African Art in London

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Ellen Gallagher @ Tate Modern

Deluxe, 2004-5

Deluxe, 2004-5

Ellen Gallagher’s first major UK retrospective is currently being held at the Tate Modern until 1 September. The title of the exhibition, AxME, is a play on words: to resemble the cartoon corporation Acme, known for its outlandish products that fail catastrophically, also a reference to the African-American vernacular for “Ask me”.

Gallagher’s work is gorgeously intricate, bringing together myth, nature, art and social history in painting, drawing, relief collage, print, sculpture, film and animation. In 2007 a series of her Watery Ecstatic paintings, inspired by the myth of the Black Atlantis – an underwater city populated by the descendents of Africans thrown off slave ships – was shown at the Tate Liverpool.  To know more about her work and how she creates be sure to read this Guardian interview with her from a few weeks ago. Also: Jackie Kay’s review of her Tate Liverpool show, Coral Cities.

A standout piece from AxME, a piece that gives a good feel for the focus of Gallagher’s creativity, is a series of wig-map grid collages appropriated and incorporated from old African-American magazine advertisements. Gallagher transforms these hair and beauty product faces from the 1930s-1970s into new world beings, some look like startled astronauts, others like startling aliens. Much of what Gallagher creates has the sheen and feel of a too distant future, unsurprisingly she cops to being particularly inspired by groundbreaking African-American science-fiction novelist Octavia Butler. Accordingly the Tate Modern have arranged a talk to discuss Afrofuturism in the context of Gallagher’s work. Speakers Amna Malik, Hazel V. Carby, Zoe Whitley and Lilli Reynaud-Deward will ‘explore and complicate readings of Afrofuturism and its influence on contemporary artists’ practices, creating an intricate understanding of the genre and its evolutions’.

Coined by Mary Dery, Afrofuturism is an emergent literary and cultural aesthetic that relies heavily on elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity, and non-Western magic realism to talk about the African Diaspora. Afrofuturism is my jam because it distills a belief beyond belief, a reckless optimism in the future. One of the most important things about being a diaspora African alive and trying, especially creatively.

Until 1 September
Adult £11.00 (without donation £10.00)
Concession £9.50 (without donation £8.60)

Afrofuturism’s Others
Starr Auditorium
Saturday 15 June
Time: 14.00-16.00
£15, concessions available

Tate Modern
London SE1 9TG


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Opening Tomorrow @ Tiwani Contemporary and Jack Bell Gallery

Tomorrow two new exhibitions begin at London’s most prolific African art galleries.

Gideon Mendel: Drowning World @ Tiwani Contemporary

The Outskirts of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria, 2012

The Outskirts of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria, 2012

At Tiwani Contemporary a collection of Gideon Mendel’s photographs go on show. Curated by Christine Eyene Drowning World is a selection of photographs, including 15 images that have never been exhibited, documenting flooding around the globe. It also includes a two-part video of people living amongst floodwaters in Bangkok and video portraits of Nigerian inhabitants returning to their flooded homes. The strength of Mendel’s exhibition – which forms part of his long term project on climate change, 5 of the images on featured in Drowning World were seen last year at Somerset House – is in capturing the stillness in once lively environments. Mendel’s who hails from South Africa has taken photographs all over the world including in England, India, Haiti and Australia seen together they demonstrate a shared human experience that erases geographical and cultural divides.

7 June – 27 July

Tiwani Contemporary
16 Little Portland Street,
London W1W 8BP

Gallery Hours:
Tuesday to Friday, 11:00am – 6:00pm
Saturday, 12:00 – 5:00pm

Stefan Krynauw @ Jack Bell Gallery

Untitled 9, 2013

Another South African, a thespian turned artist Stefan Krynauw will be presenting a solo exhibition of new paintings at Jack Bell Gallery. Krynauw works in abstract space, his paintings are both Baroque and expressionist, of the natural and architectural. His canvases are twisted and blurred splashed with dark, scratches made of light. Drawing on his experience as an actor – he holds a degree in Drama from the University of Stellenbosch – Krynauw is keen on showing performance in his painting. He is self-taught and builds his works up over time by layering, washing, drawing and writing on them.

This will be Krynauw’s first exhibition in the UK.

7 – 29 June

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

Gallery Hours:

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African Masters on The Africa Channel

African art in your living room!

The Africa Channel

The Africa Channel

African Masters is a new arts series that starts on the Africa Channel at 9pm tonight. The 6-part programme visits studios in Senegal, galleries in New York, artists residences in Nigeria and auction houses in London to reveal how the African art scene is emerging as a dynamic force internationally. The globe-trotting show shot on location in Nigeria, Senegal Benin, Kenya, South Africa, France, the USA and the UK features interviews with a wide range of artists, Ousmane Sow, William Kentridge, Romuald Hazoumé, Yinka Shonibare and Yusuf Grillo, exclusive studio  visits with El Anatsui, Ablade Glover, Soly Cissé, Sokari Douglas-Camp, Bruce Onabrakpeya and Mary Evans as well as discussions with art world key players including André Magnin (French Curator and Art Dealer) and Bisi Silva (Curator at the Center for Contemporary Art in Lagos).

Dedicated to providing bold, high-quality programming giving viewers unique insight into the continent The Africa Channel is available across the UK and Ireland on Sky channel 209 and Virgin channel 828.

For more info visit: The Africa Channel

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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


Interview: Winnie Awa, founder of Uli-Museum

Have you heard of Uli-Museum? If you’re even the slightest bit interested in Nigerian art, it is time you did. Uli-Museum is an online gallery focused on showcasing the talents of contemporary Nigerian artists, it displays work across a range of styles and disciplines and features in-depth profiles on emerging artists (see: this excellent interview with Karo Akpokiere).

KARO AKPOKIERE: Man, Woman and Scissors, 2010

KARO AKPOKIERE: Man, Woman and Scissors, 2010

Uli-Museum is interested in art for all, its manifesto champions enthusiasm over connoisseurship: ‘We want to make this whole art thing accessible, no ‘arty farty’ talk if we can help it…’ Going forward African Art in London will do its best to let you know every time Uli-Museum is shining its spotlight on a new artist but if you really want to be sure to stay in the loop follow the museum’s presence on Facebook.

African Art in London recently sat down with Uli-Museum’s lovely founder Winnie Awa and fired a few questions at her concerning the how’s and why’s and ultimate goals of the digital art space she has built.

What made you decide to build an online museum? 

About a year ago, I started discovering some really interesting artists from Nigeria and across Africa, who in my view were truly challenging the status quo and pushing the boundaries in terms of style and medium, beyond the archetypal view of art from Africa – Njideka Akunyili, Ruby Amanze, Karo Akpokiere and Modé to name a few. My appetite was growing and I would stumble across one or two more artists but I wanted to know more but there wasn’t one place I could go to learn, discover and share my emerging interest. Marrying the two, technology and art to achieve this aim seemed like a no brainer to me.

Why an online museum showcasing Nigerian art?

Accessibility was key, both for the artists being featured and the users consuming the artworks online. Last year, I attended a talk about Contemporary Nigerian Art at SOAS University and was surprised at the number of artists who stop working as a direct result of the lack of patronage. I think patronage goes hand in hand with exposure and an online platform bridges geographical gaps.

What are the aims of Uli-Museum?

The aim of Uli-Museum is to document the brilliant body of contemporary art and artists work in and around Nigeria, providing comprehensive online content for art lovers and budding collectors, as well as global exposure to talented artists. It is really about discovering, engaging and sharing art. Our manifesto summarises the Uli-Museum DNA pretty well.

How do you select artists?

We focus on emerging and established artists from Nigeria or diaspora, from painting to sculpture to installations to video art. It usually starts with first contact with the artist, either via email or a conversation, from which point it is mutually agreed as to the best method to use for profiling the artist.

MODÉ ADERINOKUN: The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born, 2012

MODÉ ADERINOKUN: The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born, 2012

What’s the best way for people interested in Nigerian art to get involved with Uli-Museum?

Collaboration is at the heart of what Uli-Museum does. If anyone’s interested in being a guest curator, or writing, or filming, please do get in touch with us. As a regular art lover who just wants to enjoy and engage with the artworks on display, you can get stuck right in. We recently teamed up with Wana Udobang of to release an exclusive feature with award winning Nigerian artist, Nnenna Okore. To get involved and engaged further, please LIKE the Uli-Museum Facebook page to share your views on Nnenna Okore’s work, become part of the debate and keep abreast of upcoming and exciting new features.

NNENNA OKORE: Agbogho, 2009

NNENNA OKORE: Agbogho, 2009

What’s the ultimate goal of Uli-Museum?

Ultimately, it is about contributing to the Nigerian art market. Whilst this is an exciting time for Nigerian art at the moment, there is still little documentation on the ground. In covering art from a wholly accessible way, we hope to revolutionise the way people consume and engage with art.


Trends in Contemporary Nigerian Art Talk @ SOAS

Two of Nigeria’s most distinguished contemporary artists will be at the School of Oriental and African Studies this Thursday.

Ben Osaghae and Fidelis Odogwu, both alumni of Nigeria School of Art Polytechnic in Edo State will be discussing trends in contemporary Nigerian art.

Ben Osaghae has been described as a ‘social chronicler’. His paintings, drawings and mixed media creations contemplate the mundaneness of daily life. A discerning colourist, his work is often identified by bright figures floating on the wide, flat surface of his canvas. Osaghae’s work is often charged with political opinion revealing of his frustrations with regards to the development of his country.

Endurance March, 2011

Endurance March, 2011

Fidelis Odogwu is a sculptor who works within the visual narratives of Nigerian art, using repetitive designs and traditional motifs. Odogwu is able to transform masses of metal into objects that look fit for astral travel. He is a master of shape and symmetry using zig-zags, spirals, and parallel lines to symbolize forces of nature. His art work retains a preoccupation with outdoor environments and man’s connectedness to the universe.

Fulani Herdsmen, 2011

Fulani Herdsmen, 2011

Thursday, 23 May


School of Oriental and African Studies

Room B102
1st Floor, Brunei Gallery Building
Opposite  main Building SOAS
Thornhaugh Street,  Russell Square
London WC1H 0XG