By Jess Castellote
It is less than four months since we mourned the death of Sammy Olagbaju, less than two since Rasheed Gbadamosi passed away and now, we are confronted with the death of Ben Osaghae. Rasheed, I knew him well, but Sammy and Ben were personal friends. In 2012, with the help of Sammy, I published a book: “Nigerian Contemporary Art in Lagos Private Collections”. Just a couple of years ago, Akinyemi Adetunji and I wrote “Ben Osaghae. Visual Chronicles of a society in flux”, a book monograph on Ben.
The Afropolitan Festival is three days of exceptional programming dedicated to Afropolitan art, creativity and state of mind, presented by BOZAR and its partners. Taking place from 3rd to 5th February Afropolitan Festival is a celebration of the Belgian and European artists of African descent currently boosting the European cultural scene. This edition features a special focus on the Belgian Congolese diaspora, on Afropolitan artists in the contemporary art scene, and on the bridges between Sub-Saharans and North Africans.
In the second edition of the South-South series, Goodman Gallery presents Let me begin again, an exhibition drawing parallels between artists from the Global South, looking at and beyond the afterlife of political revolution. The show reveals cross-cultural influence and divergence – both historical and recent – between countries such as Cuba, Brazil, South Africa and Angola, as well as Mozambique, and Namibia; featured artists born in or living between these countries or in the diaspora.
On show at SMITH Studio is Stephen Allwright’s current solo exhibition, Inclusions, where he explores his own emblematic shorthand, an inverted form of self-portraiture, as well as the extent of ink in resonating with the images forming in his mind. ART AFRICA got to sit down with Stephen to find out more.
Lilian Nabulime is a well-established contemporary female Ugandan artist with a long history and passion for wood carving. A graduate of the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Art (MTSIFA), Nabulime was taught by one of Uganda’s greatest sculptors, Francis Nnaggenda, whose influence is evident in her work, not only in their large scale execution but through her use of wood, most notably Kavuyo (1993) and Meeting Point (2014).
Kirsten Sims is a visual artist working in Woodstock, Cape Town. She holds an honours degree in Illustration from the University of Stellenbosch, and is currently busy with a body of work for her fourth solo show at Salon Ninety One, her representative gallery. During 2015 Sims held her second solo exhibition at the Alison Milne gallery in Toronto, Canada. The Artist represented Salon91 at the Turbine Art Fair during 2015 and 2016, and will be doing so again in July this year. She regularly participates in group exhibitions in South Africa and is in the process of writing and illustrating her second children’s picture book. Kirsten tells us we can expect a preview of her work for her upcoming solo show, Saturn Return, at the Cape Town Art Fair in mid-February.
“Whether it is a plant or clouds or smudges on a wall, these can all serve as inspiration for me and act as a starting point for a painting. My inspiration comes from the world around me and then it becomes something of its own. It is sifted through my memory and my imaginings.”
ART AFRICA had the opportunity to chat with Leanne Olivier about her solo show, EXTRINSIC/INTRINSIC at Jan Royce Gallery. Olivier discusses the role of the artist in contemporary society, "life drama", and the Theatre of the Absurd.
On the top floor of an incomplete one-storey building, portraits of Ghanaians – mostly females sitting among yellow jerry cans – hang on the unpainted walls. Others hang on abandoned scaffolds left in the building. These paintings are new artworks by contemporary Ghanaian artist Jeremiah Quarshie, some of which appear a bit exaggerated; but the near realness of Quarshie’s application is a testimony to the ‘hyper-real.’
The artworld is directing its eyes to the once called ‘dark continent’ with promises of inclusion. In Kinshasa – The Democratic Republic of Congo – the Kin ArtStudio is showing resistance to fierce attempts of appropriation while claiming its contemporaneity and global relevance.
“Our role as artists is not to solve problems, but to ask better questions. Herein lies the power of our investigations: allowing for breathing space; incubators in which interactions can mutate.”
Kenya’s up-and-coming artists are increasingly finding spaces outside of the conventional galleries to exhibit their art. Crossing borders & breaking moulds: Margaretta wa Gacheru writes about Kenya’s burgeoning art scene.
Cameroonian art critic & curator, Nadine Bilong, explores the curious gaze of the hunter-gatherer, survivalist aesthetics, as well as the paradox of waste as presented by performance artist, Kai Lossgott, in his work Hunter-gatherer.
The rise of African contemporary art in the international gaze has been more than well documented. But the enthusiasm, has overshadowed an analysis of how this interest has affected the ecology of the African art sector as a whole. While international interest is powering ahead it does so in the context of art infrastructure and gallery sector on the continent largely under supported and under-developed and local markets only beginning to emerge. As a consequence, the international market interest to date has been largely benefitting individual artists represented by international galleries, with trickle down economics working the same way as they do elsewhere to support the growth and economic sustainability of the local art sectors. We see this at forums such as 1:54 African contemporary art fair, where even in its present 4th edition only 16 out of 40 participating galleries are based on the continent.
The task of exploring a thousand years of a country’s history in one exhibition – particularly one with as contested a history as South Africa – is not an easy one. Yet the British Museum has managed to create an exhibition that is informative and well curated, offering new and surprising insights even for a South African audience. ‘South Africa: the art of a nation’ is a thoughtful journey through the artistic history of the country, from as far back as three million BP through to 2013. While you might think an exhibition of this scope would take the form of a purely chronological curatorial structure, Chris Spring and John Giblin’s sensitive juxtaposition of contemporary work with ancient art objects creates a lively conversation between past and present work.
"At any given moment in time, as I work on a piece, events are unfolding around me, and are a part of my life, the studio and my practice – the Arab/African Spring is one example. I had the news on constantly as I was painting. This all finds its way into my work; to embrace the various histories, contradictions, and complexities; to mash them up, bind them and maybe find the breaks."
One of our favourite interviews this year, ART AFRICA had the privilege of sitting down with Zimbabwean artist Misheck Masamvu during his exhibition 'STILL STILL,' which was on show at the Goodman Gallery, Cape Town between the 15th September to 20th October 2016.
ART AFRICA had the opportunity to sit down with Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi (Curator of African Art at the Hood Museum, Dartmouth College), during his visit to the Center for Curating the Archive in Cape Town earlier this year. Here we learn about Nzewi's curatorial practice, in particular his ideas surrounding 'spaces of familiarity,' and the significance of contextual curatorial practice.
In the lead up to the exhibition 'Africans in America' at the Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, ART AFRICA caught up with participating Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar. In this interview, Jaar talks about his architectural background, his introduction to Media, and the tragic consequences of global indifference.
One cannot contemplate the concept of ashes and dust in relation to the arts and not talk about the recent sharp-turn taken by one of the most contemporary South African collagists, John Vusi Mfupi. Those who have studied and familiarised themselves with Mfupi’s work over the past decade or so, would agree that he is no longer collaging but shepherding the lives of those depicted in his work from dark flames and ashes into the public view. Over the past two years he has perfected the art of using ashes to give greater resonance to the stories he tells.
For its end-of-year ‘Summer Show’, Goodman Gallery Cape Town has gathered together a selection of important pieces from both new and existing bodies of work. Taken as a whole, the show presents a textured and vibrant series of engagements with the artists’ social and political environments through photography, sculpture, drawing, prints and video. The exhibition serves as an opportunity to show works not yet seen in Cape Town, and to introduce visitors to artists newly represented by the gallery.
With the presence of both local and internationally invited experts, the Addis Foto Fest Conference is a platform to discuss the development of photography in Africa and beyond its borders. Participating panelist Francis Falceto is the author of Abyssinie Swing: A Pictoral History of Modern Ethiopian Music and winner of the BBC World Music Award (2008). His collection of photography from Ethiopia's jazz scene dates back to the 50s, providing a fresh perspective on the often reductionary nature of representation.
Quaid Heneke and Angelo Valerio are not simply close friends, but describe themselves as sisters. Years before they were born, both of their mothers lived in Kensington, a Northern suburb in Cape Town that was classified as ‘Coloured’ during the Apartheid Group Areas Act. While Valerio grew up in Cape Town, and Heneke in East London, they met online before connecting in person. Remembering seeing Heneke for the first time, Valerio recalled thinking, “Who is this beautiful person? I was still in high school, and I had never seen anyone like Quaid in my life.”
Harare Conversations is an ongoing discursive platform that is part of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe’s educational programme. Held on October 14th, 2016, ‘Harare Conversations: Videonomad Harare Iteration Talks’ formed part of a larger initiative orchestrated by the National Gallery, Njelele Art Station (Harare) and Videonomad (Berlin), an independent project that aims to provide an alternate platform for African artists, both within the continent and abroad. Founded by Tobi Ayedadjou in 2013, Videonomad have worked as far and wide as Kalamata, Pesaro, Bahia, Tunis, Tokyo, and Dakar.
Moderated by Lucia Nhamo, this panel discussion included artists Berry Bickle, Bogosi Sekhukhuni, Simon Gush, Tabita Rezaire, and Mario Macilau. This discussion touches on a wide range of themes, by looking closely at the processes of production, their intended outcomes, and the many concerns born from their respective contexts as individuals working with a similar but varied set of tools, each to their own end.
"One hundred and twenty-six photographers from all over the world poured their hearts and souls into the creation of stories, documentations, and expressions that depict meaningful fragments of the places, memories, and spaces with which they identify," writes Ainslee Alem Robson on the upcoming Addis Foto Fest, set to take place between the 15th - 20th December, 2016.
ART AFRICA had the opportunity to sit down with performance artist Athi-Patra Ruga just before his performance at the 2016 Performa Gala in New York. In this interview Ruga talks about his avatars, the performing body, and his artistic practice.