African Art in London

London / Art / Africa

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New in May

May is but two days away. Who asked for it to be May already? Can you believe how quickly this year is going? Onwards! Two exciting African in Art in London events begin this week.

Leonce Rapahel Agbodjelou @ Jack Bell Gallery.


Untitled (Musclemen series), 2012

Agbodjelou is one of Benin’s most renowned photographers, the founder and director of the West African republic’s first photographic school and recently appointed president of Porto-Novo’s [Benin’s capital city] Photographer’s Association. This is Agbodjelou’s second time at Jack Bell and he will again be showcasing work from his Citizens of Porto Novo portraiture project. All Agbodjelou photos of his fellow Porto-Novo citizens bristle with the same mix of high-low tension, historic-modern energy. While last year the focus was his Demoiselles – topless damsels with masked faces wandering around a grand old colonial house, part body, part statue, part spirit, bathed in dark light. This year Musclemen take centre stage. They are a brighter presence, they wear wax fabric trousers and pose against colourful backdrops. They hold flowers and stand in ways that make their muscles pop.

Citizens of Porto Nova
1 May – 25 May

Jack Bell Gallery 
13 Mason’s Yard, St James’s,
London SW1Y 6BU

Opening Hours: Tues- Sat, 10-6

The 9th Annual Images of Black Women Festival

The Images of Black Women Festival aims to increase the visibility of women of African descent in film. Over the course of nine days it hosts talks, workshops, art exhibitions and of course shows a lots of films directed by black women. The mainstream highlights are the UK premiers of Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere and a screening of Pariah directed by Dee Rees starring Adepero Oduye.

The festival takes place across 5 London venues. A full programme of events can be viewed here.

Key African films include:

Mother’s Day (Kare Kare Zvako): Directed by Tsitsi Dangaremba (Zimbabwe)

An all singing all-dancing short tale of women’s empowerment, focusing on a mother and her three children travelling through drought-stricken bush

Yellow Fever: Directed by Ng’Endo Mukii (Kenya)

Striking animation mixed with performing bodies discussing shadeism and Black women’s perceptions of beauty

Yellow Fever (2012)

Yellow Fever, 2012

The Naked Option Directed by Candace Schermerhorn (Nigeria)

A documentary on the power of an organised group of women who use the threat of stripping naked to garner power within their community.

The Naked Option

The Naked Option: A Last Resort, 2011

Cameroonian Women in Motion: Directed by Florence Ayisi (Cameroon)

An 10-min celebratory snapshot of Cameroonian women parading with pride on International Women’s Day.

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Otleo Burning @ various London venues

A South African coming of age story set in 1989, when the struggle against apartheid reached its peak. Otelo Burning follows a group of township kids discovering the joys of surfing. Described as City of God meets Blue Crush next week the film is showing in venues across London. There will be panel discussions, school and university screenings and the three showings will include music events.


Tuesday 16th: UK Special Screening and Q&A
Cinema screening followed by Q&A with the Director Sara Belcher
Venue: Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley, 52 High Road, London N2 9PJ
Price: £7
Time: 6:30pm

Wednesday 17th: Panel Discussion: Taking African films to new markets. Followed by screening.
Leading industry professionals will discuss the distribution possibilities emerging for African films in the UK. Followed by showing of Otleo Burning
Venue: Ingenious Media, 15 Golden Square, London W1F 9JG
Time: 6pm-9.30pm
Price: £10

Friday 19th: Birkbeck Cinema Screening and Q&A
Screening of Otelo Burning followed by Q&A with the film’s director Sara Belcher
Venue: Birkbeck Cinema, 41 Gordon Square (use entrance at 43 Gordon Square), Birkbeck, Univeristy of London, London WCTH 0PD
Time: 7:30pm-9:30pm
Price: £7

Saturday 20th: Horse Hospital Screening followed by DJ night
Unique venue in the heart of Bloomsbury will provide the space for a screening of Otelo Burning followed by African music and dance.
Venue: The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1H 1HX
Time: 7pm-12am
Price: £9

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Things To Look Out For This Week


Cameron Platter exhibition at the Jack Bell Gallery

See, See, See, 2013

See, See, See, 2013

Everyday Apocalypse is South African artist Cameron Platter’s first exhibition in the UK. The works on show form part of his ongoing series of documentary drawings. Once described as “the delinquent love child of Quentin Tarantino and Dr Seuss”, Platter’s work – often a riot of colour, harsh lines and bold words –  is concerned with chronicling contemporary morality through fantasy, satire and subculture.

Everyday Apocalypse
27 March – 20 April

Jack Bell Gallery 
13 Mason’s Yard, St James’s,
London SW1Y 6BU

Opening Hours: Tues- Sat, 10-6

The Education of Auma Obama showing at Ritzy

The Education of Auma Obama

The Education of Auma Obama

Auma Obama is US President Barack Obama’s half-sister and the woman who introduced him to his Kenyan roots. With the 2008 US presidential elections as a narrative backdrop, Nigerian-Welsh director Branwen Okpako films an intimate portrait of a Kenyan woman whose life embodies a post-colonial, feminist identity.

Followed by Q+A with director Okpako

The Education of Auma Obama
28 March

Ritzy Picturehouse, Brixton
Brixton Oval
Coldharbour Lane
London, SW2 1JG



Yinka Shoniabre at Stephen Friedman Gallery

Last Supper (after Leonardo)

Last Supper (after Leonardo)

Pop! is a showcase of Yinka Shonibare installations. The works focus on corruption, debauchery and the materialistic culture that has led to current economic crises. The centerpiece of the exhibition is Shobinare’s subverted depicition of Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’, where Bacchus replaces the central figure of Christ.

Until 20 April

Stephen Friedman Gallery
25-28 Old Burlington Street
London W1S 3AN

Opening Hours
Tuesday – Friday
10am – 6pm
11am – 5pm


William Kentridge @ Tate Modern

I am not me, the horse is not mine – William Kentridge in collaboration with Philip Miller and Catherine Meyburgh (2008)

I first had a look around the Tanks at Tate Modern about three years ago, just before the renovations began. It was easy to see the potential in the cavernous, booming spaces, and there were even a few films installed to give an impression of how things would look. But there was an awful lot of work to do to make it suitable for showing art: the constant drip, drip of water, the dangerously uneven surfaces, the crime-scene-style yellow tape cordoning off dangling live wires overhead… I even saw the remains of a crab lurking by a shallow puddle. I kid you not.

Many months later and it’s a different story. The Tanks are proving to be one of the most exciting new art spaces in London, with an ambitious and varied programme of films, installations, live art and performances which in different ways draw the audience directly into conversation with the artwork. Tate Modern Director Chris Dercon has suggested that it is ‘the true meeting of artworks and audiences that will establish what the Tanks are and can be’. It’ll be interesting to see how visitors respond in these spaces which, a bit like the turbine hall, are both overwhelmingly large and somehow approachable.

Coming up soon is an eight-channel video installation I am not me, the horse is not mine by South African artist William Kentridge, which promises to make the most of the space. It’s an intriguingly bonkers idea drawn from Kentridge’s recent staging of Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1930 opera The Nose, which is in turn based on an absurdist short story of the same name written almost 100 years earlier by Nikolai Gogol. In the story, the nose disappears from the face of a Russian official, only to reappear on the face of one of his superiors. [correction: it takes on a life of its own. As they do.] For Kentridge, The Nose is a platform for examining the rise and fall of Russian avant-gardes in the 1920s and 30s, both as a celebration of the flourishing of creative energies, and an elegy for their eventual demise.

The installation combines live action film, archival footage and stop-motion animation, and has previously been shown in conjunction with a performance by the artist. There’s more info about this and other work on this website from MoMA which was produced at the time of his excellent solo show there in 2010.

Back at Tate Modern, don’t miss the artist’s talk in the Starr Auditorium on Sunday 11th November, 14.00 – 15.30, £12 (concessions available) – for more info and to book tickets, take a look here.

Show: 11 Nov 2012 – 20 Jan 2013

Opening hours: Sun-Thurs, 10.00-18.00, Fri-Sat, 10.00-22.00

Tate Modern
Bankside, London

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John Akomfrah @ Carroll / Fletcher

Still from Peripeteia – John Akomfrah (2012)

Once again, apologies for being late off the mark with this one… there are still a couple of weeks to check out Hauntologies, filmmaker and artist John Akomfrah’s current show at Carroll/Fletcher, which is on until 8th November.  Akomfrah has been exploring the presence, significance and experiences of the African diaspora in Europe since the mid-1980s, and was a founding member of the  Black Audio Film Collective.

There are also a number of film screenings relating to the show.

Show: until 8th November

Opening hours: Mon-Fri, 11-7; Sat, 11-6

56-57 Eastcastle Street, London

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Film Africa 2012 @ London venues

FIlm Africa 2012

It’s that time of year again. The nights are drawing in, and the London Film Festival is coming up, which can only mean one thing: following hot on its heels in early November is Film Africa, London’s annual festival celebrating African cinema.

There’s a smattering of films from Africa at the LFF (take a peek at the country listings here) but for varied and ambitious programming, Film Africa is the place to look. Crammed into the 10 days of the festival are over 70 films, 35 Q&A sessions with filmmakers, 8 music nights, free workshops and more…

Check the website for dates, venues, ticket information etc, but here are some highlights:

Difficult Love (dir. Zanele Muholi and Peter Goldsmid, South Africa, 2010)

Difficult Love (dir. Zanele Muholi and Peter Goldsmid)

I was lucky enough to see this film a while back at the South London Gallery, and it’s great to see it getting two airings during the festival (here and here), especially in the light of the appalling recent theft of the bulk of Muholi’s archive. Good on Film Africa for sending a clear message that Muholi’s work, which explores the experiences of black lesbians in South Africa, is essential viewing.

Lust (El Shooq) (dir. Khaled El Hagar, Egypt/France, 2011)

Lust (El Shooq) (dir. Khaled El Hagar)

This is the London premiere of this film by provocative multi-award-winning Egyptian filmmaker Khaled El Hagar. It won the Golden Pyramid Award for Best Film at Cairo’s International Film Festival in 2010. Followed by a Q&A with El Hagar (TBC).

Material (dir. Craig Freimond, South Africa, 2012)

Material (dir. Craig Freimond)

This South African comedy stars Riaad Moosa as a wannabe comedian struggling with the expectations of his family. It’s also showing at the London Film Festival. There’s a review here and more info and a trailer here.

Filming Tomorrow

Basia Lewandowska Cummings (from Africa Is A Country) discussed the fascinating projects of alternative filmmaking collectives across the Arab world at Africa Utopia earlier this year; here’s a rare opportunity to see more of their work on the big screen.

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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.


Africa Utopia @ Southbank Centre

Just a quick reminder (to myself as much as anyone) about Africa Utopia, the gigantic festival of all-things-African which has just kicked off at the Southbank. I posted about some of the tempting events in this series several weeks ago, but now that July is upon us, the programme has expanded excitingly in all directions. Here are a few of the contemporary art highlights (just block-book your diary for 21st July…)

Africa Sci-Fi Screening – a chance to see some shorts from the Arnolfini’s Superpower exhibition
Front Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Weds 4th July, 9.30pm, free (+ booking fee)

Nollywood or Bust: Africa at the Movies – discussion on the future of African cinema
Front Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Sat 21st July, 11am, free

Imagining Africa: a Granta Salon – Yinka Shonibare and others in discussion, hosted by Granta Magazine
Front Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Sat 21st July, 12.30pm, free

ARISE and shine – salon event hosted by ARISE Magazine, featuring Dak’art 2012 curator Christine Eyene, among others
Front Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Sat 21st July, 3pm, free

Art Connect: Contemporary African Art and the Global Art Market – the next discussion in Tiwani‘s series (previous ones here and here), with my good friend Emeka Ogboh, Mary Evans and others
Front Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Sat 21st July, 6pm, free

We Face Forward: Art from West Africa Today – session about the current festival up in Manchester, led by Whitworth curator Bryony Bond
Front Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Sun 22nd July, 3.30pm, free

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Wide Open School @ Hayward Gallery

Thanks to Hannah Pool for the heads up on this one – how did I miss the Wide Open School at the Hayward Gallery? Two and a half weeks of artist-led classes, workshops and discussions, many of which were free, have already sped past… but fear not, there’s still plenty more to come before the School closes on 11th July, including Gillian Wearing on ‘the creative state of being’ and ‘being happy’, and two sound workshops with Susan Philipsz.

Fans of contemporary art and artists from/about Africa may be especially interested in the following:

Bouchra Khalili – Do You Speak English? – on language and film
Fri 29th June, 2pm, £10

Romuald Hazoumè – Scrap tales: making art with discarded materials – workshop
Sat 30th June + Sun 1st July, 2pm, free
Tues 3rd July + Weds 4th July, 2pm, free

Wael Shawky – Art and history – discussion
Tues 10th July, 2pm, £10

Pascale Marthine Tayou – From inception to death: the nature and life cycle of artworks – discussion
Tues 10th July, 2pm, £10
Weds 11th July, 2pm, £10

Plus, my pick of the rest:

Isaac Julien with David Harvey – Choreographing Capital
Weds 4th July, 8pm, £10

Limited concessions are available for most events – check the website.

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Kisito Assangni @ Art Connect @Tiwani Contemporary

Kisito Assangni

Tiwani Contemporary’s Art Connect series continues this week with a film screening curated by Kisito Assangni. Time is Love.5 is the latest edition in Assangni’s annual international programme of video art on the theme of ‘love in hard times’. More info here.


Tuesday 19th June, 6.30pm

Tiwani Contemporary
16 Little Portland Street, London