African Art in London

London / Art / Africa

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South-by-South film screenings @ South London Gallery

Just a quick heads-up about African film screenings taking place at the South London Gallery, every third Friday of each month.

I’m a big fan of the South London Gallery, which has put on some great Africa-related events in the past year or so. Through the South by South programme, the SLG also supports an annual residency for an artist from the global South; or at least it would do, if UK visa applications weren’t so obstructive (Emeka Ogboh was supposed to be in residence right now, but for reasons best known to themselves, the authorities in Lagos denied him the paperwork).

Anyway, back to the films. In the South by South series, the gallery has already shown Abderrahmane Sissako’s moving Bamako, and Djibril Diop Mambety’s La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil (The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun).

Next up on 21 September (7pm, free) is Congolese crime thriller Viva Riva! – apparently it’s booked up online, but there may be tickets available over the phone. More info here.

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Deloitte Ignite ‘Africa Weekend’ @ Royal Opera House

After all the excitement of the Southbank’s Africa Utopia season, now the Royal Opera House is having a go – at the end of the month, Covent Garden will be taken over by ‘Africa Weekend’, aka Deloitte Ignite, a three-day festival of African music, dance, film, visual art, performance and more, curated by artist Yinka Shonibare MBE.

Following his hugely popular fourth plinth commission, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, Shonibare turned his attention to another London landmark, the Royal Opera House, where this summer he installed a sculpture on the side of the building called Globe Head Ballerina. I have yet to see it myself, so I can’t judge whether Shonibare has achieved his aim of bringing a ‘childhood sense of magic and wonder to the façade of the Royal Opera House’, but here’s a little preview:

Globe Head Ballerina – Yinka Shonibare MBE (2012)

Now, continuing his relationship with the ROH, Shonibare is curating the ‘Africa Weekend’, a ‘celebration of traditional African and avant-garde arts and culture, expressing Africa’s global contribution to the contemporary arts world’. There’s certainly a great programme lined up, and in contrast to Africa Utopia, it seems much more focused on listening, moving and watching rather than talking (i.e. more performances, less chat). I’m still a bit uncomfortable about the ‘let’s celebrate Africa’ vibe, but when festivals like this bring so many great artists and performers together in one place, it’s hard not to enjoy it… best of all, the daytime events are all free.

Visual art and film highlights include:

  • Africa on the Piazza: open-air screenings of African films, from classic to contemporary, curated by Yinka Shonibare and John Akomfrah (founding member of the Black Audio Film Collective). Covent Garden Piazza, Saturday 1st Sept, 14.00-10.00
  • Rotimi Fani-Kayode: photographs exploring gay African identities (which I enjoyed a lot when I saw them at Rivington Place a while back)

Plus loads of exciting dance, performance and music. You can watch a trailer for the festival here, and see more info about the programme here.

31 August – 2 September

Royal Opera House / Covent Garden – various venues.

Some evening events are ticketed. Daytime events are FREE, but also ticketed. Both free and paid-for tickets are available through the website.

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Richard Butler Bowdon @ Mere Coincidence project space, P1 Studios

Here’s a show crossing three continents: Cape Town-born, Melbourne-based artist Richard Butler Bowdon is having a one-night-only exhibition in London. Bowdon has a strong working connection with members of the African Diaspora now resident in Australia, particularly those from South Sudan/Sudanese refugee backgrounds. In this show, ATAVISTAFRIC : 1# : The Albion Reduction, he explores and expresses his various links with Africa through painting, collage and sculpture.

In his own words :  ‘Like a looped beat in a hiphop track, Africa is a refrain that continues to enter and exit my life serving to inform, expand and enrich my practice’.

Show: Thurs 30 Aug, 6-9pm

(phone/text 07766165958 for entry code)

Mere Coincidence? Project space,
P1 Studios,
Taylor Place, Payne Road, London
E3 2SP

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Clinton De Menezes @ Bicha Gallery

Erasure 21 – Clinton De Menezes (2012)

South African multi-disciplinary artist Clinton De Menezes has an exhibition on at Bicha Gallery at the moment. It’s called ‘Passage 2012’, and it investigates ‘transforming landscapes’ through processes of degeneration, transition and regeneration. More info here.

Show: until 26 August.

Opening hours: Tues-Sun, 11-7

Bicha Gallery
7 Gabriel’s Wharf, South Bank, London

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Bandoma @ Jack Bell


Jack Bell’s new exhibition sees Kinshasa’s Bandoma put on his first solo show in the UK. Bandoma uses a variety of painting, drawing and collage techniques, incorporating found images from magazines, to create portraits of the DRC capital’s colourful characters.

Show: continues until 8 Sept.

Opening hours: Tues-Sat, 11-6

Jack Bell Gallery
13 Masons Yard, St James’s, London

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Santu Mofokeng @ Tate Modern

The Black Photo Album / Look at me (slide 10/80) – Santu Mofokeng (1997)

I’ve been meaning to do a post about the Santu Mofokeng slides currently on view at Tate Modern for at least a month. Now that I’ve finally got around to it, I can’t find the notes I took when I went to see it. Sorry. In brief, The Black Photo Album/Look at Me is a beautifully-installed, moving piece of work, exploring the social aspirations and self-image of working and middle-class black South Africans in the early twentieth-century. These smart, serious young tennis enthusiasts are just two of the individuals populating Mofokeng’s carefully arranged trawl through family photo albums. You can read more and view the images and texts on the artist’s website, but I really recommend going to see it in the gallery too – in the cave-like dark stillness, with the slides clunking past, it’s like looking down a tunnel to a hundred years ago.

Show: not sure how long it’s up for (several months at least) – check the website.

Opening hours: Daily, 10.00–18.00, Fri and Sat late til 22.00

Room 6, Level 2: Poetry and Dream, Tate Modern
Bankside, London