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Article

Beninese, 20th century, male.

Born 1942, in Cotonou.

Installation artist.

Adéagbo formerly studied law in France. On the death of his father, he returned to Benin in 1971. He has not followed the traditional 'head of the family' role by choosing a dependable profession, but rather spends his time creating what the art milieux in the West call installations. He has been sectioned on several occasions at the request of his family. It has taken him several years to be able to assert his way of living....

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

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

Born 1959, in Johannesburg.

Photomontage artist, sculptor of assemblages, installation artist.

Jane Alexander completed a Master of Arts in Fine Art at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in 1988. She has been professor at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, since ...

Article

Kevin Mulhearn

(b Johannesburg, 1959).

South African sculptor and installation and multimedia artist. Though Alexander trained as a sculptor at the University of the Witwatersrand, earning a Bachelor in Fine Arts in 1982 and a Masters in 1988, she nevertheless pursued a variety of artistic disciplines, regularly employing photomontage and sometimes using video in her practice. While working towards her Masters’ degree, she produced Butcher Boys (1985–6), an iconic work from this contentious era in South African history. The sculptural tableau presents three monstrous, grey nude male figures built from plaster over a gauze core and glazed with oil paint. Seated casually on a bench, their heads strikingly combine human and animal forms, with twisting horns and sealed-up mouths. While Butcher Boys, like many of the artist’s works, responded to its socio-historical context, Alexander typically has not produced explicitly political work or supplied interpretive statements, preferring pieces to remain open-ended in their meanings....

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

Carol Magee

revised by Kimberly Bobier

(b Luanda, 1963).

Angolan sculptor, installation artist, and curator. Alvim began exhibiting internationally in the 1980s, at such shows as Africus, the 1995 Johannesburg Biennale; the 1997 Bienal de Havana; and Dak’Art ’98. His mixed-media pieces are powerful, haunting works through which he explores the memories and scars left by the trauma of growing up in a war-torn country. He generally evokes life in Luanda: displaced peoples, failed hopes, the patchwork organization of the urban space. In his overwhelmingly dark scenes, neon light illuminates found objects surrounded by canvas or metal, often superimposed with photographic images, creating a psychological intensity. Crosses, skulls, and maps predominate in his work of the early 1990s. In 1997 he collaborated with Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa and South African artist Gavin Younge in a project that brought them to Cuito Canaval, a Cuban-Angolan community and former battle site, to comment on the devastating effects of war suffered there. This sojourn resulted in a touring multimedia exhibition ...

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

Lisa M. Binder

(b Anyako, Ghana, June 13, 1944).

Ghanaian sculptor, active in Nigeria. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sculpture (1968) and a postgraduate diploma in art education from the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana (1969). After graduation he taught at the Specialist Training College (now University of Winneba), Ghana, in a position vacated by the eminent sculptor Vincent Kofi. From 1975 he was Professor of Sculpture at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Anatsui’s practice often makes use of found objects including bottle caps, milk-tins and cassava graters. However, he is not concerned with recycling or salvaging; instead he seeks meaning in the ways materials can be transformed to make statements about history, culture and memory.

His early work consists of ceramic sculptures manipulated to reconfigure pieces of memory. In 1978 he began his Broken Pots series, which was exhibited the following year at the British Council in Enugu, Nigeria. Several of the ceramic works were made of sherds that were fused together by a grog-like cement of broken pieces. Making art historical references to ...

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

Togolese, 20th – 21st century, male.

Born 12 April 1975, in Lomé.

Sculptor (mixed media).

Komivi Assangi followed courses in drawing and painting in the studio of Kodjo Aho from 1994 to 1997 before turning to sculpture. His compositions are assembled from old tools and utensils, planks of wood, jute sacking, nails and lengths of string. He has showed his work in group exhibitions, among them at the Goethe institute in Lomé in ...

Article

Togolese, 20th – 21st century, male.

Born 15 June 1958, in the Côte-d'Ivoire.

Assemblage artist, designer.

Kossi Assou graduated from the college of fine arts in Abidjan and completed his studies in Senegal, Mali, Benin and Ghana. His body of work relies on objets trouvés (found objects) which typify African life and which he re-works to impart new meaning, combining and juxtaposing iron, wood, vegetable fibres, cardboard and so on into highly original decorative compositions where black, kaolin white and red ochres dominate. His furniture designs are distinguished by the incorporation of decorative pictorial elements. Since ...

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

Morgan Falconer

(b Nigeria, 1963).

Nigerian photographer, film maker, installation artist and writer active in Scotland. He studied Chemical Engineering at Strathclyde University, Glasgow (1981–85), before completing an MA in Media, Fine Art, Theory and Practice at the Slade School of Fine Art, London (1996–8). Bamgboyé’s earliest work was photographic: The Lighthouse series (1989; see 1998 book, p. 65) initiated his interest in the representation of black masculinity by depicting his own naked body in often theatrical contortions, amid mundane domestic rooms; the frames of the photographs are attached to coat hangers, underlining the theme of domesticity and pointing to his interest in the changeable character of subjectivity. These themes were further explored in films, which he began to make in 1993: Spells for Beginners (1994; see 2000 exh. cat., p. 74) explores the breakdown of his long-term relationship with a woman through a broken mix of confessional dialogue and fleeting images of their home. The installation of which this film is a part takes the form of an ordinary living room and is typical of Bamgboyé’s technique of adumbrating his imagery with sculptural motifs that emphasize his themes. In other films he explored the issue of migration: ...

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

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

Born 1956, in Montagu (near Cape Town).

Sculptor, mixed media artist. Assemblages.

Willie Bester was born into a mixed race family under the apartheid regime. In 1986, he studied art part time at the Community Arts Project (CAP) in Cape Town, an anti-apartheid art group, and became a full-time artist in ...