African Art in London

London / Art / Africa

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African Beauty @ The Africa Centre

Photo by John Kenny

Photo by John Kenny

The Africa Centre in collaboration with Capital Culture Gallery are hosting a photographic journey through the eyes of John Kenny. African Beauty is a collection of Kenny’s portraits of Africans in ‘traditional communities’, from the fringes of the Sahara to Angola and Namibia. Kenny’s work is very much that of an outsider looking in and can feel a tad National Geographic, anthropological as opposed to artistic. Agree? Disagree? If you’re in  the mood to discuss you’re in luck because Kenny will also be hosting a couple of talks alongside his exhibition.

African Beauty: Seven amazing stories behind the images
Saturday, 1 June

What makes visual expression so spectacular in Africa?
Wednesday, 5 June

Tickets: £6 (Free for under 16s)
Contact: the exhibition or email
All proceeds to Survival International

Exhibition: 24 May – 9 June

The Africa Centre

38 King Street
Covent Garden
London WC2E 8JT

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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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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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Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou @ Jack Bell

Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou

Is this unprecedented? There are currently two solo exhibitions by artists from Benin in London. While Gérard Quenum’s current show at the October Gallery involves creepy but cute dolls and a whimsical take on transnational histories, across town at Jack Bell Gallery, there’s a somewhat different vision of Porto-Novo from photographer Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou. Demoiselles de Porto Novo features a crumbling Afro-Brazilian mansion, in which masked, semi-nude women pose rather uncomfortably. What it all means, I cannot say, but here are a few ideas from Jack Bell.

The show continues until 20th October.

Opening hours: 11.00-18.00, Tues-Sat

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

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David Goldblatt in conversation @ Barbican

From the series ‘Ex-Offenders’ – David Goldblatt

This Thursday evening, renowned South African photographer David Goldblatt is in conversation with artist duo Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin at the Barbican.

I was very moved by Goldblatt’s Ex-Offenders series at the Rencontres in Bamako last November, and some of you may have seen his work in London earlier last year at the V&A alongside the Figures and Fictions exhibition. I posted about the Broomberg/Chanarin show in Dublin this Spring here. A great combination, which should throw up some fascinating questions about photography in South Africa and beyond.

Event: Thursday 13th September, 7pm

Tickets: £8 online / £10 on the door, book here

Frobisher Auditorium 1, Barbican Centre
Silk Street, 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

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Romuald Hazoumè @ October Gallery

Moncongo – Romuald Hazoumè (2012)

Romuald Hazoumè is back at October Gallery this summer with Cargoland, a solo show featuring new installations, sculpture and photography. Hazoumè is known for his quirky, amusing and politically cutting work highlighting the entanglements of everyday life and work in Benin with local, national, transnational and global flows of material goods and capital. To hear more about his work, go along to his gallery talk this Friday at 4pm.

Show: 28th June – 11th August

Opening hours:
Tues – Sat, 12.30 – 17.30

October Gallery
24 Old Gloucester Street, Bloomsbury, London

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The Gaddafi Archives: Libya before the Arab Spring @ Slade Research Centre

Colonel Gaddafi and Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Soviet Union, holding hands in Moscow, April 27th, 1981 – Michael Christopher Brown for Human Rights Watch (2011)

The London Festival of Photography is in full swing, and photography from and about Africa is very much part of the picture: the British Museum display Money in Bamako and London and Steve Bloom‘s South African photographs at the Guardian Gallery are still on view, and there have been (by all accounts) great events and workshops from the likes of Jodi Bieber.

This coming week another Africa-related exhibition opens its doors: The Gaddafi Archives. For nine days only, there’s a chance to explore the Human Rights Watch photographic record of documents and images found in state intelligence buildings and destroyed Gaddafi residences, covering over 70 years of Libyan history that has until recently been a closed book.

Tickets are £7.50 (or £5 with an Open City ticket) and can be bought online here or on the door.

Show: 21st-29th June

Opening hours: daily, 10.00 – 22.00

Slade Research Centre
Woburn Square, London


Art Connect @ Tiwani Contemporary

Lucy Azubuike

Art Connect is a series of panel discussions, screenings and live performances coming up at Tiwani Contemporary, and the first instalment is taking place TONIGHT, as artists Lucy Azubuike, Amarachi Okafor and Victoria Udondian discuss their work and the Nigerian art scene with curator Gabriela Salgado. All three artists are currently participating in We Face Forward, the festival of West African art and music that launched last week in Manchester.

5th June, 18.30 – 20.30

Tiwani Contemporary
16 Little Portland Street, London


Jodi Bieber @ London Festival of Photography

Jodi Bieber

Award-winning South African photographer Jodi Bieber is giving an evening talk and a four-day masterclass as part of the London Festival of Photography. Join her to find out more about her practice, and hear the inside story on her recent work in Afghanistan, which won her the 2011 World Press Photo Award.

Talk: 7pm, 7th June, Foto8 Gallery, £12.50

Masterclass: 7th-10th June, Fitzrovia Community Centre, £649

For more great South African photography during the festival, also check out Steve Bloom at the Guardian Gallery.