Saturday, February 26, 2005

Africa Remix

Last night we saw the Africa Remix: Contemporary Art of a Continent exhibition at the Hayward Gallery -- the largest exhibition of contemporary African art ever seen in Europe, but which isn't about "African art" as such. Featuring artists from across Africa -- from Algeria to Zimbabwe -- the show covers a wide breadth of mediums from video installations and photography to sculpture and painting, and is as gloriously incoherent, diverse and eclectic as the continent itself.

In an attempt to impose some form of structured narrative, the show explores the intersections between various themes: City and Land (for example, Ghanaian El Anatsui's shimmering eight metre high golden cloth hanging made from thousands of bottle tops, and Nigerian Dilomprizulike's sculpture of people standing at a bus stop made of plastic bags, rusted metal, clothing offcuts and other found materials), History and Identity (featuring, among others, central African Samuel Fosso's photographs of himself in various guises from a woman to a sailor), and Body and Soul (for example, Egyptian artist Abd El Ghany Kenawy's video installation on memory and hope).

A chaotic feast of such diversity that my senses were a little overwhelmed. But knowing nothing about the contemporary African art scene (I doubt a singular one exists), I discovered artists I would like to investigate more, particularly Samuel Fosso (photo above), Jane Alexander (photo below), Allan deSouza, and Bodys Isek Kingelez.

Related links:

+ Africa remix 2005 official site (Flash needed)
+ BBC World Service programme discussing issues raised from Africa Remix
+ BBC's Africa 2005 pages
+ Behind the mask. Naive, primitive? African artists have outgrown these labels. Why haven't we, asks The Times.

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