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Article

Togolese, 20th – 21st century, male.

Born 12 February 1977, in Lomé.

Painter (mixed media).

Félix Agbokou studied under Sokey Edoth between 1996 and 1999. He abandoned realism in favour of depicting a fantasy world, and his paintings are spontaneous to the extent that they have no predefined theme. Painted at night and by candlelight, each series of paintings is directly inspired by its immediate surroundings: Lomé, Kouma, Abouri or Ghana. Agbokou uses materials that come readily to hand - leaves of indigenous plants or the bark of local trees - and mixes them with acrylic paint, outlining his forms and individual colours with a black line obtained from a mixture of coconut milk and old nails. His work has featured at group exhibitions, including the ...

Article

Beninese, 20th – 21st century, male.

Born 1964.

Painter (mixed media).

Simplice Ahouansou is self-taught. In a manner that shows affinities with Surrealism, some of his paintings comment with irony on certain aspects of modern Western civilisation, such as communication, or protection of private property, while other works seem more firmly anchored in the artistic traditions of his native country of Benin....

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

Angolan, 20th – 21st century, male.

Active in Belgium from 1987.

Born 8 August 1963, in Luanda, Angola, of Portuguese origin.

Painter, collage artist, installation artist.

Fernando Alvim has lived and worked in Luanda, Brussels and Johannesburg. In Brussels he founded Camouflage, Europe's first centre of contemporary African art, the counterpart of the centre in Johannesburg. His work derives from memory, particularly of the war liberating Angola from colonialism, a war whose horror and misery he lived through. A particular vision of African tradition expresses itself through his painting....

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

Togolese, 20th – 21st century, male.

Born 4 July 1970, in Lomé.

Painter (mixed media).

Bethel Aniaku has shown his work at group exhibitions since 1993, including at the Goethe institute in Lomé (1994); the Salon International des Arts Plastiques (Sarakawa Hotel, Lomé, 1996...

Article

Algerian, 20th – 21st century, male.

Active in France since 1977.

Born 1955, in Ittourar.

Installation artist, painter. Urban landscapes, Still-lifes.

Aoun Arezki studied at the schools of fine art in Algiers and Paris, and worked in the studio of Jean Clos in Paris.

In his early work, he painted large, abstract canvases and created installations that featured reproductions of devastated nomadic Arab encampments. He then spent an increasing amount of time on his painting, developing a deliberately limited artistic vocabulary. Paper that has been left in the sun is then glued to the canvas (using the technique of marouflage). The range of colours employed has also been reduced: ashy greys and rusty reds now contrast with large white surfaces divided into diptychs. Space and material are thus juxtaposed in large-scale works, usually with no title, featuring sketches of geometrical shapes....

Article

Carol Magee

(b Dec 8, 1956).

Ethiopian painter, installation artist, graphic designer, and writer, active in the USA. She grew up in Addis Ababa in a family of painters before moving to the USA. She graduated from Howard University, Washington, DC, with a BFA in painting (1975) and returned in 1994 for an MFA. Her early works, based on dreams or visions, have richly textured surfaces. In the 1980s she abandoned her early palette of reds, ochres, and greens for one of purples and blues. Later paintings depict an urban environment and frequently evoke the feeling of dislocation and nostalgia that comes from living in a country that is not one’s own. Her use of themes and motifs from myriad cultures (including those of Ethiopia and Latin America) comes out of her experiences as a diasporic subject as well as the lives of the women around her. Her pieces often tell their stories, as in the Dream Dancers series (...

Article

Togolese, 20th – 21st century, male.

Born 11 November 1968, in Lomé.

Painter (mixed media).

A self-taught artist, Tetevi Azankpo works with recycled materials such as rusting receptacles, lengths of metal wire and rubber to produce fantasy figurines.

He has exhibited at group exhibitions, among them ...

Article

Cameroonian, 20th century, male.

Painter, installation artist.

Kapsiki Group.

A mechanical engineer by training, Blaise Bang has also studied art. He is part of the Kapsiki Circle, also known as the Chameleon Circle, the members of which were artists in residence at the École des Arts Décoratifs in Strasbourg in the Department of Scenography in ...

Article

South African, 20th century, male.

Born 1906, in Somerset East, Eastern Cape; died 1982, in Port Shepstone, Natal (KwaZulu-Natal).

Painter, watercolourist, draughtsman, printmaker, Collage, installations, performance art.

Walter Whall Battiss was raised in the Orange Free State (Free State), where he was introduced to rock art by William Fowler. He worked in the Rustenburg Magistrate’s Office (...

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

Togolese, 20th – 21st century, male.

Born 31 October 1960, in Aneho.

Painter (mixed media).

Akoue Calico paints mainly on canvas, and produces compositions in ochre and red punctuated by black and white symbols. He has shown his work at group exhibitions, notably at exhibitions of contemporary art at the French cultural centre in Lomé in ...

Article

Egyptian, 20th century, male.

Born 1919, in Cairo.

Painter (mixed media), collage artist.

Mounir Canaan began his artistic career in the early 1940s and moved into abstraction in 1946. Normally an oil on canvas painter, he also created assemblages of wooden pieces, and collages of printed documents which he arranged along geometrical lines. He showed work at several collective exhibitions in Cairo and at international events including the São Paulo Biennale (...

Article

Joanna Grabski

(b Dakar, December 29, 1969).

Senegalese painter and installation artist. He graduated from the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Dakar (1996). The subconscious mind and changing visual landscape of urban Africa are the main themes of his work. His large paintings of the late 1990s were characterized by a combination of figuration, abstraction and written text suggesting wall graffiti. In ...

Article

Susan T. Goodman

(b Meknès, Morocco, 1942).

Israeli painter and mixed-media artist of Moroccan birth. He emigrated to Israel in 1949 and studied art at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem (graduating in 1971) and the Central School of Art in London before receiving a BA degree in Social Science and History of Art at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (1973). His mixed-media works of the 1970s conveyed his sense of physical dislocation at being estranged as a Moroccan refugee in Israel; the human figure appeared as an essential element of this theme of displacement and homelessness. In 1975 he returned to drawing and painting in works such as Analogical Work on Computers (1977; Tel Aviv Mus. A.), in which faceless, generalized figures function as symbols in a non-specific space. From 1975 to 1977 Cohen Gan lived in New York, where he studied at Columbia University (MFA, 1977), before settling in Tel Aviv, where he combined scientific systems with introspective autobiographical references in narrative paintings such as the series ...

Article

Togolese, 20th – 21st century, male.

Born 30 March 1973, in Togo.

Painter (mixed media).

A self-taught artist, he has taken part in group exhibitions: in 1994, in Expo-contraste, at the Goethe Institute, Lomé; the first international meeting of Contemporary Arts, Ewolé, the French cultural centre, the Artistik Centre, Lomé; in ...

Article

Tunisian, 20th century, female.

Active in France from 1954.

Born 5 September 1930, in Ferryville.

Painter (mixed media/gouache), collage artist. Stage sets, designs for tapestries.

Lily Designe lives and works in France, where she married. She uses a variety of techniques occasionally based on collage, with frequent references to the supernatural aspects of the theatre. She tends more towards the magical than the fantastic....

Article

Cecile Johnson

(b Cape Town, 1953).

South African painter, draughtswoman and collagist, active in the Netherlands. She studied the fine arts at the University of Cape Town, South Africa (1972–5), and continued studying art at the Ateliers ’63, Haarlem, the Netherlands (1976–8). In 1979–80 she followed a general course in psychology at the Psychological Institute of the University of Amsterdam. Dumas became known for her portraits and figurative works (see fig.). Her exhibition The Private Versus the Public (Amsterdam, Gal. Paul Andriesse) presented a number of group and individual portraits based on Polaroid photographs taken either by herself or from magazines (e.g. the Turkish Schoolgirls, 1.60×2.00 m, 1987; Amsterdam, Stedel. Mus.). Her emotional involvement with the subjects coupled with her distortion of the original photographs created unnaturalistic renderings that had characteristically a haunting edge. Other significant works include the Particularity of Nakedness (1.40×3.00 m, 1987; Eindhoven, Stedel. Van Abbemus.). In the 1990s she produced such installation works as ...

Article

Togolese, 20th – 21st century, male.

Born 5 July 1955, in Lomé.

Painter (mixed media).

After studying philosophy at the University of Benin, in 1989 Edorh went to Bordeaux, where he obtained a place at the school of fine arts. In 1993, he studied engraving with Penck at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf....