Africa and its diaspora: convergences

It’s not that easy to put a finger on the relationship between African artists and those from the African diaspora. In a globalised world in which African centres are increasingly dynamic, couldn’t it be said that we are currently witnessing a convergence of forms and sources of inspiration? When referring to African artistic creation, Sudanese painter Ibrahim el-Salahi – who, along with Ahmed Shibrain and Kamala Ishag, founded the Khartoum School – uses the image of the tree. A tree has roots, a trunk and branches. And in his view, many artists from Africa or the African diaspora experiment with global issues and forms (branches), but also feel the need to bear in mind where they come from and relate their work to their origins (roots)… Defining “contemporary African art” and distinguishing it from (or likening it to) that of the continent’s diaspora potentially opens up a can of worms. The risk is to oversimplify it, or else to put everything into the one box. “We can only use this expression if we don’t claim that there’s only one way to make art, and if we avoid speaking about African art and African identity in the singular,” explains Rocco Orlacchio, director of the Voice Gallery, in Marrakech, which he founded in 2011 and whose objective is to stifle the resurgence of orientalist tendencies. According to curator Marie-Ann Yemsi, who headed up the 11th edition of the Bamako Encounters, “one of the major issues today is to de-exoticise gazes, to debunk misconceptions and unravel them in order to show Africa as it is. Stripped of fantasies.” Indeed, Africa comprises 54 countries and a wide range of increasingly numerous artistic centres, historically Niger, Senegal, Morocco and South Africa. And beyond the generalities that gloss over reality, the question of origins is also...

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Africa Guest of Honor at Art Paris Art Fair

Guillaume Piens explains the purpose of the fair: “Displaying the works that have never been shown in Paris.” After focusing on South Korea in 2016, this year the fair offers an eclectic selection of 21 galleries, featuring African artists. Among them, 14 galleries are based in Africa and 7 are based in Europe, presenting a group of artists from both North and Sub-Saharan Africa as diasporas. The focus on Africa is placed in a rich array of events, including the multi-disciplinary “100% Afrique Festival” at La Villette, “L’Afrique des Routes” at the Musée du Quai Branly and the upcoming Louis Vuitton Foundation exhibition, which will present the collection of Jean Pigozzi, included nearly 10,000 works discovered largely by André Magnin, who is also present at the show. While there is a new trend turning to the West and North America in the Western art market, it is important to remember that it took years before it is possible. London’s niche art fair 1:54 makes France seem behind in the race of art fairs; however, the different variety of African galleries offered in Art Paris Art Fair allow us to catch up the race. Marie-Ann Yemsi, who piloted the African focus of the fair is delighted by her enthusiasm, while tempering it. “Rather than talking about fashion, I think it’s more about catching up. We were lagging behind compared to other European countries, like Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom … not to mention the United States.” Guillaume Piens and Marie-Ann Yemsi preferred to mix the African galleries with the other participants at the fair, rather than segregate the galleries based on their locations. The Best-known Signatures Among the 21 galleries that feature African artists, some have chosen to showcase the most renowned artists. For an example, André Magnin offers visitors the...

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Art Paris Art Fair shows African video art

As video and film art emerges as an increasingly relevant aspect of contemporary African art, two video rooms — one is curated by the cultural consultant and independent exhibition curator Marie-Ann Yemsi —, pay particular attention to animated and experimental films, which invite their guests to stay and rest for a while. Creating a seemingly safe atmosphere within the huge hall of the Grand Palais, 11 young African artists are taking the visitors on an unknown trip through Landscapes of the Body, depicting different aspects and movements of human bodies, which are the fundamental subject of the artists’ questioning and means of expressing their art. The short films confront the public with social and political issues, focusing on perceptions of race and culture. These critical terms are even distinctively staged by the space itself as entering the black boxes floods the dark space with white rays of light for a fleeting moment and creates an additional subtle interaction. With To Move Mountains (2016) Mohau Modisakeng sets a strong focus on the problematic and violent topic of apartheid. His scenes evoke a subliminal but still very powerful impression of the awkward cultural relationship our society is still facing today. The video is literally pulling the audience into the intense world of Modisakeng’s video art until one becomes part of the fading and thrilling effects the artist is playing with. Most striking is the thought-provoking game of black and white, which is undeniably related to race and skin colour. This underlying criticism is further provoked by Moussa Sarr in his caustic 1 minute video J’accuse (2012). Activating unpleasant stereotypes of racial, sexual and social prejudices, this sudden interruption of till then unhasty scenes fills the black box with a strange and uncomfortable feeling of guilt. But one escapes this exertion immediately in the following work...

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Art Paris Art Fair turns to Africa

The next edition of Art Paris Art Fair, scheduled for 30 March to 2 April 2017 (opening on 29 March), will be focusing on Africa. Loyal to its desire to discover and present foreign scenes, Art Paris Art Fair will be honouring the African continent in 2017. Curating this focus will be Marie-Ann Yemsi, cultural consultant and independent exhibition curator. Her last exhibition, “Odyssées Africaines”, at Le Brass in Brussels in 2015, matched history with our present through the works of African artists who are not so well known in Europe. The fair will seek to reveal the richness and diversity of Africa, representing artists from the continent but also its diaspora. Stands will be spread out throughout the fair and not grouped in one sector as was the case this year. Parallel to the fair, a symposium, a video programme and special projects will be presented to show a wide panorama of African creation. Art Paris Art Fair will also be placing an accent on emerging creation and young galleries, through the “Promises” sector that will be gathering twelve galleries. Digital creation will also be...

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The Contemporary African Art Fair 1:54 unveils its list of exhibitors

For its second year in America, the fair 1:54 will be taking place in New York. It will be gathering 70 galleries, 25 countries, and a selection of works by sixty or so artists including Derrick Adam, Joël Andrianomearisoa, Edson Chagas, William Kentridge, Otobong Nkanga and Billie Zangewa. The fair will be opening at the Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn from 6 to 8 May. The countries represented include Angola, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. Fair director Touria El Glaoui said the following: “The energy, interest, and overall success of the inaugural US fair in 2015 has led us to return this May in hopes of broadening our reach and expanding the art world’s knowledge of Africa and the ever-evolving African art...

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