After publishing the article “What is Contemporary African Art?“, highlighting this notion as representative of art across 54 countries and its diaspora spawned by colonialism, it is important to focus on the various types of art coming from the continent as well as their current artistic proliferation.
African art, especially sculpture, has been known in Europe since the 15th century and acquired its authentic artistic quality
when Cubist painters discovered it in 1906.
However, the Negro art of Cubism does not represent the totality of contemporary African art, and the study of these works aims to establish a geography, history, and stylistic ethnology. Sculpture is only one accessible form of this complex artistic ensemble.
The power of contemporary African art to raise awareness about the history of slavery
African slavery is a subject that moves millions of people, and contemporary African artists use their emotion to visually comment on this monumental theme. Exhibitions of works by contemporary artists, combined with historical texts and images, have been successful in raising public awareness of this topic.
Works by artists such as Fabrice Monteiro, Julien Sinzogan, Kimathi Donkor, Godfried Donkor, Kerry James Marshall, and Aaron Douglas depict some of this inglorious past.
Using mixed media of pen and ink, Julien Sinzogan depicts the experiences of slaves on the Atlantic crossing, while Fabrice Monteiro revisits manila maps and archival shots to create modern photographs that reflect the harsh reality of the time.
Kimathi Donkor highlights the history of the transatlantic trade, while Godfried Donkor uses contemporary references to represent slavery
Kerry James Marshall portrays African American working class life in a colorful style, while Aaron Douglas incorporated African motifs and themes into his work. His famous painting “Into Bondage” depicts chained Africans making their way to the ships on the horizon in a gesture of desperation and resignation.
Afro-descendant artists have distinguished themselves by highlighting themes of slavery and liberation.
When art engages: installations and sculptures that recall the history of slavery
Art can be a powerful medium for awareness and remembrance. Many artists have chosen installation and sculpture to remember the history of slavery and pay tribute to those who were enslaved.
South African artist Sue Williamson has created an installation entitled “Three Tanks” that traces one of the many voyages across the Atlantic made by slave ships. Each glass tank contains information about the slaves who were transported on that ship, such as their African name, their Christian name, their country of origin and their price. The installation is a moving commemoration of how human beings were treated as commodities.
American artist Stephen Hayes created the installation “Cash Crop,” which draws parallels between the slave trade economy and today’s Third World sweatshops. The installation includes life-size sculptures of people thrown into slavery, representing the estimated 15 million enslaved Africans. The sculptures are presented standing in boat-shaped coffins made from wooden shipping pallets. This installation is powerful, intimidating and technically brilliant.
Kara Walker is an American artist whose art reminds us of the need to fight to address social and political themes such as race, slavery and sexuality. In her sculpture “Fons Americanus,” she challenges the way history is evoked in public monuments. This sculpture is also a narrative about the origins of the African diaspora, using water as a key theme. It brings together fact, fantasy and fiction in a physically overwhelming sculpture, referencing the ambitions, fates and tragedies of people from three continents.
Lubaina Himid is a British artist who has been expressing herself through politically charged art for 40 years. In 2004, she presented the International Slavery Museum with the installation “Naming the Money”, which reveals the hidden reality of black slaves and servants, giving them an identity and a voice. The installation consists of 100 life-size painted woodcut silhouettes of black slaves and servants of all genders.
These artists have chosen to remember the history of slavery through their art, using installations and sculptures to commemorate those who were enslaved. Their powerful and moving works remind us of the importance of not forgetting our history and facing our past to build a better future.
Exploring contemporary African sculpture through influential artists
Contemporary African sculpture is an art form characterized by the use of natural or found materials. Artists involved in this form of contemporary African art have created works that are both raw and earthy, beautifully stylized or abstract, that tell stories and occupy a place in history. In this article, we explore the work of some of the most influential African artists in this practice.
Ben Enwonwu, a Nigerian artist, is one of the most influential artists in contemporary African sculpture. His statue entitled “Atlas” represents a common Western representation, but embodies Africa, supporting and sustaining the world. Another renowned father figure of contemporary African art is El Anatsui, from Ghana, who creates large sculptural installations from bottle caps, cans and anything else he can salvage.
Ebrahim Al Salahi is another African modernist, famous for his sculpture of the Tree of Life or Tree of Meditation. Inspired by a tree called Haraz in his native Sudan, it represents not only a link between heaven and earth, but also a self-portrait and a metaphor for artistic and personal growth.
Elkana Ongesa, who comes from a long line of sculptors from Tabaka, a community in Kisii, Kenya, has been commissioned to create many public and private sculptures. He has also been heavily involved in mentoring students, while committing to developing an artistic community in his hometown of Kisii.
Finally, Stella Shawzin, born in South Africa in 1920, is best known for her gravity-defying figure sculptures, cast in bronze or molded in marble. One of the characteristics of her work is that her humans are featureless, representing the universality of the human condition.
These influential artists of contemporary African art have each brought their own vision to contemporary African sculpture and have created inspiring works of art that continue to amaze us. Sculpture as an art form is a way to see, experience, and reflect life, and these artists have done an excellent job of using this art form to tell stories and challenge societal norms.
Focus on these contemporary African artists who reinvent African sculpture
Many outstanding figures in contemporary African art have left their mark on the world of sculpture, such as Edoardo Villa, Ben Enwonwu, Stella Shawzin, Ibrahim El Salahi, Sydney Kumalo, Francis Nnnggenda, Arthur Azvedo, Ousmane Sow, El Anatsui, William Kentridge, and Wangechi Mutu. Their illustrious careers and their influence on the perception and creation of sculpture around the world are a testament to their longstanding careers. Using a variety of materials such as wood, stone, bronze, papier-mâché, textiles, glass and others, they have created works that reflect the cultural richness of contemporary African art. Their works have been awarded and exhibited in museums and galleries around the world, contributing to the recognition of African art on the international art scene. Today, the art of sculpture continues to be an essential form of expression in contemporary African art.
Let’s discover some of the talented artists who bring their own vision and style to this ever-evolving art form.
Edoardo Villa (1915-2011) was an Italian sculptor who became South Africa’s most prolific sculptor. He arrived in the country in 1942 as a prisoner of war and settled in Johannesburg after his release. Villa introduced bold materials and forms into his work, producing over 1000 pieces until his death. Bronze and steel were his favorite media, sometimes painted in bright colors, sometimes left black or in their original state.
Wangechi Mutu, a Kenyan artist, is currently based in New York. She is one of her country’s most prominent artists, having recently been commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum to create four bronze statues for the niches on the museum’s façade. Her sculptural forms are created using a variety of media, from bronze to natural materials she finds in Kenya. She is fascinated by the connections between nature, the feminine and African history and culture.
Angus Taylor, born in Johannesburg in 1970, is a contemporary artist known for his powerful and monumental sculptural works. Often larger than life, his sculptures are constructed from materials drawn from his immediate environment, such as granite, red jasper and orange earth. One of the characteristics of her work is that her pieces allude to the heroism of the common man.
Mary Sibande, born in Barberton, South Africa in 1982, practices her art in the form of sculpture and photography in Johannesburg. Her critically acclaimed work has been represented in most major art institutions around the world and is the subject of numerous collections. With her avatar character Sophie, she aims to confront the power relations of women in South Africa, particularly in relation to race and social hierarchy. Sibande uses fiberglass, resin, steel, and fabric to create strong and striking sculptures that force viewers to examine issues of gender, race, class, and power in post-apartheid South Africa.
William Kentridge, a versatile South African artist, is famous for his ability to mix mediums and genres. His sculptures range from abstract metal to the three-dimensionality of bronze, all displaying great inventiveness.
Sanell Aggenbach, born in 1975, uses humor and tenderness in her work. She parodies the great names of the West while presenting moving sculptures filled with irony, such as “Madre Pieta” representing two bronze rabbits.
Deborah Bell, born in 1957 in Johannesburg, is inspired by ancient civilizations and ritual objects to create immobile and spiritual sculptures. Her work “Return of the Gods” is particularly moving, with each sculpture producing a different sound as one enters its space.
Niyi Olagunju, born in 1981, is a Nigerian artist who uses African wooden sculptures to create striking pieces. He covers the sculptures with colored metals, which evokes the effects of natural resource exploitation in Africa.
Finally, Nandipha Mntambo is a Swazi sculptor who explores traditional gender roles and identity in her work. She is best known for her figurative cowhide sculptures, but has recently created bronze sculptures inspired by an army of feared and celebrated women.
These contemporary African artists are all talented and worth discovering. Their diverse work offers a fascinating glimpse into the richness and complexity of contemporary African art in the field of sculpture.
Fluid public sculptures
In South Africa, a steel sculpture of Nelson Mandela by Marco Cianfanelli is a poignant tribute to the iconic man. Erected on Howick Road in Natal, it consists of 50 10-meter-high columns, representing Mandela’s 50 years in captivity at the site. At first glance, the thorny stems appear to any passerby. However, once the angle of view is adjusted, the contours of Mandela’s face emerge, only to disappear again into abstraction. A clever illusion that does not leave one indifferent.
Dylan Lewis, a renowned sculptor based in Simonstown, Cape Town, has a sculpture garden in Stellenbosch where he exhibits his works of all sizes, large and small. For him, nature is a place to connect with his authentic and untamed inner nature. Coming from a family of artists for several generations, he first practiced as a painter before specializing in the sculpture of animal forms, especially large cats. More recently, he has explored the relationship between man and nature through human figures. Regardless of the scale at which he works, he combines raw form with a remarkable observational sensitivity. Each project begins with a multitude of drawings, masterfully executed in charcoal, pen and ink.
The Shona sculpture: a cultural and artistic heritage
Zimbabwean culture is rich in tradition and history, especially in the area of arts and crafts. Among the country’s many talents, Shona sculpture is a true national treasure, which has conquered the world with the quality and beauty of its creations.
Born in the 1960s, the Shona carving movement had its heyday with the first generation of Zimbabwean carvers, who combined local traditions with modern influences to create unique and stunning works.
These artists developed a style unique to the Shona culture, which is characterized by the use of stones of different colors and textures, as well as organic and abstract forms that evoke nature and life. Among the most famous sculptors of this period are Nicholas Mukomberanwa, Henry Munyaradzi and Bernard Matemera.
Over the years, Shona sculpture has continued to develop, with the emergence of a second and third generation of sculptors, who have carried on the traditions of their predecessors while innovating and exploring new territories.
Today, Shona sculpture is recognized worldwide as one of the finest expressions of contemporary African art. The works of Shona sculptors can be found in the world’s greatest museums and art galleries, and are appreciated for their beauty, originality and depth.
But above all, Shona sculpture is a cultural and artistic heritage for the Zimbabwean people, who continue to pass on this tradition from generation to generation. Thanks to them, the Shona sculpture will forever remain a symbol of the richness and diversity of African culture.
African photography is a discipline of contemporary African art with a history dating back to the 1840s, when African artists began to use this form of expression to convey their worldview. Since then, African photography has become an established and vibrant art form, providing African artists with a means to express themselves individually and to capture the diversity of their continent. This discipline of contemporary African art offers a unique creative space for African photographers to share their perspectives on their history, culture, environment, politics, society and identities. In this article, we will explore the evolution of African photography, as well as the trends, challenges, and opportunities shaping this dynamic field of art.
Modern Studio Portraiture in Africa: At the Crossroads of Tradition and Innovation
Studio portraiture is a photographic genre that has spanned centuries and continents. In Africa, this practice developed with the arrival of European settlers, who introduced photography to African countries. But African photographers quickly took over this genre, adding their own vision and style.
Photographers Seydou Keita, Malik Sidibe, James Barnor, JD Ojeikere, and Soloman Osagie are iconic figures in African studio photography. They have all contributed to documenting the daily life, culture and history of their countries. Seydou Keita created elegant and expressive studio portraits in Bamako, while Malik Sidibe captured the youth culture of the 1960s and 1970s. James Barnor worked as a photographer and photojournalist in Ghana and London, while JD Ojeikere documented the ornate hairstyles of Africans and Alonge captured royal life in Nigeria.
These photographers created images that are now recognized as classics of African photography. But they also influenced many African photographers who followed in their footsteps.
Joseph Moise Agbodjelou, for example, opened his own photography studio in Benin in 1960, where he documented all aspects of life in Benin. Adama Kouyate was a pioneer of studio photography in Mali. Ernest Cole, Ricardo Rangel, Sanle Sory and Samuel Fosso also contributed to the enrichment of studio portraiture in Africa, each with their own vision and style.
Today, many African photographers continue to work in this genre, while adding their own personal touch. Gideon Mendel, for example, documented the inequities of apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s, before turning to more universal subjects. His Submerged Portraits series is an example of the innovation that African photographers are bringing to the genre. Mendel creates portraits of people immersed in water, which symbolize the loss of bearings and the upheavals of the contemporary world.
Studio portraiture in Africa is thus a living and evolving photographic genre, a testament to the continent’s creativity.
African photography: a diversity of established voices across the continent
African photography, this branch of contemporary African art, has a long history and rich tradition, dating back to the early days of photography. In recent decades, many photographers have emerged on the international scene, helping to shape the way Africa is perceived around the world.
Among the established photographers on the African continent are artists from different countries with different approaches. Some, like Léonce Raphael Agbodjelou of Benin, focus on documenting the daily life and culture of their country. Agbodjelou, for example, is known for his black-and-white portraits of Dahomeans, which capture their daily lives and traditional culture.
Other photographers, such as Roger Ballen from South Africa and the United States, focus on the darker side of life. His strange and often disturbing images of people and animals capture the essence of madness and alienation.
Sammy Baloji from the Democratic Republic of Congo uses photography to explore the consequences of colonialism and mining on his country. His images are often collages that bring together historical and contemporary elements to create a more complete picture of the current situation.
Zwelethu Mthethwa was born in 1960 in South Africa during the apartheid period. Despite the restrictions of that time, he managed to get an art education in Cape Town with special permission. He then obtained a scholarship to study in the United States, where he solidified his career as a photographer. His powerful images present an honest and unvarnished depiction of life in South Africa, which continues to challenge current social and economic issues.
Jodie Bieber is a South African photographer born in 1966, who began her professional career in 1994 working for The Star newspaper during the democratic elections in South Africa. She has won numerous awards for her photographic contributions, including the World Press Photo First Prize in 2010 for her portrait of Bibi Aisha published in Time magazine. Her work focuses on universal issues such as domestic violence, gangsterism, illegality, township life and changing stereotypes.
Uche Okpa-Iroha is a Nigerian photographer born in 1972 and based in Lagos. He is a two-time winner of the Seydou Keita Award and a member of several artist collectives. His goal is to make photography accessible and affordable for everyone in Africa.
Angele Etoundi Essamba is a Cameroonian artist photographer born in 1962 in Douala. She currently lives and works in Amsterdam, but her work continues to be influenced by her African heritage and the diversity of her cultural background. She focuses on stereotypical representations of women, showing strong and proud women, often in black and white photographs to reinforce the idea of power and self-awareness.
Zanele Muholi is a South African visual activist who uses photography, video, film and installations to address issues such as homophobia, hate crimes, rape, injustice and racism.
Joana Choumali, an Ivorian photographer, explores issues of identity and the diversity of African cultures. She uses conceptual portraiture, mixed media and documentary work, and has recently begun to embroider her photographs.
Nyaba Ouedraogo, a self-taught photographer from Burkina Faso, uses photojournalism and documentation to create award-winning photographs documenting the difficult living and working conditions in parts of the African continent.
Aida Muleneh, an Ethiopian photographer, uses her heritage to portray primarily black women in vibrant, graphic images that explore a new Ethiopian identity. She is also active in training, curating and developing cultural projects in Ethiopia and created the Addis Photo Fest.
Other photographers, like Luis Basto from Mozambique, focus on environmental issues and the relationship between man and nature. His images are often epic landscapes that reflect the natural beauty of his country.
African photography is not limited to documenting everyday life and culture, the dark side of life, exploring the consequences of colonialism and mining, or environmental issues. There are photographers, like Jodi Bieber from South Africa, who focus on portraits and social images, or artists, like Seydou Camar from Mali, who focus on fashion photography.
Regardless of the themes explored by African photographers, they all contribute to the diversity and richness of African photography. Their work is not only important for the understanding of Africa, but also for photography in general.
Powerful, poetic and committed images: the new wave of African photographers
Contemporary African photography is on the rise, with a new generation of talented photographers bringing a fresh and original perspective on the continent. Their work reflects the diversity of African cultures, while exploring universal themes such as identity, memory, migration, politics, history and society.
Contemporary African photographers to watch include Thabisa Sekgala, a South African photographer who died prematurely and explored identity and memory in relation to the urban landscape. Namsa Leuba, a Guinean-Swiss photographer, draws her inspiration from African culture, which she transposes into a contemporary context with saturated colors and geometric patterns. Lakin Ogunbanwo, a Nigerian photographer, focuses on Nigerian portraits and urban landscapes to show the contrasts and paradoxes of life in the city.
Georges Senga, a Congolese photographer, uses a pop aesthetic and subtle humor to explore the impact of Belgian colonization on Congolese culture. Sabelo Mlangeni, a South African photographer, documents Zulu culture through poetic and melancholic portraits and landscapes that invite reflection on the complexity of South African history.
Other contemporary African photographers to watch include Laeila Adjovi, born in Benin and living in France; Jenevieve Aken, from Nigeria; Leila Alaoui, a French-Moroccan artist who died in an attack in 2016; Mimi Cherono Ng’ok, from Kenya; Kudzanai Chiurai, from Zimbabwe; Justin Dingwall, from South Africa; Omar Victor Diop, from Senegal; and Awol Erizku, born in Ethiopia and living in the United States.
These contemporary African photographers are artists, historians, and activists who use their art to explore and celebrate the complexity and richness of African culture, as well as to critique social inequalities and political injustices. Through contemporary African art, they push the boundaries of photography and reveal new facets of Africa that deserve to be discovered and appreciated.
Decolonizing the representation of Africa: young artists’ photography as a tool for change
Since the 1990s, an exciting group of young African photographers have been revolutionizing the world of photography. Abuzaid, Owise, Campbell Addy, Atong Atem, Girma Berta, Tony Gum, Prince Gyasi, Phumzile Khanyile, Alice Mann, Nobukho Nqaba, Nana Yaw Oduro, Ruth Ossai, Stephen Tayo, David Uzochukwu, Kyle Weeks, and Ismail Zaidy are producing a wide range of striking images, films, and documentaries that push the boundaries of technique and subject matter.
These photographers use modern computer techniques to give authority to their work and to depict their individual visions, often using their cell phones to take their pictures. They capture images of contemporary life in African cities, as well as political and social events, such as protests and riots, that can change the way people think.
Street photography is a privileged field for these artists, reflecting changes in political and social government, transitions of power, legal and illegal. The images and films they produce can change the way people think. Black and white images are still frequently used for all genres, as is studio photography, but today they are mostly about modern youth culture.
Many of their projects are an attempt to decolonize the representation of Africa. They explore the diversity of African cultures and identities, as well as relevant themes such as gender, LBGTQ, sexuality, and socio-economic status. Other relevant themes include borders, diaspora, translocation, deportation and refugees. Humanity, giving a face to the forgotten and silent, politics, victims of oppression, and documenting the truth give African photography strength and power, allowing its citizens to flourish.
Portraiture is always a favorite for these photographers, whether taken inside or outside the studio. Portraits can be formal or informal, but they always capture the style, status, and fashion of the “moment,” continuing the archive of fashion, textiles, clothing, and attitudes. Street clothes and dance moves certainly raise the attitude!
By exploring these subjects and using a variety of innovative techniques, these young African photographers are pushing the boundaries of contemporary photography and creating work that has a global reach. Their work is an inspiring example of African creativity and the impact photography can have on society.
From salvage to inspiration: recycled art as a symbol of African resilience
Contemporary African recycled art is an emerging artistic trend that has captured the attention of art lovers around the world. This innovative art form was born in an African context characterized by significant environmental and economic challenges such as pollution, poverty and overconsumption. African artists transform waste materials into aesthetically pleasing and unique works of art that reflect their culture, worldview, environmental and social concerns. They use reclaimed materials to produce sculptures, installations, photographs, paintings and even clothing.
These artists have an unparalleled talent for finding beauty in everyday objects such as cans, tires, plastic bags, and computer parts, creating artworks with surprising shapes and textures that capture the public’s imagination. Contemporary African recycled art is also a way for artists to raise awareness about important issues such as ecology, environmental protection, social justice and sustainability.
The most talented and influential artists in contemporary African recycled art include El Anatsui, Adeagbo Georges, Clottey Serge Attukwei, Hazoume Romuald, Mbongeni Buthelezi and Gonçalo Mabunda. Each of them has a unique approach to creating art from reclaimed materials and has gained international recognition for their talent and creativity.
By transforming materials found in their environment into works of art, these artists create economic opportunities and encourage recycling and reuse in their communities. Their work is a reminder that art can have an important social function, in addition to being a form of personal and creative expression. Their approach to artwork reflects a broader approach to life, showing how things considered worthless can be transformed into something beautiful and meaningful. Their work inspires the public and contributes to building a more sustainable and equitable world.
Eco-responsible art: street art artists give a second life to recycled materials
Some artists, such as Benon Lutaaya, Mbongeni Buthelezi and Duhirwe Rushemeza, are using recycled materials to create eco-friendly street art.
Benon Lutaaya, a Ugandan artist living in South Africa, uses torn, cut and crumpled paper to create sensitive and unique collages that address social issues such as poverty, immigration and political instability.
Mbongeni Buthelezi, a South African artist, has been collecting plastic containers for over 25 years to use as source materials. He applies layers of melted plastic to canvas to create complex textures and color combinations, sometimes using up to 5,000 pieces of plastic for a single work of art. In his latest exhibition “Sugar Tax,” he specifically uses plastic caps and soda bottles to highlight chronic health issues such as obesity and diabetes that currently plague Africa.
Duhirwe Rushemeza, a Rwandan artist, uses layers of cement glue, concrete, acrylic paint, wood and metal detritus to create her works. This process of assemblage is deliberately left visible to engage her viewers with topical issues such as human displacement, cultural adaptation, and personal and material memories.
By using these recycled materials for their creations, these artists are helping to reduce waste and promote eco-responsible art, while raising awareness of important social and environmental issues.
Street art can also be recycled. Indeed, artists can create artworks from recycled materials such as traffic caps, used tires or objects recovered from the streets. These eco-responsible works of art can be seen as messages about the need to preserve our environment.
Using recycled materials to create contemporary African art is a creative and eco-responsible way for artists to express themselves while raising awareness of environmental issues.
From tradition to innovation: African ceramists reinventing pottery
The art of contemporary African pottery is an art that has evolved over time while retaining its historical depth. Today, there are many ceramic artists working in Africa, each with their own style and technique, contributing to the enrichment of this age-old art.
Magdalene Odundo is one of the most talented ceramic sculptors of her time. Born in Kenya, she trained at the Farnham School of Ceramics in England. She is inspired by the pottery art of Kenya and Nigeria, but also by modern Western art. Her pots are often large in size and are characterized by their organic shapes and polished surfaces. She has exhibited her work in major museums around the world.
Andile Dyalvane is a South African ceramic artist who uses the scarification technique to decorate his pots. This technique consists of incising the surface of the clay with geometric and symbolic patterns. The motifs he uses are inspired by the Xhosa culture, to which he is attached. His works are often unique pieces, both elegant and imposing.
Clive Sithole is a South African potter who has modernized the art of Zulu pottery by adding zoomorphic and anthropological motifs. His pots are works of art in their own right, their beauty residing in the purity of their form. He believes that each pot he creates is unique and has its own story to tell.
The Nala family is a family of South African potters who have passed on their skills from generation to generation. Their finely crafted pieces are made in the Thukela Valley in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Their pots are often decorated with geometric and symbolic designs, which reflect their culture and history.
The Magwaza family also hails from the Tugela River region of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Their technique of drawing with amasumpa is unique and gives their pots an incomparable beauty. They continue to use traditional methods to make their pots, which gives them a special historical depth.
Ranti Bam is an exceptional Nigerian-born ceramist who has pushed the boundaries of earthenware by creating unique sculptural vessels. Her pots are often abstract works, constructed by assembling slabs to create organic forms. She uses slips and stains to give her pots a particular texture and color.
In conclusion, the art of contemporary African pottery is a rich and diverse art form that reflects the history and culture of the African continent.
Contemporary African tapestry: an art in constant evolution
Tapestry is an evolving branch of contemporary African art that uses non-traditional media and modern techniques to convey political, social and cultural messages. Contemporary African artists bring their personal touch to this art form to create unique and original works.
Papa Ibra Tall, a Senegalese artist, uses the traditional technique of hand weaving to create works that represent everyday African life. Algerian artist Rachid Koraichi uses embroidery to convey political and social messages, while South African artist William Kentridge uses animation and printmaking to address history, politics and daily life in South Africa.
Mary Ann Orr, Bev Butkow, Igshaan Adams, Victoria-Idongesit Udondian, Athi-Patra Ruga, Kimathi Mafafo, and Diedrick Brackens are contemporary African artists who also use weaving, embroidery, knitting, and patchwork techniques to create unique works that explore themes such as African wildlife, African history and culture, identity, sexuality, black masculinity, and issues of race and identity.
Using modern techniques and non-traditional media, contemporary African tapestry continues to evolve and develop as an important art form that addresses issues of importance to Africa and the world.
Modern Tapestries from Africa: When Craft Becomes Art
Modern tapestry in Africa is a craft introduced by foreign organizations to help rural societies develop, especially women. The Rorkes Drift and Keiskamma workshops in South Africa have enabled many artisans to become artists in their own right. The tapestries often depict figurative images from folklore, the Bible, or important events. The 120-meter long Keiskamma tapestry tells the story of the Cape Frontier, from the Stone Age of San to the peaceful resolution of the 1994 elections, through the wars and tragedies of the Xhosa people. Keiskamma’s Guernica tapestry, depicting a slower, insidious destruction of society, tells of individual struggle and grief, resilience and courage. Modern tapestries from Africa have become prized pieces of art around the world.
Contemporary tapestry and thread art in Africa: artists explore new forms and techniques
Contemporary tapestry and thread art in Africa are artistic expressions rich in meaning and expression. Artists use traditional materials such as wool and cotton, as well as reused materials to create new forms and processes. South African artists Igshaan Adams, Kimathi Mafafo and Athi Patra Ruga push the boundaries of traditional tapestry and embroidery by working with installation, free-form sculpture, embroidery and painting. Adams is comfortable with 3D work, while Mafafo works with well-balanced female figures, projecting her own beliefs into the strong, beautiful forms she depicts. Athi Patra Ruga uses textiles, video, performance, sculpture, fashion and photography to express her creativity. These artists are at the forefront of tapestry and thread art in Africa, highlighting the importance of these techniques in contemporary African art.
The art of African motifs: an ancient heritage revisited in a modern perspective
Contemporary African pattern is a dynamic and vibrant style of contemporary African art that takes traditional African art and modernizes it. Contemporary African artists use repeated patterns to create works of art and craft that are both visually stimulating and intellectually meaningful. Contemporary African patterns are used in a wide variety of mediums, including painting, sculpture, tapestry and fabric prints.
Artists such as Owusu Ankomah, Atta Kwami, Esther Mahlangu and Victor Ehikhamenor have all incorporated contemporary African motifs into their art. Each artist’s style is unique and reflects their own creative vision. Owusu Ankomah‘s broken patterns, Atta Kwami‘s vibrant color, Esther Mahlangu‘s geometric shapes, and Victor Ehikhamenor‘s abstract figurative forms are all examples of the creative use of contemporary African motifs.
Contemporary African motifs also have deep cultural significance. Adinkra symbols, for example, are often used in contemporary African designs and have important spiritual and philosophical significance to the people of West Africa. By incorporating these symbols into their work, contemporary African artists can help preserve and promote African culture.
In sum, the contemporary African motif is a dynamic and meaningful art style that continues to evolve and inspire artists around the world.
Sokhari Douglas-Camp: the successful integration of African motifs into contemporary sculpture
Sokhari Douglas-Camp, born in 1958 in Nigeria, is a contemporary artist who draws inspiration from the customs and culture of her Kalabari community. Although she currently lives in London, Africa continues to influence her art in significant ways.
Her work focuses on the colorful and imaginative costumes used in masquerades, funerals and festivals in her community. She uses steel as the material of choice for her sculptures, and despite the tough nature of the material, she manages to create sculptures that seem ethereal.
The artist manages to integrate ancient traditions with contemporary technologies to create sculptures that are both powerful and engaging. She manages to combine stature with a degree of playfulness, even when dealing with strong and sometimes inflammatory subjects.
In her figurative sculptures, she often uses cut-out forms that recall traditional African motifs. Particularly notable are the repeated patterns in the women’s dresses, sometimes even as lace. This demonstrates her ability to create intricate details that are difficult to achieve with metal.
In sum, Sokhari Douglas-Camp is a talented contemporary African artist who continues to incorporate African traditions into her work. Her steel sculptures evoke the beauty and emotion of her community’s customs, while using modern techniques to create unique and striking works of art.
Contemporary African architecture: a reinterpretation of traditional motifs
Contemporary African architecture increasingly incorporates traditional motifs, offering a tribute to the cultures and history of the continent. Architects David Adjaye, Francis Kere, Hermann Kamte, and Patrick Dujjaric are examples of African architects incorporating African motifs into their work. David Adjaye’s National African American Museum of History and Culture features metal panel design elements drawn from the metalworking tradition of freed slaves. Francis Kere designed a pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery that is reminiscent of the gathering tree in his home village and is covered with perforated wood patterns reminiscent of boma patterns. Hermann Kamte & Associates built the Lagos Wooden Tower with graphic patterns based on traditional Yoruba culture. Finally, Patrick Dujjaric won the Aga Khan Award for his Franco-Senegalese Cultural Center in Kaolack, which incorporates traditional motifs in a very modern way. These examples show how contemporary African motifs in architecture can create buildings inspired by African history and culture.
Weaving a new narrative: how contemporary African textile artists use materials to highlight the continent’s challenges
Contemporary African textile art is a dynamic and exciting field that continues to evolve and renew itself. Contemporary African artists use textiles and/or found materials to reinvent the historical and traditional in surprising and innovative ways.
These artists engage directly with the materials, making the form of making an integral part of the art and its meaning. Ibrahim Mahama‘s work is a perfect example of this engagement. He uses burlap bags bearing traces of coal and cocoa production in his home country of Ghana to highlight various issues facing his country and the continent. These works also highlight Africa’s role in the exchange of goods and the migration of people.
Many contemporary textile artists contribute to this dynamic and expressive art form. Artists such as Hassan Musa, Abdoulaye Konate, Yinka Shonibare, Victor Ehikhamenor, Billy Zangewa, Lizette Chirrime, Turiya Magadlela, Grace Ndiritu, Anthony Bumhira, Marcellina Akpojotor Oseghale, Siwa Mgoboza, Angela Franklin Faye, Kyle Meyer, Tschabalala Self, and Kwesi Kwarteng, to name a few, challenge stereotypes of the black woman’s body and explore the cultural history of the continent while creating works that address current issues in Africa.
Textile artists who use photography to explore African heritage
Textile artists who use photography are creators who have successfully merged two artistic mediums to create fascinating and unique works. The two artists featured here, Zohra Opuku and Marion Boehm, have both successfully harnessed the cultural richness of textiles to create artworks that tell compelling stories.
Zohra Opuku uses photographs printed on fabrics to explore the connections between dress codes and culture. She embellishes her works with beads, brightly colored threads or lace, creating intricate and sculptural compositions.
Marion Boehm, on the other hand, uses historical photographs to create intricate portraits by gluing various fabrics and other materials to the paper. Boehm’s portraits all have a similar stance, a direct gaze that forces a confrontation with the viewer.
Overall, textile artists using photography have succeeded in creating unique works that celebrate the heritage and culture of textiles while exploring new forms of artistic expression. These works are both beautiful and compelling, and show that creativity can come from the fusion of different art forms.
Textile installation art: an explosion of creativity in Africa
The contemporary African art world celebrates textile installation art, an exciting art form that uses the fluidity and tensile strength of textiles and fabrics to create monumental works of art. Notable artists include El Anatsui, known for his monumental wall sculptures; Peju Alatise, who uses fabrics, ceramics, and metal to create 3-D works with an underlying theme that emphasizes the absence of women; Serge Attukwei Clottey, who uses yellow plastic drums to create large statements; and Nnenna Okore, who creates abstract forms with ecological materials from nature. The art of textile installation creates strikingly beautiful and original works of art that impact one’s sensibilities.
African textile sculptures that challenge our relationship to tradition
African textile artists are reinventing sculpture by creating sculptural or 3D works that bring a new dimension to traditional art. They use weaving, embroidery and dyeing techniques to bring three-dimensional sculptures to life, creating works that break away from flat, functional objects. Some notable artists include El Anatsui, Sanaa Gateja, Yinka Shonibare, Olanrewaju Tejuoso, Nnenna Okore, Nicholas Hlobo, Georgina Maxim, Victoria Udondian, Ibrahim Mahama and Troy Makaza. Their work often relates to African identity, history and tradition, and their use of recycled materials emphasizes the importance of sustainability and the environment. Overall, these artists are pushing the boundaries of sculpture and creating meaningful works that speak to the importance of culture and history.
El Anatsui, born in Ghana in 1944, is considered one of the pioneers of this art movement. He is known for his large-scale draperies of metallic fabrics made from salvaged materials such as plastic bottles and bottle caps. These works often hang from walls or ceilings, creating a sense of movement and fluidity.
Sanaa Gateja, born in Uganda, is an artist who uses traditional African textiles, such as Kitenge, to create contemporary artworks. She creates fabric and thread installations, which are often inspired by Ugandan culture. She also works with recycled materials, such as plastic bags, to create large-scale sculptures.
Yinka Shonibare, born in the United Kingdom in 1962, is an artist who uses African printed textiles in his artwork. His sculptures, which are often large-scale, are dressed in bright, colorful fabrics. Shonibare‘s works are often loaded with social and political significance, exploring themes such as colonization and post-colonization.
Olanrewaju Tejuoso, born in Nigeria in 1974, is an artist who creates large-scale installations using textiles and reclaimed materials. His works are often designed to be experimental and interactive, encouraging viewers to actively participate in the experience.
Nnenna Okore, born in Australia and raised in Nigeria, uses weaving and knotting techniques to create organic textile sculptures. Her work is often inspired by nature and organic forms, and uses natural materials such as plant fibers.
Nicholas Hlobo, born in South Africa in 1975, creates large-scale textile sculptures using traditional materials such as leather and rubber. His work often relates to identity and sexuality, and uses patterns and forms that are both sensual and enigmatic.
Georgina Maxim, born in Zimbabwe in 1980, creates textile sculptures that are often inspired by the culture and history of her home country. Her work is often abstract and geometric, using patterns and bright colors to create vibrant and dynamic works of art.
Victoria Udondian, a Nigerian artist born in 1982, uses recycled clothing to create sculptures that explore themes of identity, memory and cultural heritage. Her pieces are often presented as installations that encourage viewers to reflect on their own relationship to history and tradition.
Ibrahim Mahama, a Ghanaian artist born in 1987, uses recycled burlap bags to create monumental installations that explore themes of the global economy, migration and globalization. His pieces are often presented in public spaces, creating a direct interaction with viewers.
Troy Makaza, a Zimbabwean artist born in 1994, uses materials such as thread, paper and fabric to create three-dimensional sculptures that explore themes of tradition, spirituality and African culture. His pieces are often presented as installations that invite viewers to reflect on their own relationship to their cultural heritage.
Overall, these African artists demonstrate how textiles can be used to create three-dimensional sculptures that are both beautiful and meaningful. In this way, they are helping to bring multiple dimensions to contemporary African art and their work is a testament to the importance of culture and history, and how artists can use their creativity to explore these themes in new and surprising ways.