and political life, in which the spiritual world is widely accepted to exist in tandem with the physical one, and events in either are able to influence those in the other. Interpreting social and political changes not only for their implications in material reality, but also for their spiritual consequences, is part and parcel of community interactions and day-to-day life in many West African societies. The La Patrie triptych (2017), for instance, includes one mixed media collage featuring the dead Sankara, surrounding by six angelic female figures gesturing to his body, lying Christ-like in the arms of his widow, Myriam Sankara, who radiates a maternal and otherworldly persona reminiscent of the Virgin Mary. The third print in the triptych cements this biblical iconography by presenting the dead Sankara crucified on the cross. The two final works on the other hand, both titled La Resurrection (2017), bring the story full circle; one shows Sankara reawakened, draped in cloth like a prophet emerging from the desert, and the final one features the flag of Burkina Faso — a community of “believers” in symbolic unity under the pan-African colours.
The Resurrection, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 74×100 cm
The artworks’ formal qualities mirror this synthesis of traditional spirituality and modern political experience. Gam’s bright patterns in digital print, with their game-like aesthetic in certain places, make them unmistakably contemporary in their visual language. Sankara is represented in photorealistic style amidst geometric and repeating patterns that at times appear pixelated. All are composed of the same minuscule pattern, printed over and over again: an almost emoji-like head of a smiling African woman holding an abundance of colourful produce atop her headdress. When fused with the political content of the work — which is celebratory of the thoroughly secular, developmental goals of pan-African socialist thought — this Christian religiosity to the works do not remain static. They evolve into another kind of conceit: one that makes use of the familiar connotations of biblical iconography for much of Gam’s audience in West Africa and the world, but implies that this was the short-lived birth of a new “religion” in the form of pan-Africanism and a certain Sankarist humanism.
Tryptique “La Patrie B”, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 133 x 100 cm
Gam’s synthesis of a digital aesthetic, biblical imagery and twentieth-century history is singular, and the result is a retelling of Sankara’s story through visuals that feel universal, youthful and dynamic. This story becomes, quite literally, anything but dead history. Gam paints Sankara garbed in spiritual mythologies to striking effect, but perhaps it is all the more remarkable that in doing so the artist reminds us Sankara was no saint or angel, but an ordinary man — albeit an exceptionally upright one.
A man walks on a pedestrian bridge overlooking traffic in Lagos, Nigeria, September 18, 2006. The Africities 4 summit aimed at tackling the problems of the continent’s expanding cities and huge slums opened on Monday in Nairobi. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye (NIGERIA) – RTR1HGS1
Highlighting the importance that has gained African photography in the art market, the festival intends not only to shed light on the primary figures of the discipline such as Malick Sidibé, Omar Victor Diop or Seydou Keïta – well known figures – but to bring center stage lesser known photographers like Jean Depara, photographer who recorded the Congolese youth, or James Barnor, Ghanaian photographer, the first to switch from black and white to colour film. Photography has a particular position in African history for it testified the continent’s revolutions and independence movements contributing to the creation of identities. Photography didn’t freed this countries from the colonial yoke, nevertheless it helped them to establish their own history as well as to take control of their image.
Linked directly to the first part of the festival, Man and Beast explores human’s relation to endangered species. Africa, the continent per excellence where animal wildlife hasn’t completely disappeared, illustrates the conflictive relation between us and our surroundings. Have we failed to relate to the rest of the world? Has our thirst of power annihilated the future of other species? Such are the questions posed by the festival who, despite the of the subject’s negativity focuses as well on the shifting mores of the general public showing more compassion towards the animal kingdom.
Aside from the explicit photos poached rhinoceros, the festival exhibits rare photos taken by the great French poet Arthur Rimbaud who upon quitting to write travelled to Africa and photographed what he saw. The festival revisits once more Africa’s history and rewrites it showing a restored image of this mythical place.
The repatriation of the two looted Chokwe masks to the Dundo Museum in Angola has made international news. Behind this important acquisition is Sindika Dokolo, a highbrow African art collector who resides in Angola.
Peju Alatise is an interdisciplinary artist, architect and author of two novels. The Nigerian artist, born in 1975, draws on the manifold cultural meaning of the national costume in both literal and symbolic terms. This is the basis for her artistic investigation into the significance and essence of womanhood. Alatise often weaves her artistic creations into her literary discourse on the advocacy campaign, ‘Child Not Bride’. Her success with her novels and writing is accompanied by a growing support from the art market. In 2015, Alatise’s High Horses triptych has made a great sale and has broken her personal record at the ‘Africa Now’ auction in Bonhams London. Her work Missing is her poignant polemic against the on-going problem of sex trafficking in Nigeria. Her work was first exhibited at the Nike Art Gallery in Lagos under the title “Material Witness” in 2012. The artist is regularly participating in international exhibitions and art fairs across the African continent and beyond.
Kudzanai Chiurai is an internationally acclaimed young artist from Zimbabwe. Born in 1981, the artist was exiled from his home country after producing an unflattering portrait of the President of Zimbabwe. He now works and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. Chiurai’s work is a mixture of digital photography, editing and printing, painting and film. He is the first black student to receive a BA in Fine Arts from the University of Pretoria in South Africa. His caustic, theatrical multimedia compositions address the most pertinent issues that his generation faces in Austral Africa, from government corruption to xenophobia and displacement. Chiurai has participated in numerous local and international exhibitions ever since his first solo exhibition in 2003 in the Brixton Art Gallery, London. Most recently, his work has been exhibited in “Figures & Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography” at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and ‘Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now’ at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which has also acquired Chiurai’s work for their collection.
Untitled (The English Garden), 2013, Oil and enamel on canvas, 222 x 180 x 5 cm
Pierre-Christophe Gam is a French pluridisciplinary artist born in 1983 and raised in Chantilly, France. He studied architecture at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and art direction at the prestigious Central Saint Martins in London where he now lives and works. Inspired by his Egyptian, Chadian and Cameroonian heritage, his work combines design, photography and digital manipulation, creating an heteroclite palette of images where he explores identity, post-colonialism, globalization and power. In 2013, Gam founded AfroPolis, a cultural platform that through exhibitions and talks analyses Africa’s position on an international scale. His work was part of the exhibition “Making Africa” at the Vitra Museum in Germany and travelled to the Guggenheim Bilbao this year.
The Affogbolo, Her Pink, 2015, C-print mounted on aluminium, 40 x 40 cm Edition of 5.
Maïmouna Guerresi is an interdisciplinary artist mostly known for her mythical portraits. Born in 1951 in Italy, Guerresi is now based in Dakar, Senegal while travelling to Italy occasionally. Her work is not only limited to photography, she is also a sculptor and a video and installation artist. She is inspired by the 1970’s Body Art movement with conceptual experiment as basis for most of her work. During her travels in several African countries in 1991, Guerresi had a change in identity and direction with regards to her work and started to focus on themes of multicultural symbolism and feminine spirituality. For over twenty years, Guerresi’s work has been about empowering women and encouraging appreciation of humanity and the human body in the African cultural context. Guerresi fashions the costume in the portraits from fabrics she has gathered from travelling around Africa, and the photographs are shot against a wall outside her house in Dakar, Senegal. Guerresi participated at the Venice Biennale in 1982, the Biennale was curated by Tommaso Trini. Her work is now exhibited across the globe, including France, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Mali, and the United States.
Julie Mehretu, born in 1970, is a painter who does large-scale, gestural paintings that are built up through layers of acrylic paint on canvas, then marked with pencil, pen, ink and thick streams of paint. The Ethiopian-born artist now lives in New York and travels between the United States and Berlin, Germany. Having spent her formative years at the University Cheik Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal, Mehretu is extremely involved in the artistic education of the new generation in Africa. In 2003, the artist worked with 30 young girls from East Africa during her residency at the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis, US. In 2015, she was honoured with the United States State Department’s ‘National Medal of Arts’. Mehretu had her first exhibition in 1995 in “Ancestral Reflections” in the United States. One of the artist’s most widely known works is the 80-foot-wide mural in the Goldman Sachs tower titled Mural. Her pieces are shown in worldwide art fairs and exhibitions, and they are publicly accessible in museums across the globe including in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
Heavier than air (written form), 2014, Ink and acrylic on canvas, 122 x 183 cm.
Athi-Patra Ruga was born in 1984 in Umtata, South Africa and is a multidisciplinary artist who constantly questions and confronts politics and ideologies through vivid colours and colourful installations as well as performances. His works are impregnated by eclectic references in which gender, humour and eroticism meet, creating a hybrid body of constructions. His first exhibition was in 2004 in South Africa. He currently works and lives between Capetown and Johannesburg. Moreover, his work is part of the Pigozzi Collection, the IZIKO South African National Gallery, Museion in Italy and the Wedge Collection.
Miss Azania, 2019, 2015, archival inkjet print on Photorag Baryta, 150 x 190 cm, edition of 10. Photographer: Hayden Phipps –
Yinka Shonibare Mbe
Yinka Shonibare MBE was born in London, UK in 1962, but his family moved to Lagos, Nigeria when he was three. Shonibare is known for his colonial and post-colonial themes within the contemporary context of globalisation through different media including painting, sculpture, photography, film and performance. He now lives and works in London, UK. The artist was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2004, and was awarded the decoration of Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in the same year. In 2010, for the first time, he was commissioned to create Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, which is on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London. Shonibare’s first solo exhibition was in 1989 at the Byam Shaw Gallery and the Bedford Hill Gallery in London. His work is included in many public collections and museums in the UK, the US, Canada, Israel, Italy, Monaco and Sweden.
Butterfly Kid (boy), 2015, Fiberglass mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, silk, metal, globe, leather and steel baseplate, 127 x 75 x 88 cm.
Abu Bakarr Mansaray (1970, Sierra Leone) Allien Resurrection [sic], 2004 Graphique, colored pencils, feutre on paper, 150 x 205 cm Framed : 160,6 x 212,5 x 4 cm – Courtesy CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection
The exhibition Art/Afrique, le nouvel atelier constituted of 3 main sections retraces Africa’s grandiose landscape and future in the contemporary art world. The first part titled “Les initiés”” showcases works from the private collection of the mythical collector Jean Pigozzi, a philanthropist who since the late 80’s saw the power of African art and chose to impulse the nascent scene. With the help of André Magnin, curator of the exhibition Les Magiciens de la Terre at the Pompidou Centre in 1989, he created an exhaustive collection from African artists living and working within the confines of the continent. Among the 15 artists selected from his collection, names such as Malick Sidibé, Romuald Hazoumé, Seni Awa Camara or Okhai Ojeikere are testimony of André Magnin’s visionary perception and his close relation to African artists.
The next section, which includes galeries 4,5,6 and 7, “Être là” is exclusively devoted to South African contemporary art. Contrasting with the the continent’s history, South Africa has always had its own identity and costumes. Propelled by institutions as well as galleries and collectors, the country’s contemporary art scene is already strong and cemented. Referent figures such as William Kentridge, Sue Williamson and David Goldblatt bear witness of the country’s progression over the years. Nevertheless, a new generation post apartheid is to be found in the exhibit, artwork from Athi Patra Ruga, Jody Brand, Lawrence Lemaoana, Kudzanai Chiurai amid others testify of the new South African identity where multiculturalism and globalisation mark them.
Finally, the last “volet” exhibits a selection of artworks from the Louis Vuitton collection. From Kentridge, to Omar Victor Diop, Wangechi Mutu, Meschac Gaba, Barthélémy Toguo and more this last stage confirms Africa’s fecund ecosystem aiding to create a new chapter in the whole continent’s history.
In the Spring of 2016, ArtPremium dedicated an issue to the rise and flourishing of this region, the exhibition thus comes to confirm African contemporary art’s power and its imminent growth in the art market.
L’Institut du monde Arabe is currently exhibiting The Islamic Treasures of Africa, a show gathering both contemporary and ancient creations from African creators, influenced by islam.
The idea behind the eclectic election of artworks was to underline and connect the past and the present to create a coherent African islamic history, written by its inhabitants rather than the colons. As a hub reuniting several cults and ideologies, Africa witnessed the rise of sufism, a branch of islam where love and poetry are center stage. Reinterpreted by artist Maimouna Guerresi’s work, her photography, with its vibrant colours and contrast, stresses on the spiritual tradition of islam.
Minarets, mosques, madrasas and other architectonic structures testify of islam’s importance in the continent. While in the surface we could be tempted to think of orthodox ritualistic practices, the exhibition proves otherwise for much of the animistic beliefs melted with islam creating thus a religion on its own, detached from the sufi’s radical roots. In Ivory Coast, some masks from ancient rituals were utilised, the syncretism gave birth to a particular islam incorporating local beliefs. Magic is the additive giving another meaning to islam.
Contemporary artists, rendering homage to artisanal practices employ old techniques refreshing them. Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté for instance presents a work denouncing the political situation in his homeland, where an extremist group has submerged the country in a civil war. Finally, the arabic calligraphy with its inherent beauty demystifies the assumption stating that African cultures have a rather oral tradition. Some manuscripts are showcased in the exhibition rooms unveiling centuries of African islamic history. Contemporary artist Babacar Diouf recreates in his work the arabic calligraphy while he creates a new language. Taking a parcel of tradition and adding his own codes, he alters arabic converting it into an aesthetic.
The scenography is incredibly well adjusted urging the spectator to look for them even in the ceiling. The light as well enables us to neatly see even the slightest details of every piece presented at the exhibition: it is clear to us, the exhibition endeavour is to give a positive image of islam and prove that it was an ignitor in Africa.
Sindika Dokolo, a Congolese businessman and art enthusiast, acquired one of the most important contemporary African art collections from the late German business tycoon, Hans Bogatzke back in 2005. Based in Angola, Dokolo and his procurement have gained an overnight sensation from the public and the media since the end of the country’s civil war about three years ago. Amassing over 5000 pieces of invaluable African art, Dokolo has now become one of the symbols for repatriation in the history of art in Africa.
Dokolo is very aware of the significance behind all this media attention, both from within the country and from the rest of the world. These art pieces in his collection are not just decorations for the domestic setting, they are a beacon of hope for redefining “Africanity” amidst the deafening Eurocentric perspectives on the continent and its artistic creations. ‘[You see] every other exhibition telling you what Africa is and [what is] the real Africa. There is always this self-justification, this attitude, which I think is very counter-productive,’ argues the collector. Therefore, Dokolo establishes the eponymous not-for-profit foundation enabling the Angolan public to respond to their creation and to start organising their view of the world of art.
Samuel Fosso, Series “Emperor of Africa”, 2013 – “SFEA 1949” 166 x 124 cm
Dokolo’s collection of contemporary art includes over 80 African artists as well as those from its Diaspora. The collection holds artworks ranging from the video projection Felix in Exile (1994) by William Kentridge and self-portraits Emperor of Africa (2013) by Samuel Fosso to conceptual works by Kendell Geers and the installation work Thirteen Hours (2013) by the emerging Angolan artist Binelde Hyrcan. It covers the artistic expressions all around the continent, from the north of Egypt to the south of South Africa. Dokolo creates an interaction and a dialogue between different aesthetics of our contemporary time.
Amassing over 5000 pieces of invaluable African art, Dokolo has now become one of the symbols for repatriation in the history of art in Africa.
‘My main focus is actually to manage to have a very dynamic artistic and cultural life with no infrastructure. It has been a sort of blessing in that we do not have any contemporary art museums because we [then] have to revisit the way people engage with art and culture in an urban environment.’ One of the missions the collector aims to achieve with his foundation is to remodel the falsified bourgeois value of art into a public commodity. Currently, the Sindika Dokolo Foundation is working on a project, using marketing and publicity strategies, putting up dozens upon dozens of street advertisement of the artworks, to get the general public engaged with art in an ‘involuntary, unconscious and natural way’. Dokolo and his team are also working with local schools to coordinate guided visits to travelling exhibitions. Ever since the initiation of this programme, 50,000 children have been enrolled and this year, Dokolo hopes to reach an audience of 100,000 children in his education of African contemporary art.
Wangechi Mutu, “You Love me You Love Me No”, 2013, mixed media / collage on paper, diptych
The Sindika Dokolo Foundation is a safe haven for empowerment of future generations of Africans by providing them with the knowledge to participate in their own cultural history. Throughout the years with his collection and the foundation, Dokolo notices the ‘baby boom of creativity’, a proliferation in artistic expression in Angola in recent years. He is especially involved with local Angolan artists. He finds that ‘it is a socialist government but there was always a kind of depth in the Angolan culture’ giving Angola’s local artistic language an ‘inner life and sensitivity in emotion’. Dokolo has witnessed many artists come and go in his foundation and now, he shares his views on the integration of African contemporary artists in the international circuits of art like a wise man reciting a fable. ‘I think the right reflex is to come back to Angola and work some more, work to build their careers from the inside out. I think that guarantees some consistency and some prudence also when they approach the international market.’
Behind the Sindika Dokolo Foundation is an ideology to repatriate the rights to the continent to paint an accurate portrait of African art in our contemporary time. There is a synergy between his collection and his audience, Dokolo encourages authentic creation through his collection and at the same time, he is inspired by this creativity to further experiment with his foundation.
Zeitz MOCAA is the accumulation of sponsorship, connoisseurship and commitment from both the profit corporate sector and the not-for-profit cultural sector. This prodigy of a project began with a phone call in 2013 from the South African property agency, the Victoria and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront Group, to the Cape Town native and international art curator, Mark Coetzee. Contrary to the norms of the usual ten-year campaigns prior to museum construction, the historic Grain Silo land was ready to break ground even before soliciting Coetzee partnership to build Africa’s first major museum dedicated to contemporary art
80 art galleries and 6 institutions housed in the Museum
There, in the heart of Cape Town’s working harbour, will majestically sit Zeitz MOCAA in all its nine-floor, 9,500-square-meter grandeur. Designed by the British architect Thomas Heatherwick, the structure of the Museum will house 80 galleries and 6 independent institutes. This not-for-profit institution will prove to be not only an important landmark for the iconic city, but also a place of education for all art lovers from the continent and beyond. The establishment is thus a testament to a community with a growing commitment towards its local artists and artworks and is to be respected as an integral part of a global dialogue.
Mark Coetzee’s dazzling resume in the art world is definitely what prompted the V&A Waterfront Group’s to recruit him for this project. He has developed a shrewd business acumen as the director of the PUMA foundation, PUMAVision, giving him the proficiency to communicate fluently with the corporate world. In 2009, alongside the German businessman Jochen Zeitz, they started together an impressive contemporary African art collection.
Prior to that, Coetzee was the director of the Rubell Family Collection and the not-for-profit educational foundation in the Wynwood Art District in Miami. The seasoned curator describes his profession as personal and intimate. ‘I think your personality defines your approach. You are what you do.’ The story of growing up in South Africa, at the height of an international cultural boycott, tells a tale of a lack of public institutions that demonstrate contemporary art practices through lectures, which in turn, disengages the theoretical and the practical. Coetzee is part of a generation that is now going to great lengths to restore what was once absent in their childhood, the possibility to educate the next generation, and to place value on the current artistic production in Africa.Zeitz MOCAA is therefore, the physical extension of this communal dream. Having pioneered the ‘Miami Model’, which joins the functions of private art collections and public foundation, Coetzee is taking his work further with the Museum, filling the gaps for artists and their artworks, by giving them access to a public that is part of their history. Visitors of the Museum will see seminal works from the 21st century in the African context including the Arsenal dragon Iimpundulu Zonke Ziyandilandela (All the Lightning Birds Are After Me) (2011) by Nicholas Hlobo and the entire collection by Kudzanai Chiurai shown in the dOCUMENTA (13).
The Museum is named in honour of one of its first contributors, Jochen Zeitz, who is continuing to support its acquisition budget for new works. The collector’s private collection, the Zeitz Collection, will be inaugurating the opening of the MOCAA as its founding collection. Founded in 2002, the Zeitz Collection has cemented its position as the most representative collection of contemporary art from the African continent and its Diaspora since 2008. The Collection is a wealthy reservoir of works by Sue Williamson, Chris Ofili, Marlene Dumas, Kudzanai Chiurai, Penny Siopis, Rashid Johnson, Julie Mehretu, Wangechi Mutu, Jane Alexander, Kehinde Wiley, Godfried Donker, Hank Willis Thomas and others. It is ambitious in its acquisition of works that are of museum quality, both in their technical ability and in their scale.
Cyrus Kabirum, 2014
The Collection holds over 70 works by the Swazi sculptor Nandipha Mntambo and has acquired 85 works at the 2013 Venice Biennale, including the Golden Lion, the award-winning installation in the Angola pavilion by artist Edson Chagas, a series of photographs by Zanele Muholi in the South Africa pavilion, and three large sculptures by Michele Mathison in the Zimbabwe pavilion. Zeitz MOCAA will continue to carry the torch set by the example of the Zeitz Collection in its future acquisitions.The founding of Zeitz MOCAA is an extraordinary phenomenon, bringing the once-considered periphery practice into the central dialogue. It intends to jostle the status quo, proclaiming the invalidity of a hierarchical system in the art world where culture, history, and connoisseurship happen elsewhere. This is the pivotal point in order for Cape Town to become an international contemporary art destination.
The repatriation of the two looted Chokwe masks to the Dundo Museum in Angola has made international news. Behind this important acquisition is Sindika Dokolo, a highbrow African art collector who resides in Angola.
For instance, The Uncanny, a photography serie by the Belgian photographer Leonard Pongo, unveils the everyday life of a group of Congolese people living in the outskirts of the city. Pongo decided not to focus on the country’s poignant upheavals but rather on banality, on rituals taking place everyday. Azu Nwagbogu, curator of the festival intended to elucidate photography’s function as a polysemic object: document, message, record and image, photography’s changing personality has the power to affirm and to be a witness for the upcoming generations, of our current world.
Photography thus “assumes the role of demiurge who has created the world”, and at the same time challenges it by proposing other realities. Juno Calypso’s work A dream in Green shows the naked body of a “green” woman in a mirrored bathroom, the provocative posture of the woman and the odd colour of her skin could question femininity. Jenevieve Akin’s work titled Great Expectations, name of the eponym book by the British author Jane Austen, portraitures another woman wearing a bride’s dress. These photographs might refer to the importance of marriage and the meaning behind this uniting act nowadays. The model is shown in the kitchen and the conjugal room, both places confining and isolating her from the outside world.
Mila Autio – 4 set of diptychs printed 70 cm tall
Moreover, fashion appears as an identity asset; patterns, flashy colours and forms are representative of Africa’s cultural heritage. Ishola Akpo, Bruno Morais and Flurina Rothenberg among other photographer’s works bear witness on African’s inventiveness on this particular field. Nevertheless, identity is explored as a global issue within the work of South African artist Gideon Mendel. His series Submerged depicts the threat of floods in countries like Brazil, the United States, Pakistan and more.
Lagos Photo Festival underlines photography’s perennial position as a memory keeper and costumes perpetrator of contemporary societies, a cognitive tool permitting the viewer to look carefully and hence to understand from another angle.