The term ‘African Art’ is quite a broad one, as it encompasses work over a plethora of styles reaching from hundreds, even thousands of years ago right up to the modern day. The continent’s art scene is intricate and varied, yet when you say ‘African art’ or ‘African sculpture’ many people instinctively associate the traditional masks, animal and tribal pieces, as depicted in mainstream media and entertainment. However, modern contemporary African art can be quite different. There are swathes of exciting and radical contemporary artists working across the continent today. Here is a mere snapshot at some of those exciting artists working out of the continent today…
This artist specialises in African sculpture and African wall art. Originally from Nigeria, this artist relies on humour and lightness to bring her artwork to life. She believes that African art is still often burdened by it’s need to comment on the difficult social, political and economic landscape of the continent. She manages to deal with heavy subjects within her work, and attributes her ability to laugh at these issues through her work to her Nigerian heritage.
Also from Nigeria, Okore’s medium is to create abstract African sculptures from textural materials. The textural materials that she uses are predominantly natural, and she is particularly interested in materials that are particularly susceptible to decay. Her main subjects are decay, death and age, so her choice of materials are no surprise. Here is what she has to say about her work… “My works that are beginning to speak about age and the process of decay were triggered by gaining a better understanding of the materials that I use — old rope, sticks, paper, tend to break down over time. I’ve been really enamoured by how at the beginning of creating my work, two years later, they change and transform in themselves and become a really different body of work.”
Cheri originated from the Democratic Republic of Congo and African painting is his medium. In days gone by he was a billboard artist and a comic strip illustrator, but these days is more interested in more journalistic and commentary based pieces. His main aim is to represent truth in his work, using humour to tackle important questions. He uses the mundanity of the every-day as his inspiration. In his words, “As long as the world is the world, and writers have stories to tell, I will have something to say.”
Anatsui is Ghana born and bred, and uses found objects to create innovative African sculpture. He sources his recycled materials from within the community, making his work community owned and community focussed. This being said, he tackles universal issues within his work, and so creates pieces that are both universal and deeply personal. A few words from the artist, “Each bottle-top returning as an object of contemplation has the capacity to reveal to us a more profound understanding of life than it ever did as a stopper.”