Contemporary African Artists you should know


* Part 1

Africa’s contemporary art scene is characterised by a myriad of remarkable artists who have paved the way for the next generation, and a fast-growing number of promising young artists. Using their artwork to interpret and portray Africa’s socio-economic realities, political challenges, rich traditions and diverse beauty, many African artists go beyond aesthetics, and dive deep into concept. These leading and emerging artists continue to influence the evolution of contemporary art in Africa.

Meschac Gaba, Benin (b. 1961)

Meschac Gaba is perhaps best known for his Museum of Contemporary African Art, a travelling exhibition inaugurated at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in 1997. Created in the form of a nomadic museum, Gaba’s extraordinary project consisted of 12 exhibition rooms set up in various European art institutions over a period of five years in an ingenuous attempt to create a space for African art. In 2013, the Tate Modern purchased and showcased Gaba’s entire ‘museum’. With a natural talent for expressing his ideas through the visual arts, Gaba’s museum depicted subjects from fashion in the Summer Collection Room and food in the Museum Restaurant, to excessive overproduction of food in the Draft Room. Employing local craftsmanship with a European flair, Gaba’s works vary from paintings and ceramics to installations using a range of materials such as paint, plywood, plaster, stones and decommissioned bank notes.

Tracey Rose, South Africa (b.1974)

Born in Durban and currently residing in Johannesburg, Tracey Rose is an established contemporary multimedia artist and outspoken feminist, best known for her bold provocative narrative-less performances, video installations and photography. Evident in her artwork, Rose confronts the politics of identity, including sexual, body, racial and gender issues. Rose’s themes often convey her multicultural ancestry and experience of growing up as a mixed-race person in South Africa. She skillfully combines popular culture with notions of sociology to evoke powerful emotions and illustrate the disparities of South Africa’s political and social landscape. Rose has held solo exhibitions in South Africa as well as in Europe and America and has participated in a number of international events, including the Venice Biennale.

Kudzanai Chiurai, Zimbabwe (b.1981)

Kudzanai Chiurai, the first black recipient of a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Pretoria, has become an important figure in African art. Chiurai uses dramatic multimedia compositions to confront the most pressing issues in the southern African region, from government corruption, conflict and violence to xenophobia and displacement. Based in Johannesburg, Chiurai’s work is brutally honest, challenging the status quo and African governments through a mixture of digital photography, editing and printing, painting, and, more recently, film. His latest work entitled ‘This is not Africa, this is us’ was a three-part exhibition involving video installation taking place in Rotterdam and The Hague until March 29, 2014.

Nástio Mosquito, Angola (b.1981)

A multimedia and performance artist working across music, videos, spoken word and a capella (singing without instrumental sound), Nástio Mosquito flirts with African stereotypes in western contexts. Often portraying himself as the central figure of his art, Mosquito’s work makes powerful political and social statements, slightly discomforting at a first glance, but stimulating meaningful reflection. Past exhibitions include the ‘9 Artists’ exhibition (2013) at the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis, and ‘Across the Board: Politics of Represention’ at the Tate Modern in London in 2012. In a recent work, Mosquito declared, “I do represent, if you are willing, the army of the individuals” in line with his belief in producing artwork not in isolation, but involving the community at large. – Excerpted from The Culture Trip

September 2014
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