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Article

Bolaji V. Campbell

(b Oshogbo, 1930s).

Nigerian sculptor and textile artist. He started out as a bricklayer and received no formal training. One of his earliest commissions was for 12 cement pieces for Ulli Beier’s Mbari-Mbayo Club at Oshogbo. He exhibited internationally in the 1960s and 1970s and is best known for his public pieces, such as openwork cement screens based on Yoruba doors (see Yoruba §I) for museum entrances and petrol stations, such as that opposite the Mbari-Mbayo Club, Oshogbo. In these playful and animated works, elongated figures are presented in scenes from daily life, such as buying petrol, in masquerades and in fantastic imaginary scenes. Akanji also created free-standing cement sculpture, brightly painted human and animal figures.

U. Beier: Contemporary Art in Africa (New York, 1968), pp. 141, 149–54, 156, 161, 164 M. Mount: African Art: The Years Since 1920 (Bloomington, 1973), pp. 153–7, 199 B. Kelly and J. Stanley: Nigerian Artists: A Who’s Who & Bibliography...

Article

Pamela Elizabeth Grimaud

(b Tunis, Feb 2, 1935).

French fashion designer, of Tunisian birth. Alaïa is renowned for his ‘second skin’ fashions and masterful cutting techniques (see fig.). Christened the ‘King of Cling’ by fashion journalists, Alaïa rose to prominence in the 1980s following years of realizing commissions for a loyal and select clientele. His designs are modern, overtly feminine in their celebration of the female form and, in Alaïa’s own words: ‘not sexy, voluptuous’. Alaïa’s sculpted fashions have been known to render other designers’ fashions unwearable—they simply feel too large in comparison.

Born in southern Tunisia, Alaïa was raised by his maternal grandparents and at the age of 15 undertook the study of sculpture. Realizing soon after that sculpture was not his calling, and serendipitously passing a dressmaker’s window on his way to classes, he saw a sign for an assistant. He was hired for the task of finishing hems at five francs apiece. Alaïa rose quickly to become a favourite of Tunisian high society, copying for the local clientele the work of the great ...

Article

Egyptian, 20th – 21st century, female.

Active in the USA.

Born 1963, in Cairo.

Draughtswoman, embroiderer.

Ghada Amer grew up in Paris. She studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Nice before travelling to the USA where she attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She lives and works in both New York and Paris. In 2005 she was Artist in Residence at Kansas City Art Institute....

Article

Chika Okeke-Agulu

(b Cairo, May 22, 1963).

American painter, sculptor, fibre and installation artist of Egyptian birth. Amer, one of the few young artists of African origin to gain prominence in the late 1990s international art scene, studied painting in France at the Villa Arson EPIAR, Nice (MFA, 1989), and the Institut des Hautes Etudes en Art Plastique, Paris (1991). She subsequently moved to New York. She is best known for her canvases in which paint and embroidery are combined to explore themes of love, desire, sexuality, and women’s identity in a patriarchal world. Amer’s use of Embroidery, historically regarded as a genteel female craft, to create images of women fulfilling their sexual desires without inhibition, recalls the provocations and strategies of 1970s Western feminist art. However, her work also reflects her alarm at the incremental curbing of women’s social and political freedoms in her native Egypt following the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, especially after the regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser ended in ...

Article

South African, 20th–21st century, male.

Active in France.

Born 11 August 1962, in Johannesburg.

Printmaker, choreographer, performance artist. Identity politics.

Living Art.

Steven Cohen was the first South African artist under apartheid to create confrontational performance art engaging with sexual and cultural identity. He began his career in the 1980s, while conscripted into the South African army, when he went absent without leave and learnt how to screenprint at Cape Town’s Ruth Prowse School of Art....

Article

Ann Poulson

[Verginie, Jean Dimitre]

(b Alexandria, Aug 6, 1904; d Athens, Aug 2, 1970).

Greek fashion designer based in Paris. Dessès was born in Egypt to Greek parents and arrived in Paris in the 1920s to study law and diplomacy. By 1925 he had changed his mind and was employed as a designer for Maison Jane. He left Maison Jane to open his own couture house in 1937 at 37, Avenue George V, eventually moving to 17, Avenue Matignon. Dessès is best known for his silk chiffon evening gowns draped asymmetrically in a Neo-classical style.

Though Dessès was raised in Egypt, he considered Greece his native land and the influence of Greek antiquity is clearly seen in his signature draped evening gowns. In appearance they resembled garments represented in ancient sculpture, but in construction they were more closely allied to the moulded and heavily structured gowns of the 19th century, being mounted on corseted bodices and stiffened petticoats. Over this foundation he skilfully manouevered the fabric into pleats and twists, bunches and braids, occasionally releasing it into a flowing scarf. When Dessès used materials stiffer than his favourite silk chiffon, he would often incorporate similar techniques, using sunray pleating or knotting the material, sometimes gathering it at the hips to suggest paniers....

Article

Beth Dincuff Charleston

(b New York, June 27, 1945).

American fashion designer. Few designers have managed to be as influential as Norma Kamali without extensive press coverage. Specializing in ready-to-wear garments, Kamali introduced the world to the concepts of high-heeled sneakers and mix-and-match bikinis, originated the ‘sleeping bag’ coat and was the first designer to see the wide sartorial possibilities of both sweatshirt jersey and parachute silk (see fig.).

Kamali received her training at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, graduating in 1964 with a degree in fashion illustration. Kamali then worked as an airline employee, a job that introduced her to the pleasures of transatlantic shopping. In 1968, inspired by the fashions she saw in ‘swinging’ London, Kamali opened a boutique on 53rd Street in Manhattan. Mixed in with her British finds were her original designs, featuring appliqués of lizard, leather and snakeskin and rhinestone-studded t-shirts. When she moved to Madison Avenue in 1973, a ...

Article

South African, 21st century, collective of mostly women.

Needlework, painting, printmaking, ceramics. Local histories and scenes.

Established in 2000 by Carol Hofmeyr, an artist and medical doctor, the Keiskamma Art Project is intended to provide income-generating opportunities to isiXhosa-speakers in Hamburg and the surrounding villages of Bodium and Ntilini in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, while also enabling participants to use representation to engage with issues of relevance to their communities. Although members sometimes work individually on small-scale embroideries, items in felt, beaded objects, small prints, or ceramics, the project is best known for large-scale works in needlework, which its members work on collectively and which are parodies of well-known art objects from the West....

Article

Togolese, 20th – 21st century, male.

Active in Germany.

Born 1950, in Pedakondji.

Painter, sculptor, engraver. Murals.

El Loko trained at first as a textile designer in Accra from 1965 to 1968, and then in graphic arts at Düsseldorf's Staatliche Kunstakademie alongside Beuys, Crummenauer and Heerich. He lived and worked in Duisburg in Germany and in Pedakondji in Togo....

Article

El Loko  

Christine Mullen Kreamer

(b Pedakondji, 1950).

Togolese painter, printmaker and sculptor, active in Germany. He trained as a textile designer in Accra and Tema, Ghana, before moving to Germany in the early 1970s. He studied fine arts at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie with Beuys, Crummenauer and Heerich. His work includes a number of linoleum cuts in which birds’ wings, claws and beaks are combined with masks, faces and other elements in striking compositions. More recent mixed-media paintings and prints juxtapose images and abstract shapes executed in earthen tones. In works on paper and wooden sculpture dating from the early 1990s, sand and earthen pigments are combined to create texture and a sense of movement and depth. Many of his works are abstract colour fields composed of striking red-orange, yellow ochre and slate blue tones that outline geometric forms and, at times, stylized faces of partial humans. Eyes, crown, conical human heads and projecting horns are familiar elements, as is a mottled surface pattern. These same qualities are repeated in wooden sculptures, some exploring curvilinear and geometric volumes of the human form, others creating more two-dimensional, openwork, geometric patterns in sculptures that resemble commemorative or totemic wooden posts. El Loko has had numerous one-man exhibitions, primarily in Germany, and group shows in Germany, Switzerland, England, Togo, Ghana and the USA....