Contemporary African Art
“It is our time,” says Pardon Mapondera, a young Zimbabwean artist, referring to the worldwide upsurge in interest in contemporary African art on the part of collectors, galleries, auction houses and art fairs. Mapondera is one of over 150 emergings and established artists whose work will be shown at the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London on October 14-17.
Mapondera, who creates colourful abstract textile works and lives in Cape Town, South Africa, sees the newfound global interest in African art as being “driven by the larger trend of inclusivity, away from the previous Western-centric focus.”
Other artists participating in the fair credit communications technology with the newfound visibility and popularity of contemporary African art. Says Stephané E. Conradie, a Zambian sculptor who lives in South Africa, “Artists have the agency to publish their own work via social media and the Internet, curate their own exhibitions and form artistic collectives. The Covid 19 pandemic has proven how important it is to do this,” she says, adding “I am sure that this agency has led to many African artists becoming noticed … free from the confines of the art world’s economy and gallery systems.”
Ugandan sculptor Richard Atugonza agrees. “I can sit in my studio,” he says, “and someone from the United States is Instagramming me that they like my new piece.” He sees such global connections as key to bringing “unutilized resources to the surface. We are rich in stories that haven’t been told and rich in materials that haven’t been explored.”
“I think the time has come for Africa to write a new art history,” says Angèle Etoundi Essamba, a Cameroonian photographer living in Amsterdam who spotlights African women in her work. “We are witnessing the very rich and dynamic creativity of talented artists whose works question our world, politics, the environment.” With the emergence of social networks, she adds, this creativity can no longer go unnoticed.
While they don’t feel the need to be labelled “African artists”, these artists all take pride in their origins. “Being an African artist gives me a unique opportunity to draw attention to the various histories my identity and heritage are made up of,” says Conradie, “This goes for all artists under the African banner – we have diverse perspectives and aesthetics.”
Many of these talented artists find inspiration for both the content and materials of their work in their homeland. Pardon notes that many African artists are finding innovative ways to use materials that represent the societies they come from, such as recycled or discarded materials (like the world-famous Ghanian sculptor El Anatsui) or precious minerals.
Atugonza, who used to make his startlingly lifelike, fragmentary sculptures from burnt plastic, was inspired to switch to charcoal dust by a neighbour who made charcoal briquettes. She showed him how the “sculptural” briquettes were made, and he incorporated the process into his work. “When I created the first sculpture with it, I felt such an incredible growth in my work,” he says. “[It] came from my community, and I named the first piece ‘Limitless’.”
From the community to the unlimited, contemporary African art is finally taking wing.
Now that it’s out there, the only way is up.
Professor Ibrahima Diallo, Chief of Staff to Senegal’s Minister of Mines and Geology
Professor Ibrahima Diallo is a leading African civil servant at the heart of reforming the continent's extractive sector. In his country, mining is an essential part of the Emerging Senegal Plan, which is the reference framework for the policies put in place by President Macky Sall. He told us about the priorities of his Ministry of Mines and Geology.
Togo All Stars on the road to conquering the European music scene
Togo All Stars is a musical group inspired by the voodoo convents of the West African sub-region. Made up of 10 members, they delight their audiences with original sounds and movements. The group has become a household name on the European music scene, and its audiences are seduced by the beats that take them almost to other rhythmic dimensions.
Marc Lavergne, Emeritus Director of Research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research
A look back at a political and human tragedy that has been left in the background: in Sudan, the conflict between the army and the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continues to destabilize the civilian population and the economy. This deteriorating situation is closely monitored by one of the leading specialists in the region, Marc Lavergne, Emeritus Research director at the French National Center for Scientific Research.
Food insecurity become an entrepreneurial challenge in Goma
The town of Goma in North Kivu in the east of the DRC is surrounded by M23 rebels. This situation has plunged the town into an unprecedented food crisis. Omwinja Manassé, a young entrepreneur, is trying to contain the situation with his company Kivu Labour.