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Article

Aurélie Verdier

(b Saïda, Algeria, 1953).

French painter, sculptor, photographer, film maker, writer and installation artist of Algerian birth. Born to Spanish parents, he was much affected by North African as well as Southern European culture. He trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Le Havre. Despite a pervasive and diverse use of media, Alberola often stressed the coexistence of his different artistic practices as leading to painting alone. His paintings relied heavily on evocative narratives, at once personal and ‘historical’. Alberola conceived of his role as a storyteller, on the model of African oral cultures. Convinced that narratives could not be renewed, he argued that a painter’s main task was to reactivate his work through contact with his pictorial heritage. The main points of reference for his paintings of the early 1980s were Velázquez, Manet or Matisse, whose works he quoted in a personal way. In the early 1980s he undertook a series of paintings inspired by mythological subjects, which he combined with his own history as the principal subject-matter of his work. The biblical story of Susannah and the Elders as well as the Greek myth of Actaeon provided his most enduring subjects, both referring to the act of looking as taboo, as in ...

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

Simon Njami

(b Douala, 1962).

Cameroonian painter, sculptor and installation artist, active in France. He moved to Paris in 1974 and studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts; he began exhibiting in the late 1980s, showing in France, Switzerland, Spain and Greece, among other places. Unlike many African artists living in Europe, he never felt dislocated. His sculptures, canvases and installation pieces combine all manner of found objects and other material that he manufactures himself. With these he comments on issues of representation and artistic practice in the Western world, at the same time evoking the presence and/or absence of humans, and therefore memory. The objects he uses are symbolic as well: eggs signify renewal, for instance. His compositions are simple and striking, as is his use of colour. In one work, for example, a ‘mummified’ figure appears on each side panel in the same thick white paint as the ground, holding a red rose against a metal plate. Against the black centre panel is an orange dress, under which are white flowers....

Article

Moroccan, 20th – 21st century, female.

Active in France.

Born 1950, in Casablanca.

Painter, sculptor, sculptor of assemblages, draughtswoman, illustrator.

Sylvia Elharar-Lemberg studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and at the art teachers training college in Tel Aviv. Her paintings and drawings create the effect of transparency and obliteration, often starting from the square design of a tetragram. She also creates assemblages, such as mysterious grills, iron rods placed alongside labels and photographic plates. Sylvia Elharar-Lemberg has shown at group exhibitions in France since ...

Article

Simon Njami

(b Diré, Feb 1, 1953).

Malian painter, sculptor and installation artist. He was trained at the National Institute of Arts, Bamako (1976), and the Superior Institute of Arts, Havana (1978–85). His colourful figurative paintings are relatively abstract, with thick paint revealing brushstrokes. In 1992 he began making political statements with his work, investigating themes as general as the social role of artists or the intersection of modernity and heritage, or as specific the massacres in Rwanda, Bosnia and Angola. His Homage to Mande Hunters (1994) is a large wall hanging to which cowry shells and amulets are attached. In other pieces he employed eggs to convey the fragility and vulnerable precariousness of human life; in one, a large rock is suspended over rows of eggs in a bed of sand. Konaté sees himself as the keeper of tradition; for him, being a contemporary artist does not have to mean forgetting the past. He participated in the Havana Bienal and Daka Biennale, and in ...

Article

Kristine Stiles

(b Zambesi River, nr Victoria Falls, Rhodesia [now Zimbabwe], Feb 23, 1921; d London, Jan 1, 2006).

British painter, sculptor, conceptual artist, performance artist, video and film maker, of Rhodesian birth. He studied at the Chelsea School of Art, London, from 1946 to 1950. His concern from 1954 was not with the production of art objects as an end in itself but with various processes and consequently with the recording in three dimensions of sequences of events and of patterns of knowledge. In 1958 he introduced torn, overpainted and partly burnt books into assemblages such as Burial of Count Orgaz (1958; London, Tate), followed in 1964 by the first of a series of SKOOB Towers (from ‘books’ spelt backwards), constructed from stacks of venerated tomes such as the Encyclopedia Britannica, which he ignited and burnt. The destruction and parody of systems of knowledge implied in Latham’s work was apparent in 1966, when he organized a party at which guests chewed pages of Clement Greenberg’s book Art and Culture...

Article

Elaine E. Sullivan

(b Kinshasa, 1968).

Congolese installation artist, sculptor, and painter, active also in Belgium. Aimé Mpane’s work explores themes of identity, urban life, and colonial history. Mpane utilizes the interplay of light and shadow as well as the multicoloured layers of plywood to bring attention to layers of history and memory present in Congolese identity. His work reflects his own experience of frequent travel between Belgium and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as well as a larger awareness of colonial history and its continuing impact on the Congo region.

Mpane was born in Kinshasa, the son and grandson of wood-carvers. In Kinshasa he attended the Institut des Beaux-Arts, where he received degrees in Sculpture (1987) and Monumental Painting (1990). From the 1990s Mpane split his time between the DRC and Belgium, and received his MFA in Painting and Tri-Dimensional Research in 2000 from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels de La Cambre in Brussels. After ...

Article

Egyptian, 20th century, male.

Born 1932, in Cairo.

Painter, collage artist, sculptor, potter.

Saleh Réda studied at the school of applied arts in Cairo, from which he graduated with a diploma in 1957, and then at the school of fine arts. He went to Czechoslovakia to study sculpture and ceramics, and obtained a doctorate in Great Britain. He has participated in collective exhibitions, such as the Biennial in Alexandria, the Biennale for engraving in Italy, the Venice Biennale, and ...

Article

Andrew Cross

Reviser Mary Chou

(b London Aug 9, 1962).

British sculptor, painter and installation artist. Born to Nigerian parents, he grew up in Nigeria before returning to England to study Fine Art in London at Byam Shaw School of Art and Goldsmiths’ College where he completed his MFA. Shonibare’s West African heritage has been at the heart of his work since he started exhibiting in 1988, when he began using ‘Dutch-wax’ dyed fabrics, commonly found in Western Africa, both for wall-mounted works (as pseudo paintings) and for sculpted figures. Generally perceived as ‘authentic’African cloth, the tradition of Batik originated in Indonesia, and was appropriated by the Dutch who colonized the country. Manufactured in Holland and Britain, the cloth was then shipped to West Africa where it became the dress of the working class in nations such as Nigeria. Shonibare used the material as a way of deconstructing the more complex histories that determine these and other images of ethnicity. As such, he has been described as a ‘post-cultural hybrid’ or the ‘quintessential postcolonial artist’ by critics as well as the artist himself....

Article

Moroccan, 20th – 21st century, male.

Active in France.

Born 1950, in Morocco.

Painter, sculptor, assemblage artist.

Omar Youssoufi arranges moulded objects, reminiscent of luxuriously calligraphed archaeological remains, in small glass cabinets with compartments that can be turned upside down like an hourglass. Through the play between interconnecting boxes, sand is continually poured onto these objects, constantly creating new 'landscapes' that can be contemplated like a series of imaginary deserts....