The time has almost come for Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle to set sail and vacate her berth on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth, leaving it ready for the next occupant. But where will she go? Perhaps just down the river to Greenwich, if the Art Fund has anything to do with it. They’ve set up a campaign to keep the ship in London and on public view; this means raising £362,500 in addition to the £50,000 grant already awarded, to purchase the work and put it on permanent display at the National Maritime Museum. Artist Yinka Shonibare supports the campaign – he ‘just can’t think of a better place than Greenwich’. Read more about it here, and, if you want to keep Shonibare’s ship where Londoners can enjoy it, make a donation here.
In November this year, I was lucky enough to visit Bamako, Mali, for the Rencontres – the ‘Encounters’ – where, every two years, many of Africa’s best photographers and video artists come together to show their work, share ideas, and meet some of the world’s top curators and gallerists. Now in its ninth edition, the biennale is becoming a firm fixture in the international contemporary art calendar, and is recognised as one of the best opportunities to see a lot fresh and exciting photographic work from the continent, on the continent. This time around, the main show’s theme was ‘for a sustainable world’, and much of the work duly considered the problems of environmental degradation, oil exploitation, slums, waste and non-sustainable livelihoods. Hard though it is to get a sense of an artist’s practice from just a few pieces, there was definitely some interesting stuff on display; I especially enjoyed taking another look at Daniel Naudé’s animal portraits (last seen on a conference projector screen), and, in a quite different set of portraits, Khalil Nemmaoui’s trees. Elsewhere, fragile archival images by the great Malick Sidibé were a highlight, as was a ghostly black-and-white account of postcolonial Ghana’s encounter with its past, courtesy of Nii Obodai.
Meanwhile, the varied OFF programme presented a number of diversions to tempt participants away from the main events, and top of my list was a studio visit with renowned Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté. Perhaps the organisers sensed that this would be a popular option: seemingly in an attempt to put off all but the most persistent, accepting Konaté’s enticement to ‘viens chez moi’ involved navigating an obstacle course of confusing addresses (leading to other, less exciting studios-cum-gift-shops), scarce information leaflets, incompetent taxi drivers and barely intelligible phone calls. As it was, after about an hour of circling aimlessly in a bumpy, sweaty taxi, we arrived in the nick of time and, glugging on our cold water bottles, watched as Konaté’s team brought out piece after stunning piece. Having trained as a painter, Konaté now works with textiles. With swathes of colourful strips, funny little sausage-like appendages or even children’s clothes sewn onto the background, his works are beautifully intricate, and moving in their straightforward yet thoughtful engagement with political realities.
And so, to the point: while I was there, I caught a glimpse of what will be Iniva’s new window commission, on view at Rivington St from the 7th December. Even in its unfinished state, it was easy to get a sense of how impressive the work will be once complete. So I really recommend heading down to Iniva some time over the next month to check it out. There’s also an opportunity to hear the artist talk about his work at Iniva on 6th December at 6.30 (admission free).
7th December – 3rd January
Rivington Place, London
I don’t have a great deal of info on this, but at SOAS this week there is an exhibition of old photographs from Somalia entitled The Way They Were: Pictures from Afgooye, Southern Somalia, 1967-1989. The exhibition will be accompanied by a talk from Virginia Luling (the photographer or curator?), which will be chaired by Michael W alls (UCL) and comes with opening remarks from Somalia expert Professor Ioan Lewis.
24th November 2011, 6-8pm
Brunei Suite, Brunei Gallery
SOAS, University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London
After his recent appearance in Jack Bell’s autumn group show, Beninese photographer Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou gets his chance to shine, solo. This exhibition features work from the Egungun Project, which looks at Yoruba masquerade traditions and their contemporary manifestations – for further details and a sneak preview of the exhibition, take a look here.
17 Nov – 17 Dec
Jack Bell Gallery
13 Mason’s Yard, St. James’s, London
There’s a new kid on the block: Tiwani Contemporary, which opened a few weeks ago just off Oxford Street, is a new commercial gallery specialising in work by contemporary artists based in Nigeria. The gallery has wide ambitions, aiming to engage with diaspora artists and forge connections with the Global South, as well as present a varied public programme involving projects with other collaborators. Its partnership with the dynamic Centre for Contemporary Arts, Lagos (CCA, Lagos) will no doubt help in this respect, and I’m looking forward to seeing the gallery bring some great Nigerian artists and their work to new audiences.
The Tiwani website is at present a little cryptic: it looks as though a group show kicked things off this week, but there’s no further info, so keep an eye on the website or perhaps give them a call on +44 (0) 20 7631 3808.
7th Nov – 21st Jan
16 Little Portland Street, London
Football and art might seem like strange bedfellows, but London’s Design Museum begs to differ: their new sportswear design exhibition, opening next week, showcases the results of a recent PUMA commission, which asked ten artists to create new football strips celebrating ‘Africa’s unique visual identity and culture’. (If this project comes as a surprise to you, have a look at Creative Africa Network, the highly successful – if sometimes tricky to navigate – social networking site and listings platform, which is sponsored by PUMA.Creative, the artistic arm of the brand’s social responsibility effort).
Participating artists include:
Saïdou Dicko – Burkina Faso
Godfried Donkor – Ghana
Ernest Düku – Ivory Coast
Hasan and Husain Essop – South Africa
Samba Fall – Senegal
EL Loko – Togo
Hentie van der Merwe – Namibia
Owanto – Gabon
Zineb Sedira – Algeria
Barthélémy Toguo – Cameroon
There’s also an event on the 8th November – the ‘Interpretations of Africa Seminar’ – which will involve most of the artists above coming together to discuss what it’s like working across different cultural contexts, and how they fit into the international art system. The event takes place on the 8th November at 7.30, costs £15, and is co-organised by Iniva. More details and how to book here.
Daily 10 – 5.45
28 Shad Thames, London