DIPTYK 'What does African contemporary art think?'



What does African contemporary art think?

By Marie Moignard POSTED 11 March 2019

Translated from French using Google Translate


The art of the continent and its diaspora is crossed by themes that sometimes turn to obsession. Overview through the 6 frenzies of the moment ...


Another vision of the feminine
"Woman is the future of man", wrote Aragon. It is also considered as the future of the African continent. No more clichés of the housewife or eroticized to excess. New York artist Mickalene Thomas (Galerie Nathalie Obadia) drew inspiration from her own mother's charisma, in a very up-to-date approach to empowerment, to celebrate a new vision of African-American women: powerful and liberated. Mickalene Thomas revisits the female portrait by confronting Ingres, Matisse or Manet to better question the representation of the black woman through the ages. Ivorian Joana Choumali (Loft Art Gallery) revisits the embroidery to make it a medium of expression of thought. Ethereal, his latest series Alba'hian is a roadmap of his morning walks through Abidjan. Transposing a feminine craft practice to a form of meditation, Choumali superimposes photographs, threads and fabrics to better represent the multiple layers of her reflection and inner journey.


Houston Maludi, Welcome to Gondwana, 2017, ink on canvas, 100 x 100 cm


(Re) present the black body
The body in Africa is a permanent area of ​​claim. In this crucial issue of representing oneself, to include the black body is, among other things, to combat the exotic clichés resulting from colonialism. Raising the afro hairstyle as a work of art, JD 'Okhai Ojeikere (Yossi Milo Gallery) has since the 1960s made more than 1,000 shots that draw an almost abstract typology of the art of braiding and adornment in Nigeria. The photographer died in 2014 and has become a kind of artist-ethnologist of his own culture. The recent work of Angolan Januario Jano(Primo Marella Gallery) mixes textiles and photography in a series of uncomplicated staging where the unexcited body reclaims the ritual practices of ambundu culture. In Africa as elsewhere, the portrayal of sexual identity is a crucial topic for the LGBT community. With Interwoven , the American Kyle Meyer (Yossi Milo Gallery) made poignant portraits of gay men from Swaziland. Braiding paper slivers and textiles of the region, it delivers their faces only filigree, a metaphor for their low visibility on the continent.


Yéanzi, The dangoros says the AU, series The Oilers, 2017, mixed media, 248 x 298 cm


Redesigning the city
The energy of African cities is a constant source of inspiration for contemporary art on the continent. Epicenter of the access to the modernity, as much as of anarchic development, in painting it is found transcended. Renewing the tradition of Congolese painting, Houston Maludi (MAGNIN-A) draws mental maps showing another face of Kinshasa. With his inimitable style, which he calls himself "monochromic cubism symbiotic quantum" , he is inspired by Braque and Picasso to represent all the facets of this bubbling metropolis. The Senegalese Douts (LouiSimone Guirandou Gallery) restores, as for him, the disorder of Dakar in quasi abstract compositions where the bright colors intermingle upside down.


Ahmed Kamel, Untitled (Amen series), 2018, cut-out, 21 x 29.7 cm (3 separate works)



Preserving the earth
While the African continent is growing at a blazing speed, nature is taking a hit. To talk about ecology or the future of humanity, exit the everlasting recycling of materials associated with African art. A pioneer of digital art in Senegal, Piniang (LouiSimone Guirandou Gallery) merges materials to reflect on evolution and the environment. Another surprising example, the Oil of Yéanzi  (Cécile Fakhoury Gallery) is a series of paintings "without painting" where the artist portraiture figures of his neighborhood by projecting molten plastic on the fabric. Concerned by the excesses of globalization, the Nigerian Otobong Nkanga(In Situ - fabienne leclerc) is interested in the commodification of raw materials and their routing between Africa and the West. His metonymic works question the future of natural resources.


Kyle Meyer, Unidentified 119, 2018, approx. 230 x 150 cm



Taming the media image
What are our new mythologies? In a continent submerged by the surge of information, where the transmission by orality today has to deal with digital communication, we do not know where to turn. African artists and the diaspora dig the furrow of this confusion, inevitably political, Mounir Fatmi(Goodman Gallery) in mind. With The Visible Side of the King , the artist brings to life this collective myth of the appearance of the future king Mohammed V's face in the moon during the struggle for independence in Morocco. Influenced by the stories of his childhood in Sidi Bouzid, the Tunisian Slimen El Kamel (Sulger-Buel Gallery) develops a new pictorial narration with endless interpretation, mixing folk tales and virtual reality. In her recent work, Morocco's Safaa Erruas (L'Atelier 21) questions the power of language in a society of overworked political and media discourse. She cuts, suture, sometimes burns these words to better signify their fragility.


Post-colonialism ... and after? 
Postcolonial studies permeate the reflection of the continent and its diaspora since independence. The dean of this artistic and intellectual movement, the South African William Kentridge (Goodman Gallery) explores the common history of Europe and Africa. In his latest series of multimedia performances and drawings, The Head & the Load , he pays tribute to the 2 million African soldiers who fought in the European ranks during the First World War. The Egyptian Ahmed Kamel (Katharina Maria Raab) questions in a more abstract way, by geometric signs, the power as a means of alteration of our individual perceptions. Marcia Kure(Officine dell'Immagine) prefers aggregation to confrontation. The Nigerian artist uses collage to assemble fragments of our African and Western societies, combining masks, fashion photos and even toys for children.


By Marie Moignard


Safaa Erruas, The Word, 2018, metal wires and paper cut, 40 x 60 cm


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March 11, 2019
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