African Art in London

London / Art / Africa

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Roelof Petrus van Wyk @ Jack Bell Gallery

Roelof Petrus van Wyk’s camera lens attempts to flip the focus of the colonial gaze. His images recall Golden Age Dutch portraits – all dark in background, subjects in concentrated light –  and aim to explore whiteness. What whiteness is and what it means especially for young post-apartheid South Africans.  White as other, whiteness to be pondered, prodded and understood.

From the Young Afrikaner series of photographs by Roelof Petrus van Wyk

Explaining the through-line inspiration for his work van Wyk says: “Part of the apartheid propaganda was that we the Afrikaners were the ‘chosen volk’, as in the bible. We’re not chosen. We are Africans. We are part of Africa and we are exploring what that identity means.”

Van Wyk’s work has been shown in London before as part of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s ‘Figures and Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography’.

Exhibition: 6-16 March

Opening Hours: Tues- Sat, 10-6

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

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That’s all (from me) folks

The day has come for me to say goodbye to African Art in London. Sniff.

But fear not – I didn’t want the flow of information and ideas to fizzle out, so I’ve recruited an excellent editor (and more) to take things over. I’m sure they’ll introduce themselves in due course.

In the meantime, thanks for reading and supporting African Art in London, and I hope you’ll continue to do so!

E x

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Sowei Mask: Spirit of Sierra Leone @ British Museum


Sowei mask, collected by Thomas Joshua Alldridge in 1886

The idea that artists in the West have long drawn on African art for inspiration is nothing new; Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is probably the most commonly cited example, but there are many more. What is perhaps less well-known is the ways that artists in Africa were (and are) similarly influenced by their encounters and exchanges with European cultures. Needless to say, shifting relationships of trade, patronage and colonial exploitation between Africa and the West have led to rather varying circumstances framing these interactions at different times. The resulting art works often reflect these differences, as well as the creative and politically-aware responses of artists engaging with processes of cultural and social change.

The British Museum’s new display, Sowei Maskis a great opportunity for exploring these issues further; the Sowei mask is carved to express ‘local ideals of feminine beauty, health and serenity’ in the Sande Society of Sierra Leone, but the one featured here, which was collected in 1886, is unusual in that it incorporates a top hat (!) into its design.

A number of events and talks accompany the display, including a free masquerade performance by a London-based all-female Sande initiation society on Saturday 16th February (that’s tomorrow).

To find out more about the wider context for these kinds of art works and their significance, you might like to check out the documentation for the 2010 Detroit Institute of Arts exhibition Through African Eyes.

Show: until 28th April

Opening hours: daily, 10.00 – 17.30, open late Fridays until 20.30

British Museum, Room 3
Great Russell Street, London

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Social fabric: African textiles today @ British Museum


From the series ‘A New Beginning’ – Araminta de Clermont (2009–2010)

The British Museum’s upcoming exhibition Social Fabric: African textiles today promises a fresh look at textiles from the southern and eastern regions of continent, including how they are made, their history, and their cultural and social significance today. It comes almost exactly a year after Iniva’s wonderfully wide-ranging exhibition of the same name, which was one of my highlights of 2012; it’ll be interesting to see what different threads this new show’s African theme teases out.

There’s a series of gallery talks accompanying the show: more info here.

Show: 14th February – 21st April

Opening hours: daily, 10.00-17.30, Fridays open til 20.30

Room 91, British Museum
Great Russell Street, London

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Transcending Boundaries @ The Cork Street Gallery

Social Networking - Alex Nwokolo

Social Networking – Alex Nwokolo

Transcending Boundaries is a pop-up exhibition presented by Aabru, a company specialising in selling art from West Africa to international audiences. It’s only on for six days, so if you want to check it out, don’t hang about. Artists include Abiodun Olaku, Alex Nwokolo, Ben Osaghae, Bunmi Babatunde, Edosa Ogiugo, Fidelis EzeOdogwu, Tayo Quaye and Reuben Ugbine.

Show: 4-9 Feb

Opening hours: 10-6

The Gallery In Cork Street
28 Cork Street, London

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serial attempts: Berti, Ferreira, Gbaguidi @ news of the world gallery

From Conciliabule series - Pélagie Gbaguidi (2003-2006)

From Conciliabule artist’s notebook series – Pélagie Gbaguidi (2003-2006)

Christine Eyene‘s latest curatorial project in London, serial attempts, brings together three artists working in different media to explore the creative process of art-making, in which ‘serial attempts’ are made to achieve the often unachievable.

Cecilia Ferreira (Mozambique/South Africa) presents an experimental video, The Chaos Within (2009); Cristiano Berti (Italy) contributes a sound installation, Happy (2004); and Pélagie Gbaguidi (Benin/Belgium) shows notes and sketches from the series Conciliabule (2003-2006). This last work inspired ‘process: immaterial proposal’, Eyene’s wider project aiming to ‘apprehend art, notably produced by African artists, beyond fixed narratives, representations, and identities’. More info here.

Show: on now, but not sure of dates… try calling/texting Pierre Coinde or Gary O’Dwyer on 07851 318 230, or emailing

Opening hours: every Friday and Saturday, 12-6

news of the world gallery
50 Resolution Way, Deptford, London