NewsInternationalContemporary African art goes on display at London fair


Contemporary African art goes on display at London fair

By Reuters

05102018LondonA series of three trees greet visitors arriving at the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in central London.

The annual exhibition is dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and in the Diaspora giving galleries and artists a chance to display their works.

The trees in ascending height titled "Meditation Tree" are the works of Sudanese painter turned sculptor, Ibrahim El-Salahi, one of the founders of modern art in Africa.

The exhibition which started in 2013 holds annual editions in London, New York and Marrakech.

Over 40 galleries will participate in this year's edition, with works from 130 artists displayed.

Ghanaian writer Ekow Eshun will curate a series of talks at the exhibition.

He took time to view other works at the show including the "meditation tree".

"This is one way to experience art contemplation, meditation, quiet looking and thinking. I think it's an important way. Equally I think one of the exciting things about how we think about art is you can think about art in a number of different ways so some works in the art fair are more hectic, more frenetic, demand a different level of engagement. But I think what is pleasurable to me here is that with this piece for instance, all it requires of you to do is to look, is to stand is to be yourself," said Eshun.

Somerset House is a labyrinth of rooms off corridors and staircases which lead to surprising works that suddenly appear around a corner - or at the bottom of a flight of stairs.

This display by Congolese artist Gastineau Massamba stretches over 10 feet and is all hand-worked by the artist, with his name hidden in the weave.

In another part of Somerset House another Ghanaian Atta Kwame is showing his work. "Post Diagonal Lintel" a new series including wooden constructions, which was inspired by thoughts of borders, edges and territory.

Kwame says his work has an indirect connection and unintended link with the work of Ibrahim al Salehi through the natural world.

"This cut-out is entitled "Azaria". Somehow this word also rings a bell with a famous painter Ibrahim El-Salahi whose work deals with the Azaria tree. It's a tree that has its own ways and it's stubborn. It's about identity; I want to be me in the dry season. I can see these trees in the courtyard. It's just a coincidence that we have this similarity of imagery and a painter turning to sculpture or three dimension and to openness which is what we need today," said Kwame.

Dooesn't shy away from controversial issues

Another established artist Yinka Shonibare is showing new works that look like costumes worn by graceful African dancers who almost float.

South Africa's Athi-Patra Ruga is among artists creating myths and alternative realities.

He is holding the largest solo exhibition in this year's 1-54 titled "Of Gods, Rainbows and Omission".

"I would say it is with the title of gods, with gods I want to create new gods, gods that are not part of institutional knowledge. The women, the gays, the trans. People that have always been somehow sidelined from art, academia and pop culture even, and from that onwards I get strength of sorts," he said.

Based in Cape Town, Ruga symbolizes a young generation of South African artists who don't shy away from exploring controversial issues.

"I think the word flamboyant is nice because I'm a performance artist and most of the work you see here revolves around my body recreating the private and making it the public. So flamboyant is a way in which I actually, it's a manner in which I deliver everything from tapestry to performances to the video which is making a noise next door to all of that," he said.


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