Archive for May, 2010

Africa in the Picture X
May 30, 2010

On the heels of his major mid-career survey ( if you’ve not seen the traveling exhibition in Sydney, the Brooklyn Museum nor the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in DC, buy the catalogue) Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE has just unveiled Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, in London’s Trafalgar Square. Utilizing actual sailcloth, the artist hand painted prints of his design to mimic the Dutch wax “African” prints he is known for using in his works. See the Guardian’s slide show for a look at the process.

In the hands of Julien Sinzogan, high-flying sails of jubilant color commemorate not multiculturalism in the new world, but rather an armada of spirit in a powerful journey home.

Sinzogan’s work offers a message of potential redemption and healing. The ships in his images are not the gruesome carriers of the Middle Passage, but otherworldly vessels, bedecked with Egungun masquerade costumes, and peopled with spirits, diviners and ancestral ghosts. His works explore the relationship between the visible human world and the invisible spirit world, and the voyage between these realms that lies at the heart of religious practice across much of the Atlantic world.  -October Gallery

The artist’s birthplace, the Republic of Benin, was during the Middle Passage, one of the largest slave trading ports on the West African coast.  Julien Sinzogan II, 2008 (Colored inks on paper) represents this powerful mass spirit journey home.  A special commission was made for the exhibition Uncomfortable Truth: the shadow of slave trading on contemporary art and design at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in 2007.

Though Tunisian born Azzedine Alaïa began his studies in sculpture, he has become an icon in the world of fashion, a favorite of our First Lady and was awarded entry into France’s Legion of Honor in 2008. His hand-stitched, high-heeled wedges are to-die-for …  Yaounde, Cameroon-born, Paris-raised Serge Mouangue now resides in Tokyo, where he melds elements of his African heritage with influences from Japanese culture. The multi-talented artist has embraced interior, industrial and now fashion design, with his Wafrica line of traditional Japanese kimonos and obi sashes constructed in African fabric.

Carved from a single piece of ivory, this 16th century Yoruba armlet is a marvel of dexterity. It is one of the extraordinary items in the Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection at the Smithsonian … Boston’s Hamill Gallery of Tribal Art carries among other well-curated items, a selection of Bamana hunter’s shirts from Mali.  Embellished with talismans, they cloak hunters with spiritual armor and protection in the forest.

Artist and furniture designer Cheryl R. Riley’s gorgeous Elevation Mirror I, 2000 is similarly shamanistic, the frame made of Honduran mahogany and adorned with brass tacks, found and hand-made objects.  Though the piece commemorates an American Southwest journey, it has a deeply African resonance and was chosen for inclusion in the forthcoming Global Africa Project, at The Museum of Art and Design at Columbus Circle, November 16, 2010 – May 16, 2011.  Including the work of over 60 artists worldwide, “the exhibition actively challenges conventional notions of a singular African aesthetic or identity.”

Vienna-based Zimbabwean artist Tapfuma Gutsa uses a range a natural materials to create works imbued with shamanistic power.  His The Crook, 2002, of Serpentine, kudu and cowhorn was featured in an October Gallery solo exhibition, Voyages: Crossing the Lake of Fire.

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Africa in the Picture IX
May 29, 2010

The Memorial Day weekend in Brooklyn becomes a family reunion of sorts with BAM’s longest-running program, DanceAfrica, “a vibrant celebration of Africa and the diaspora through dance, art, film, and an outdoor bazaar.” Check the calendar for the various goings-on, but if you can squeeze it in today, grab the kids and go to see Azur and Asmar, from Michel Ocelot, the director of the delightful Kirikou and the Sorceress (a personal favorite). Set in North Africa, it tells the tale of two boys, white and black, raised side-by-side and their subsequent rivalry as young adults.

This is the Tree, a poetic story about the baobab tree and the wildlife of the African savannah is one of many multicultural books offered at Nairobi’s Knapsack, a delightful Toy and Play Gallery in Crown Heights … On exhibit through July 9 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art is the wonderful Artful Animals, displaying animals both real and mythic as represented in the arts of Africa. With an emphasis on interactivity, the exhibition is decidedly child-friendly.  Even the online exhibition is designed to engage the kids. Here the gomtogo of the Dogon people begs the question, “what is it?”

A representation of three animals, the antelope, the aardvark and the pangolin, the mythic Chi Wara of the Bamana people of Mali has become one the most identifiably African silhouettes.  When commissioned to create a sculpture to commemorate the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan, artist and educator Dr. Lorenzo Pace drew inspiration from the Chi Wara, the Malian “champion of agriculture.”  Soaring 6 feet above Foley Square, the resulting 300 ton black granite monument, the largest outdoor sculpture dedicated to Africans and the African-American community bears noble tribute to those stolen from their African homelands whose unpaid labor was instrumental in creating the United States as a superpower.  Poignantly entombed at the base of the sculpture is a replica of the lock which shackled his great, great-grandfather, Steve Pace.  The original lock –seen here —  remains in the family after having been passed down through the generations and is the inspiration for Dr. Pace’s acclaimed children’s book, Jalani and the Lock.  The book has been “performed” around the world, most recently in France and will be presented in Lima, Peru in conjunction with an explanation of Dr. Pace’s work.

Standing sentry before the Nigeria House, Zuma, by sculptor and designer Billy Omabegho is another treat of African-inspired public sculpture in Manhattan to share with the family this Spring …  Though I missed it during its series run on HBO, I snapped up The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency on DVD and was enchanted by the world of the optimistic Precious Ramotswe (Jill Scott) her good-hearted but tightly wound secretary, Grace Makutsi (Anika Noni Rose) her endearingly shy gentleman caller, JLB Matekoni (Lucian Msamati) and her fellow entrepreneur, the flamboyant BK (Desmond Dube.)  Based on the highly successful series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith, the series is a refreshingly charming look at the sweetly comic adventures of this Kgale community.  Though grave subjects are interspersed (the AIDS crisis, for one) the episodes are devoid of the heaviness depicted in most Western tales of African life.  I am sorry that the series, the first shot entirely on location in Botswana, wasn’t picked up for subsequent seasons.

The Kenyan coastline was once tragically littered with garbage and untold discarded rubber flip-flops.  By gathering these cast-offs and repurposing them as works of art, toys and accessories, UniquEco, is clearing the waste while creating jobs and practical merchandise.  The website offers a veritable menagerie of colorful indigenous African animal toys from rhinos to hippos, graceful gazelles to the giraffe seen here.

In Powder Necklace, the debut young adult novel by the lovely Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, Londoner Lila is sent away to boarding school in Ghana in an honestly crafted tale of identity and belonging.  Author Eisa Ulen provides a spot-on review in the Defenders Online.

Africa in the Picture VIII
May 27, 2010

Aside from the coming of “the Cup,” I’ve had South Africa on the brain, with Miriam Makeba on heavy rotation. I’ve been listening to Mama Afrika of late with my own mama, whose taste tends to skew toward Rachmaninoff, but whenever I put on Pata Pata, she seems to go to her happy place.

Inspired by the boldly colorful paintings and beautiful stacked jewelry of the Ndebele, comes this fierce Christian Louboutin sandal … Black Rock evangelist Rob Fields hipped me to the South African band BLK JKS back in 2008 via a listening post on his blog, Bold as Love.  Their latest, Zol! drops June 8th and is available for pre-order on their site … Ndebele artist Esther Mahlangu has exhibited widely and is collected the world over.  Her Security is a Moving Target, 2006 is an indictment of Apartheid rule, with its traditional Ndebele painting  on a vintage scale model of Apartheid-era armored personnel tank.  She was, in 1991, the first female artist to paint a BMW art car.

New York designer Montgomery Harris was invited to South Africa last year to participate in workshops in conjunction with Cape Town Fashion Week.  Sharing her expertise with local artisans and craftspeople, she received as good as she gave,  coming back to the states inspired by her journey and presenting some of the works of the South African artists in her Harlem boutique … Design Indaba is more than a magazine, but a movement fashioning “a better world through creativity.”  Think TED for the world of design.

This Zulu beaded apron, circa 1940’s Nongoma region is part of the vast collection of artifacts at Galerie Ezakwantu (“things from the house of the people”) in Franschoek, South Africa …  African-American/Nigerian Artist Kehinde Wiley’s Legends of Unity, commissioned by Puma in honor of the World Cup’s first appearance on African soil in Soweto, features three prominent African Footballers,  Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o, Ivorian Emmanuel Eboué and Ghanaian John Mensah.  See the video below for the project’s genesis.

Adidas too has gotten in on the collab effort, joining forces with Cape Flats, Cape Town designer Craig Native to produce this World Cup nod under his label, Native Clothing … Photographed by Karina Lidia, handsome Ivorian footballer, Salomon Kalou is featured in the African Arenas issue of More Human magazine.

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Enjoy the Cup!

Africa in the Picture VII
May 26, 2010

Considering our ravaged earth…

Vintage travel posters make for wonderful home decor.  Salvaging discarded materials, London-based textile/jewelry designer Anita Quansah creates showstopping, earth-friendly pieces such as the “Nava” …  A fabulous trench of vintage fabric, pattern play and bold accessories from Duro Olowu for Spring. (photo from Elle.com)

Taking its name from the Swahili “shed light on Africa,” Angaza Afrika: African Art Now is a wonderful compendium illuminating the world of contemporary African Art on the continent and its diaspora featuring such artists as El Anatsui of Ghana, whose hammered bottle caps are woven together to create magical dripping wall sculptures.

Performance artist and textile sculptor Nick Cave is best known for his Soundsuits found materials (one of which is a recent acquisition of the Brooklyn Museum on view on the 4th floor until January 2012) Click for more on the incredible exhibition Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth at UCLA’s Fowler Museum through May 30th.

…the largest presentation of work by Chicago-based artist Nick Cave, featuring thirty-five of his Soundsuits—multi-layered, mixed-media sculptures named for the sounds made when the “suits” are worn. Reminiscent of African, Caribbean and other ceremonial ensembles as well as of haute couture, Cave’s work explores issues of transformation, ritual, myth and identity. His virtuosic constructions incorporate yarn, sequins, bottle caps, vintage toys, rusted iron sticks, hair, and more. Mad, humorous, visionary, glamorous and unexpected, the Soundsuits are created from scavenged ordinary materials that Cave re-contextualizes into extraordinary works of art. – The Fowler Museum

Brooklyn-based Mar y Sol (formerly known as Mad Imports) partners with artisans in Madagascar and Kenya to create handmade accessories handbags in renewable materials. The clutch shown here is a zebra-striped variation on the popular style “Opal” and designed exclusively for Brooklyn boutique, Epaulet … Somali Canadian hip-hop artist K’naan whose popular”Wavin’ Flag” is the anthem for this year’s World Cup created a charity version with Young Artists for Haiti to benefit to Haitian earthquake relief. (Photo: Akram.)

Visionary artist Xenobia Bailey is examining new ways to reduce waste by seeing the potential for beauty in refuse and putting her funky alchemist’s touch on those things we regularly discard.  See her zero-waste puppet theater, eco-chic wedding adornments and more on her blog (Photo: Jeffrey Machtig courtesy of John Michael Art Center 2009) … El Anatsui, mentioned above, showed early this year at Jack Shainman in his wonderful second solo exhibition at the gallery.  A hardbound catalogue is available.

Africa in the Picture VI
May 22, 2010

On a rainy day in 2007, Femi Kuti and his band rocked Central Park Summerstage to an undeterred, packed audience.  The rain eventually subsided, and like his father before him, gave a rousing performance jamming for nearly three hours.  Nigerian photographer/cinematographer Henry Adebonojo struck by the resemblance of Femi to his late, great father Fela Kuti captured this moment (check out my WordPress stablemate Henry’s new blog, Fewer Words)  … In Pieter Hugo’s 2006 portrait, Morris Toe of Monrovia, Liberia shows a stoic maturity which belies his youth.

Though York’s Shona Gallery specializes in Shona works from Zimbabwe, they offer an assortment of African artifacts from throughout the continent, such as the Ivorian Colonial figure shown here … The prevailing African influence in fashion is evident in the towering pump from Dries Van Noten … Kudos to one of my favorite magazines, Arise, on their recent award as Magazine Launch of the Year for 2009 by the Association of Publishing Agencies. So well deserved, covering “fashion. music. culture. polity.” of African and African descended people, the London-based publication is tight. The content and art direction are strong and the mag is printed on sturdy paper stock to best showcase the striking photography.

I just had to show some love for my Senufo stool from Côte d’Ivoire.  Such a clean, simple form carved from a single block of wood. Such an adaptable piece of furniture/art … Having spent several years collecting textiles during travels to Kenya, Max Osterweis launched SUNO in 2008.  Designed in New York, the garments are created in Kenyan fabrics by Kenyan artisans paid a fair wage.

One of nearly ninety African garments acquired by The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this 19th century cowrie-embellished Kuba cloth garment, feels very modern …  Evoking the  Côte d’Ivoire of her 1970’s childhood,  Marguerite Abouet’s Aya of Yop City series of graphic novels chronicles the often comical goings-on of level-headed, studious teen, Aya and her friends and family.  The lively illustrations by Clément Oubrerie bring the characters of Yopougon “Yop City” to life.  Though three English-language editions have been published thus far, the series, written in French is now up to book five.

Bayetou, the Kuba-inspired recumbent chair by Bibi Seck and Ayse Birse was one the highlights of M’Afrique, the show curated by African American product designer Stephen Burks for Moroso Italy …  Brooklyn born Maya A. Lake’s Boxing Kitten line of “ethnic rockabilly” dresses and separates gained widespread exposure when Alicia Keys and Beyonce wore some pieces in the “Put It In a Love Song” video.  Other celeb fans include Erykah Badu, Fergie and choreographer Fatima Robinson. Here, music video director Melina Matsoukas wears the Carmen top and Kitt shorts.

Africa in the Picture V
May 19, 2010

From the collection of Chris Parsley, a hand painted Ghanaian barber shop sign.  Check out the website of Philadelphia’s Indigo Arts Gallery for their extensive collection, Bon Coiffeur: Barber Signs from West Africa, for signage from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali and Togo … One of the images from Chris Ofili’s Afro Muses 1995-2005, from the 2005 exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem.  It was wonderful to walk into the main gallery and be enveloped by nearly 200 of these watercolors.

I recently stumbled upon this illustration by Philly-based graphic designer and illustrator, Andrea Pippins on her fantastic blog, Fly and thought concurrently of Ofili’s muses and a snapshot I took of Trini designer Charlene Sheppard-Duncan at a festival last year.

Darkroom, the fab-u-lous new concept store in London is celebrating its first summer with Into Africa, a season of African-influenced modernist accessories and homewares.  Designer Michelle Lowe-Holder’s handmade pleated cuff hit the shop this week … Sudanese supermodel, Alek Wek appears in Global Gathering, an incredible tableau of pattern-mixing and sculpted hair shot by Andrew Yee in homage to African style for the June issue of the Financial Times‘ magazine How to Spend It.

With a wonderful mélange of color and chevron printing, awesome New York-based menswear designer Miguel Antoinne, created this suit for his Spring/Summer 2010 collection … Lyrical writer Chris Abani (GraceLand, Song for Night, Virgin of Flames) has returned to poetry with his recently published, Sanctificum, a book-length sequence of linked poems.

Somewhere a man speaks
in the dark, voice lost to rain.
I know this hunger, this need
to make patterns, to build meaning
from detritus…

From the poem, Om, verse 5

I’ve been long drawn to antique chevron beads, their rich layers far superior to those produced today.  There are two bead shops in which I can lose track of time, perusing all the treasures and speaking with the knowledgeable staffs: New York’s Beads of Paradise and S & A Beads in Takoma Park, MD.  African trade beads are an S & A specialty and this   a unique strand of antique, 6-layer chevrons is embellished with lion’s teeth and a sea-weathered conch.  I love the whimsical touch of red on a single bead of the rare turquoise strand at Beads of Paradise.

Working the runway in Kosibah, the UK-based label of Nigerian designer Yemi Osunkoya, Zambian model Lukundo Nalungwe won The Face of Africa competition …  Though the Akron Art Museum  exhibition Pattern ID, has recently closed, the hardcover catalogue features each work in the exhibition (from artists including iona rozeal brown, Grace Ndiritu, Lalla Essaydi, Mark Bradford, Samuel Fosso and Yinka Shonibare MBE) as well as informative essays.

The artists use pattern and dress to take up the 21st century challenge of locating one’s place in society against the backdrop of globalization.  Many of the artists in the exhibition have migrated from one culture to another, be it national, ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, political or religious. Rather than trade one identity for another, the artists in Pattern ID reveal ways in which identity can be cumulative.

-Ellen Rudolph, Curator of Exhibitions

The lovely and talented designer Lola Faturoti has an ensemble included in the prestigious collection of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Born in London, raised partly in Ondo, Nigeria, she completed her studies in London before crossing the pond to an exciting late eighties New York, a city she’s called home — barring a four-year detour in Milan at the beginning of the millennium — ever since.  This marvelous dress is from her Spring collection.

Africa in the Picture IV
May 18, 2010

Niece of Nigerian highlife star Victor Olaiya, Wunmi Olaiya has music in her blood.  With her fierce style (she designs under the Wumnigirl label) and high-0ctane performances she has built a devoted following.  Her supporters rallied to assist her when in November she made a request on Kickstarter for donations to fund her sophomore solo recording in Ghana.  Goal met, she will follow through on her promise to donate all the proceeds from her next Ghana concert to Doctors Without Borders.  Expect a sizzling set when she performs Saturday, May 22 at Harlem Stage. The “wonderfull” DJ Spinna keeps the flow going through the night.

The brainchild of angel-voiced East African singer, Somi Kakoma, New Africa Live is a series of multidisciplinary events which ” challenge homogenized notions of African cultural production and whose work interrogates African identity politics with a cosmopolitan spirit and the vigor of urban hybridization” …Photojournalist Lyle Owerko traveled to Africa in 2006 and the resulting portraits of the Samburu people are stunning.  Lelesit of the Samburu was one of the works in the Phillips de Pury auction of last week.

Fashion label ZuluRose, bears the creative stamp of Butalezi and the renaissance woman Wunmi.  Their advertisments are an ode the strength, beauty and fire of African descended-women. An extension of the brand, ZuluRose Radio is a podcast of “African beats and urban grooves from around the world.”  … Ever expounding on the aesthetics of Funk, its high priestess, Xenobia Bailey creates “hand crocheted Urban Crowns for all the SuperNatural, Everyday People of the Planet.”  Pictured is her homage to the Orisha Chango.

A recipient of an Art Matters travel grant,  Los Angeles-born Marc Andre Robinson will travel to South Africa in exploration of his South African heritage.  I was introduced to his work last fall in an exhibit at Tina Kim Gallery. Here, the Continual Dissipation of Dense Black Being, 2005; ink on paper.

A detail from Movement41 (The Game), 2008, by Ghanaian painter Owusu-Ankomah, whose large canvasses feature the recurrent motif of Adinkra symbols.  Based in Bremen, Germany since 1986, he addresses themes of identity and the body …  My dear friend, photographer Frederick V. Nielsen II, shoots to capture the silken beauty of black skin.  Here he beautifully illuminates model Kayan Jewl James in the knitwear bikini of Jamaican designer, Knit Heru.

11 pm on Friday, 2010 is one of the oil portraits London-based artist, (Ghanaian descent) Lynette Yiadom-Boakye is showing at Jack Shainman Gallery in her first solo show in New York through May 22.  Featured in the Dr. Chika Okeke-Agulu/Okwui Enwezor book, Contemporary African Art Since 1980 as well as the Saatchi online gallery, she  …   I was happy to learn of the Brooklyn Museum’s recent acquisition of Heather’s Degradé 2006, by Cairo-born feminist artist Ghada Amer.  Her gallerist, Cheim & Read is currently showing her exhibtion, Color Misbehavior through June 19. Shown here, The Black Bang, 2010 acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas.

Philpotian Phlight Recorder, 2000 is Pete Goldlust’s totemic, carved crayon tribute to Chicago outsider artist and carver David Philpot, who is currently at work on a public art installation to be unveiled this fall …  Kara Walker’s scathing Burning African Village Play Set with Big House and Lynching, 2006 (painted laser cut steel) is a museum purchase of the Brooklyn Museum and on view on the fourth floor.

Africa in the Picture III
May 17, 2010

In This is My Africa, the first production of Zina Saro-Wiwa’s AfricaLab, the filmmaker set out to use “the memories and perceptions of 21 Africans and Africaphiles to weave a very different view of the continent.”  The widely screened dcoumentary showed at the Brooklyn Museum last year and aired on HBO in February.

Chef/Restaurateur Pierre Thiam of Clinton Hill’s popular Le Grand Dakar has crafted a wonderful cookbook and food memoir of his home country, in the well-designed Yolele! Recipes from the Heart of Senegal. (I received it as a gift from a friend and I love it!) … Inventive chef Abdou Gueye at the intimate A Bistro in Fort Greene, where everything on the rotating menu is delicious.

The “Binta” chair at Moroso is available in various colorways …  From the venerable Vlisco, purveyors of “dutch Wax” fabrics for over a century, a striking image from their May advertsing campaign.  Their glamorous boutiques are found in Benin, the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Togo and the Netherlands.

Paul Smith’s Spring womenswear collection was inspired by the dapper gents of Congo-Brazzaville,  La SAPE, La Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes … So taken by their dandyism, he provided the preface to photographer Daniele Tamagni’s book, Gentlemen of Bacongo, with its in-your-face shot of sapeur Willy Covary on the cover …  A feminized stiletto brogue for women and a slick magenta oxford for men  (PS by Paul Smith) are available on the British designer’s website.

The Sartorialist, Scott Schumann snapped a little sape swagger on the streets of the Lower East Side … Flipping the script on colonial dressing and making it his own, the sapeur uses his clothing as a symbol of rebellion as well as hope.

In a fresh homage to stacking bangles, the men of Casely-Hayford adorn their Spring collection with multiple silk squares tied on the arms … Rebecca Lolisoli’s Umoja Uaso Women’s Village, in Kenya, provides safe haven for Samburu women fleeing violence and an opportunity to make a living creating beaded accessories.  Her story caught the eye of Designer Diane Von Furstenburg who featured Umoja Village jewelry in her Spring show … Ebony Bones! (returning to Southpaw on June 6, 2010) with her fierce, eclectic style, piles it on.

Africa in the Picture II
May 16, 2010

This blog series on the reach of Africa on global culture gets its name from an annual African film festival that I had the pleasure to attend in the early 90’s. There I was introduced to the films of the  Senegalese writer and “Father of African film,” the late Ousmane SembèneAfrica in the Picture began in 1987 as a small retrospective of African cinema in Amsterdam and has grown to become the largest African film festival in Europe.  The esteemed leader of all African film festivals, though, is FESPACO, the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou.  Held in Burkina Faso (then Upper Volta) since 1969, the mission of the festival is “to contribute to the expansion and development of African cinema as means of expression, education and awareness-raising.”  Sadly, one of the founders, Senegalese filmmaker, Mahaman Johnson Traore, passed away in March.

The New York African Film Festival continues through the end of May with programming at the New Museum and at BAMcinématek (in conjunction with DanceAfrica.)  The last film to be screened in the series, In the Genes (Lupita Nyong’o, dir.) chronicles the effect of albinism on the life of Agnes, a Kenyan woman living without pigment in a predominantly black society.

For more information on African Film Festivals worldwide, check the comprehensive list featured on the website of Portland, Oregon based Cascade African Film Festival.

Though the pool of projects is vast, I’ve included just a few of the inspired bits on my radar right now.

I am delighted for and proud of my longtime friend Saki Mafundikwa on the release of his debut filmmaking effort,  Shungu: The Resilience of a People.  I found myself welling up at the NY premiere at Cooper Union last month.  The moving documentary, with great compassion gives a personal glimpse into the lives of his fellow Zimbabweans, giving “voice to the hopes and challenges of ordinary people.”

Zimbabwean-born, Brooklyn-based dancer/choreographer Nora Chipaumire is the subject of the 35-minute, Nora by Alla Kovgan and David Hinton. The award-winning film has screened around the world and is showing, appropriately at BAM Rose Cinemas during the Dance Africa festival on May 28.  Also catch the former member of  Urban Bush Women as she joins Thomas Mapfumo in performance at 651 Arts on May 21 and 22.

The web leads from one wonderful discovery to another. While checking out a lovely post on thinking-in-tongues, the musings of Audra Dosumnu, I noticed a mention of her multi-talented husband’s forthcoming film, Restless City.  A look at IMDB led me to the site of the film’s Director of Photography, the Louisville, Kentucky born, Brooklyn-based Bradford Young. I was taken by the poetic beauty of the clip from the film Secrets in the House of Myrrh (Jackie Smith, director), as was, it seems, Filmmaker Magazine of his work. They recognized him as one to watch in 2009.

Restless City. “You are a young, vibrant West African immigrant. There is music in your blood and fearlessness in your heart. The streets of New York are your home, where you can do anything you want. What you gonna do?…” Andrew Dosumnu’s at the helm, his frequent collaborator Mobolaji Dawodu holds it down with the costumes and Anthony Okungbowa acts as Executive Producer and acts in the role of Bekay.  I look forward to the release later this year.

Revered filmmaker and Howard University professor Haile Gerima has been a mentor to many (he gave one of my besties, Tracey White, her first costume design gig on his acclaimed film Sankofa.) Winning the top prize at FESPACO, the Étalon de Yenenga (Stallion of Yenenga) and a New York Times Critics’ Pick for his new film, Teza, the independent filmmaker may finally get the larger audience his work deserves.  Set in Ethiopia and Germany, the film examines the displacement of African intellectuals  both at home and abroad. It is in the last week of its New York run at Village East Cinemas before moving on to Los Angeles.

Kenyan director Wahuri Kahiu’s futuristic Pumzi, (“breath” in Swahili”) is an exploration of Africanist Sci-Fi through a woman’s post-apocalyptic journey to restore life to a world ravaged by war 35 years prior. Well-reviewed at Sundance, it premiered in New York at the New York African Film Festival in April and screened soon after at Clinton Hill’s Le Grand Dakar.

In the monograph, Nollywood, photographer Pieter Hugo recreates striking, sometimes disturbing images of the many characters/archetypes featured in the second largest film industry in the world, after India’s Bollywood. (the debate now rages over the third place spot, the US or Hong Kong).

Nollywood opens with a short story, Omar Shariff Comes To Nollywood – A Storyboard In 10 Frames by author Chris Abani, and two essays: “No Going Back”, about the history of the business that is Nollywood, by filmmaker Zina Saro-Wiwa, and “Nollywood Confidential”, by writer and artist Stacy Hardy – of dis.grace fame – which is a fascinating exploration of her reactions to, and interpretations of, Hugo’s images.

– Book Southern Africa

Born in Bamako, Mali the multi-hyphenate writer, scholar and filmmaker Manthia Diawara has long pondered African politics and culture.  His latest book, African Film: New Forums of Aesthetics and Politics, which includes a dvd with author interviews is on pre-order at Amazon for a May 25 release.

Africa in the Picture
May 15, 2010

In 1960, seventeen African nations gained independence from colonial rule: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia and Togo. In honor of the jubilee anniversary, this is the first in a series of visual posts on the influence of Africa in art and culture throughout the diaspora.

Londoner Amechi Ihenacho found influence in diasporic village girls of the 1950’s: Haiti, Cuba and Yorubaland for his impeccably tailored Spring collection … On Saturday May 15 at 1pm, esteemed auction house Phillips de Pury presents Africa, works from a stellar roster of artists, including  Adrian Piper, Aimé Mpane, Carrie Mae Weems, Chris Ofili, El Anatsui, Esther Mahlangu, Ike Ude, James Denmark, Julie Mehretu, Kara Walker, Kehinde Wiley, Kori Newkirk, Lorna Simpson, Malick Sidibe, Marlene Dumas, Mickalene Thomas, Romare Bearden, Sanford Biggers, Satch Hoyt, Sebastião Salgado, Seydou Keita,  Walker Evans, Wangechi Mutu and Yinka Shonibare.  The catalogue is available for purchase.

Duro Oluwo sent a modern sylph down the runway in this graphically patterned column …  Tanzanian gallerist, Twiga carries bold jewelry and artifacts in her San Francisco shop  … Designed and handcrafted in NYC by Heru Semahj, the fine jewelry of Studio of Ptah is imbued with meaning and is a favorite of both Erykah Badu and Wesley Snipes.  Putting a cultural twist on a classic, the 18k pendant features a 10ct. citrine on one side and diamonds and rubies set in a scarab on the other.

The Kala from Paul Smith offers a fun mix of colorblocking and animal print …  While purusing the lots for today’s auction I saw in Aimé Mpane’s  Congo – Face IX, 2008, the face of Johannesburg’s Regina Kambule from photographer Pieter Hugo’s 2003 series, Looking Aside.

The gorgeous and gifted Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie followed up her excellent Half of a Yellow Sun with a collection of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck (available in paperback in June) …   Style arbiter, The FADER editor and great guy, Mobolaji Dawodu caught the attention of The Sartorialist with his easy Naija cool.  I look forward to the relaunch of his collection of Nigerian-made garments for men and women.

All that Remains, a poignant metal work from South African Willie Bester is part of the Phillips auction … Puma, which sponsors 12 African football teams commissioned artist Kehinde Wiley to create portraits of African Football Players,in commemoration of next month’s World Cup in South Africa.  Wiley also lent his graphic textile patterns to the Puma Africa collections for men and women, such as these collapsible “Tekkies.”

Born in Cameroon, Samuel Fosso, was raised in Nigeria until his family fled the Biafran War and now creates alter-ego, photographic self portraits as anonymous archetypes and historical figures in his Bangui studio.  This image is inspired by the April 1968 Esquire cover by George Lois featuring Muhammad Ali as St. Sebastian … A world citizen fluent in several languages, fit (I see her running in the nabe frequently) and focused, self-taught artist Aissata Pinto da Costa joyously celebrates the female form in her paintings.  Today, May 15th, is the last day to see Feminine Energy and the other empowering images in the Steuben Glass Gallery exhibition of the São Tomé and Principe-born artist.