African art and its causes in 2016

A look at how African artists used their platforms to tackle social issues in 2016.

NAIROBI, KENYA (REUTERS) – Art has always been part of everyday life in Africa – but in Kenya a group of photographers put together an exhibition that was intended to question just how much people recognize the art around them.

A series of images captured in different parts of the country – from the bustling financial capital, to the some of the most rural locations, was put together by a group of photographers known as OneTouch – a collective whose aim is to see Kenya for themselves.

The exhibition was also aimed at changing what the organizes say was skewed media coverage of Africa.

“Our brief is Africa, our brief is taking people and showing them in a dignified, respectful and insightful way. We are sick and tired of seeing stereotypical photos of Africans. We want to show people going about their life in a triumphant way. We see people… yes, in some difficult circumstances but it’s not my head down waiting to die or waiting for someone to come and help me,” said one of the group’s members, Nigerian born, Okwi Okoh.

In Nigeria, artist Abinoro Akporode let us in on his latest collection of sculptures made from table spoons.

Akporode sources discarded spoons and can use up to 500 depending on the complexity of the piece.

Akporode said he wants his work to give meaning to everyday items and objects and transform them.

“Spoons good enough gives me the closer illusion of the feather effect of the birds you know so the choice of spoons is probably inspired by my passion for birds, the love for birds,” he said.

Nigeria also cast a fresh eye on its vibrant contemporary art.

The Art X event held in Lagos showed work from 65 African artists and proved the country’s contemporary art scene is more vibrant than it has ever been.

Elements of pop culture were a key theme at the event.

Installations were accompanied by hip hop and jazz music sets as young artists painted graffiti murals.

Organizers said the idea was to bridge different eras and forms of art.

“For me, the goal in doing this was to inspire and to inspire our different audiences. If I start first of all with the artistes, professional artistes of today, so many of whom complain that they are not really being collected or they don’t work so easily with galleries. It’s to inspire them to continue to do what they do,” said Art X Lagos, founder Tokini Peterside.

In Cape Town, South Africa, an audacious exhibition gave the public a chance to look inside the human body and see its complexity and fragility.

The Body Worlds Vital exhibition showcased stripped full bodies and over 180 human organs.

Organizers wanted to educate people on how the body functions when healthy and how to avoid life threatening diseases as well as addiction.

All the cadavers were willed by donors for plastination, a preservation method invented by German anatomist, Gunther von Hagens that dries specimens and makes them odourless.

Meanwhile, demand for African art abroad persisted. The London’s National Portrait gallery unveiled a rare photo collection exploring 19th century black british life.

The Black Chronicles exhibition shed light on the forgotten history of Africans who found themselves in Britain during the Victorian period and addressed their absence in contemporary history books.

Prior to the exhibition, some of the images had not been seen or published in over 120 years.

“As a young black man in this age that we are living in, I think this is important, not just for the black community or ethnic minorities, I think it’s important for everyone to know because Britain was built on lots of people’s shoulders from across the world,” said one visitor, Nicholas Daley.

By showing the collection, the curators hope to help the viewer understand the colonial dimension of social change brought about by imperial expansion.


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