Africa in the Picture X

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.


3 Responses

  1. Sharon, Sharon, Sharon!!! You never cease to amaze! I thoroughly enjoyed yours and our visit to Africa this season.
    I certainly hope you do this again. Kudos! Also, I am a fan of Yinka Sonibare’s work, I am not sure I’m right about this, but it’s sad to me that he isn’t better known here. Much love!

    • Thank you. re: Yinka’s work hopefully the showing at both the Brooklyn Museum and the Smithsonian has widened his audience. I saw it in both places and it was interesting to note how differently the “same” show was mounted; more bombastic and in-your-face in BK and a bit more conservative, demure (if possible) in DC.

      …oh, and there are just a couple more posts to come in the series ;D

  2. SHARON,
    Thank you for the exposure and mention of Lowery Sim’s “Global Africa” exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design. It will be an honor to show there with so many great contemporary artists. Your brilliance and generosity are too inspiring. I am honored to be included in your blog.
    On another note, reading the one of the comment I was moved because it is one of my missions, as you know, to inform the African American community about artists of African descent. Yours may be a good forum to get suggestions from your fan or your suggestions as to how it is best to achieve it now and create income for my time and expertise. The magazines like Ebony, Essence and Uptown are playing out and not as interested in art coverage.

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