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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....

Article

South African, late 20th–21st century, collective of women.

Winterveld, South Africa.

Embroidered panels, cushion covers, and bags. Media stories and local scenes.

Mapula (meaning ‘mother of rain’ in Tsonga) is a self-help embroidery project in the Winterveld, a peri-urban area about 40 kilometres north-west of Pretoria in South Africa. Operating in a classroom in the DWT Nthathe Adult Education Centre run by the Sisters of Mercy, it is supported by the women’s organisation Soroptomists International. In ...

Article

Beverly Marks-Paton

(b Zululand, 1941).

South African printmaker and textile designer. His interest in art and design was fostered when he was in Ceza Mission Hospital with tuberculosis in the early 1960s. The Swedish textile designer Peder Gowenius was teaching art and craft at the hospital as a therapy for the patients; he taught Mbatha the technique of linocut. In 1962 Mbatha began to study art at the Evangelical Lutheran Church Art and Craft Centre at Umpumulo in Natal, later moving with the centre to Rorke’s Drift, Natal. There he expressed an interest in drawing, which was discouraged because, unlike printmaking, it was not considered an economically ‘useful’ technique; instead great emphasis was placed on the translation of the narratives and oral history of rural Zululand into the design of prints for textiles and illustrations. Mbatha established a personal style of dividing the format of his prints into a series of tableaux making up a complete narrative dealing with biblical subjects, as in the ...

Article

South African, 20th century, female.

Born 10 December 1939, at Ekuhlengeni Mission, near Vryheid, Natal (KwaZulu-Natal).

Weaver.

Allina Ndebele grew up at Ekuhlengeni Mission near Vryheid, in the Zulu heartland of what is now KwaZulu-Natal. She attended various mission schools in the region, finishing at Maria Ratchitz in ...

Article

South African, 20th century, male.

Born 1943, in Hlabisa area, Natal (KwaZulu-Natal); died 2007.

Basketweaver.

Reuben Ndwandwe lived in the Hlabisa area of KwaZulu-Natal. He was taught to weave at the Mahashini Primary School under the apartheid regime, when such crafts were compulsory for black students. In pre-industrial South Africa, most basket weaving was done by men. By the early 20th century, due to the migrant labour system and the availability of plastic and metal containers, this activity had all but died out. In the 1950s, missionary organisations supported a revival of the craft in KwaZulu-Natal as a means to economic upliftment, especially for women. Ndwandwe was encouraged to pursue basket weaving during a long convalescence in hospital. He was one of the few men pursuing the craft in the second half of the 20th century and was renowned for his immaculately woven lidded baskets with intricate over-weaving and subtle colours....

Article

Lourdes Font

[ Mathieu-Saint-Laurent, Yves Henri Donat ]

(b Oran, Algeria, Aug 1, 1936; d Paris, June 1, 2008).

French fashion designer ( see fig. ). In the late 20th century, few fashion designers could match Saint Laurent’s versatility, flawless sense of proportion and painterly gift for colour. From his six seasons as head designer at the house of Dior to his forty-year career at his own house, Saint Laurent safeguarded the standards of the Paris couture. Beginning in 1966, he and his partner Pierre Bergé also created an international network of ready-to-wear boutiques, launched fragrance, cosmetics and menswear subsidiaries and supervised the production of licensed products. The basis for Saint Laurent’s success was a talent nurtured by a deep knowledge of art and literature and a love for the theatre. He began his career as an innovator, able to synthesize the legacies of earlier couturiers while keeping a discerning eye on the contemporary street. In 1976, Saint Laurent demonstrated that, like Dior, he was capable of transforming the fashionable woman with a single collection. Having created a style of his own, Saint Laurent ended his career as the standard-bearer of French modern Classicism....

Article

dele jegede

[ Prince Taiwo Olaniyi Oyewale-Toyeje Oyekale Osuntoki ]

(b Ibadan, May 1944; d Ibadan, June 16, 2011).

Nigerian painter, draughtsman, printmaker and textile designer. In 1964, while working as a dancer for a herbalist, he participated in the Mbari Mbayo Workshop in Oshogbo, producing drawings and prints. After Ulli Beier left Oshogbo, Twins Seven Seven switched to oils as a preferred medium. He drew illustrations for Amos Tutuola’s Palmwine Drinkard and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. In pen and ink drawings, etchings and paintings he created highly patterned representations of Yoruba life, populated by figures both natural and supernatural. A compulsive artist, Twins Seven Seven allowed his pieces to ‘unfold’ as they were created. His compositions are dense with overlapping figures, and every space of the pictorial plane is filled with some decorative or integral detail, as in his Baptist Church of Bush of Ghost (etching, 375 × 305 mm, c. 1969; Oxford, priv. col.). His paintings of the 1970s are covered with a luminous varnish, and it was during this time that he developed a layered style on plywood, a palette of earth tones sprinkled with bright greens and yellows, and a pictorial field in which figures are delineated in dark hues....

Article

Andrew Cross

revised by 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

El Hadji Sy

(b Tivaoune, 1935).

Senegalese painter, tapestry designer, and administrator. Along with Iba N’Diaye (1928–2008), he is considered a pioneer of Senegalese painting. After receiving a scholarship to study architecture in France, he studied painting at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, and tapestry, ceramics, and graphic arts at the Centre Pedagogie Artistique, Sèvres. In 1959 he organized a fine arts exhibition at the Congress of Black Artists and Novelists in Rome. On his return to Dakar he held a variety of government posts with the Ministry of Culture, and in 1960 he founded the department Recherches des Arts Plastiques Negres, where he worked with Pierre Lods, founder of the Poto-Poto school of painting in Brazzaville, Congo, Democratic Republic of . In 1962 Tall held a solo exhibition at the Hotel Croix de Sud, Dakar. A Gobelin workshop was opened in his Dakar studio in 1964 and transferred to Thiès in 1965, where it became the Manufactures Senegalaise des Arts Decoratifs. In ...