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Article

Simon Njami

(b Contou, 1942).

Beninois installation artist. He studied law in France, and it was not until he returned to Benin in 1971 that he became an artist, by accident. Considered mad by his family, he was sent to a psychiatric hospital a few times before encountering Jean Michel Rousset, a young Frenchman who reassured him about his talent. In his compound Adaeagbo creates an ever-changing assemblage of found materials: sculptures, stones, clothing, newspapers. New materials are added, and old objects are rearranged. These creations function as historical documents of his times, as well as of particular days, as he works each day after his walks. His work has been described as reflecting and evoking the ‘madness in words’: the inability to understand words, and the conflicts that arise from this lack of understanding. It can also be seen as a comment on his own life and the suffering of a misunderstood artist. In Adaeagbo’s smaller pieces, objects are combined with a greater emphasis on symbolic intent than aesthetic concerns. He has exhibited at the Institut Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (...

Article

Bolaji V. Campbell

[Adenake, A. O.]

(b Idanre, April 27, 1954).

Nigerian painter. He received his BA from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (1974), and his MFA from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (1982), where he trained with Uche Okeke and Obiora Udechukwu. Udechukwu's influence can be seen in Adenaika's use of uli, akika and nsibidi motifs (see under Ejagham and Africa §V 3.). He inflected these designs with Yoruba characteristics and used them to reflect current issues as well as depict folktales. He is a third-generation Nsukka painter (see Nigeria, Federal Republic of §V) and one of the first non-Igbo uli artists. The watercolours he uses are an ideal medium because their fluidity matches the flow of uli line. In the 1990s he was artistic director of an advertising agency in Enugu, and he has served as art editor for the journal Okike, as well as designing book covers.

‘The Influence of Uli Art on Contemporary Nsukka School Painting’, ...

Article

Kristina Borrman

(b Dar es Salaam, Sept 22, 1966).

British architect of Tanzanian birth and Ghanaian descent. David Adjaye’s projects span a wide range of architectural categories including residential buildings, retail spaces, civic buildings, and art installations. After establishing his own practice in 2000, Adjaye’s work inspired critics and historians to consider his buildings in terms of their carefully considered spatial relationships to their sites, the intense multi-sensory experiences they offer users, and their interrogation of architecture’s ability to communicate ideas concerning place, identity, and symbolic value.

David Adjaye was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1966. As the son of a Ghanaian diplomat, Adjaye was already well travelled by the age of 13, having resided in the Middle East and Africa before moving to London. In 1986 Adjaye received his diploma in art and design from Middlesex College. Two years later he secured a job with the offices of Chassay Architects in London while concurrently studying for his architecture BA at Southbank University. The programme at Southbank structured Adjaye’s studies to prepare him for the three-part Royal Institute of British Architects Examinations, the successful completion of which officially deemed Adjaye a fully qualified architect in ...

Article

Regenia Perry, Christina Knight, dele jegede, Bridget R. Cooks, Camara Dia Holloway and Jenifer P. Borum

[Afro-American; Black American]

Term used to describe art made by Americans of African descent. While the crafts of African Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries continued largely to reflect African artistic traditions (see Africa, §VIII), the earliest fine art made by professional African American artists was in an academic Western style (see fig.).

Regenia Perry, revised by Christina Knight

The first African American artist to be documented was Joshua Johnson, a portrait painter who practised in and around Baltimore, MD. Possibly a former slave in the West Indies, he executed plain, linear portraits for middle-class families (e.g. Sarah Ogden Gustin, c. 1798–1802; Washington, DC, N.G.A.). Only one of the approximately 83 portraits attributed to Johnson is signed, and none is dated. There are only two African American sitters among Johnson’s attributions. Among the second generation of prominent 19th-century African American artists were the portrait-painter ...

Article

Theresa Leininger-Miller

[Negro Colony]

Group of African American artists active in France in the 1920s and 1930s. Between the world wars Paris became a Mecca for a “lost generation” of Americans. Hundreds of artists, musicians, and writers from all over the world flocked to the French capital in search of a sense of community and freedom to be creative. For African Americans, the lure of Paris was enhanced by fear of and disgust with widespread racial discrimination experienced in the United States. They sought a more nurturing environment where their work would receive serious attention, as well as the chance to study many of the world’s greatest cultural achievements. France offered this along with an active black diasporal community with a growing sense of Pan-Africanism. Painters, sculptors, and printmakers thrived there, studying at the finest art academies, exhibiting at respected salons, winning awards, seeing choice art collections, mingling with people of diverse ethnic origins, dancing to jazz, and fervently discussing art, race, literature, philosophy, and politics. Although their individual experiences differed widely, they had much in common, including exposure to traditional European art, African art, modern art, and proto-Negritude ideas. As a result of their stay in Paris, all were affected artistically, socially, and politically in positive ways and most went on to have distinguished careers....

Article

David Murphy

African film refers to a corpus of work whose geographical and historical range remains ambiguous. African film criticism emerged in the late 1980s–early 1990s as a distinct body of research within the Anglophone academy. Landmark early texts, such as Manthia Diawara’s African Cinema: Politics and Culture (1992) and Frank Ukadike’s Black African Cinema (1994) defined the parameters of the field, which largely remained in place until quite recently: African cinema came to refer to work from sub-Saharan Africa, primarily from the former French colonies, and a template for the appreciation of these movies was established, focusing either on their ‘political’ qualities as ideologically motivated works of ‘Third Cinema’ or on their ability to develop a distinctively African aesthetic. North Africa’s rich film heritage was excluded due to the perceived socio-cultural differences between ‘black’ and ‘Arab’ Africa, and the diverse body of film-making from South Africa was understandably approached with caution as the continent’s sleeping cinematic giant was only just emerging from the nightmare of apartheid. This left Francophone Africa as the main player in the field of film-making, for the former French colonial masters had begun to invest in film production, initially in West Africa, almost immediately after independence. As a result of this self-conscious filtering of the available material, it soon became a received critical idea that (black) African cinema had been born in Senegal when ...

Article

James Smalls

[African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists]

African American group of artists. AFRICOBRA was an art movement formed in Chicago in 1968 by a coalition of eight African American artists devoted to celebrating and affirming the legitimacy of black artistic expression. The movement paralleled the black cultural revolution of the 1960s and incorporated elements of free jazz, vibrant color, the spiritual or transcendental, and “TransAfricanism.” The term TransAfricanism was invented and defined by Jeff Donaldson (1932–2004), one of AFRICOBRA’s principal founders, as a transcendent African-based aesthetic that simultaneously defines, directs, and fashions historical evolution. AFRICOBRA sought to develop a new and revolutionary black aesthetic based on African and African American approaches to art, taste, and beauty. These aspirations were combined with principles of social responsibility and involvement of artists in their local communities. The goal was to promote and instill pride in black self-identity through a self-defined black visual aesthetic.

Unlike most prior movements within African American art, AFRICOBRA’s work was not individualistic, but rather focused on collectivity and collaboration. AFRICOBRA grew out of the Chicago-based artists’ workshop OBAC (Organization of Black Artists of Chicago), whose founders included Donaldson, Wadsworth Jarrell (...

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

Chika Okeke

(b Ikot Ide Etukudo, 1940).

Nigerian sculptor. He had no formal artistic training, although in the early 1960s he experimented in clay and, later, cement. He was apprenticed to a bricklayer, and in 1972 he established his own sculpture studio. That year he exhibited figures of Nigerian soldiers and governors in the Uyo Division Festival of Art and won several prizes. Drawing on popular culture and on the funerary traditions of Ibibio and other Cross River cultures, he created the polychromatic cement monuments on which his reputation was built. He worked from photographs to model life-size, commemorative portraits, creating naturalistic images that portray a sense of the individual through careful attention to detail and the use of enamel pigments. He also produced generic full- or half-length portraits depicting different ages and physical types, from which customers selected the one best suited to their needs. In these, especially, he reflected contemporary fashion in the same manner as popular studio photographers, as can be seen in his portraid of a ...

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

Marianne Barrucand

[‛Alawī; Filālī]

Islamic dynasty and rulers of Morocco since 1631. Like their predecessors the Sa‛dis, the ‛Alawis are sharīfs (descendants of the Prophet Muhammad), and both dynasties are sometimes classed together as the ‘Sharifs of Morocco’. From a base in the Tafilalt region of south-east Morocco, the ‛Alawi family was able to overcome the centrifugal forces exerted by the Berber tribes who had destroyed the Sa‛di state in the first half of the 17th century. To restore political authority and territorial integrity, Mawlay Isma‛il (reg 1672–1727) added a new black slave corps to the traditional tribal army. Although royal power was weak during the 19th century and the early 20th, when the French and Spanish established protectorates, the ‛Alawis’ power was fully restored after independence from the French in 1956.

‛Alawi building activities (see Islamic art, §II, 7(v)) were concentrated in the four cities that have served as their capitals: Fez and Marrakesh at various times from ...

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

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

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

Chika Okeke

(b Enugu, Jan 17, 1957).

Nigerian painter and sculptor. He was schooled at the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu (1978–82), and taught at Oyo State College of Education, Ilesha. In 1983 he joined the staff at the Umoka Technical Secondary School, and he has taught sculpture in the art department of IMT, Enugu. He had several solo shows in the mid-1980s and showed with AKA, an artists’ group in Nsukka of which he was a founding member, from 1986 to 1990. He was influenced by the Nsukka school and their interest in cursive line, uli (see Nigeria, Federal Republic of §V). His early work was realistic, but in the early 1980s he began his abstract Live Wire series, using welded wires to create relief drawings, for which he quickly gained critical attention. In the mid 1980s he created mixed media sculptures combining metal and concrete: mass and weight, represented by concrete that was often worked to simulate marble and other stone, is countered by the linear quality of wire. The result is the same sensitive interplay of line and space evident in traditional ...

Article

Areogun  

dele jegede

[Dada]

(b Osi, 1880; d 1954).

Nigerian wood-carver. He was apprenticed to Bamgbose (d c. 1920) for 16 years. He worked within the parameters of traditional Yoruba carving, both in style and in form, sculpting doors, masks, posts and bowls. He was skilled in creating a textured, patterned surface, as seen in doors now held by the Fowler Museum of Cultural History, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA. The doors show unrelated scenes of varied aspects of daily life, the figures compact and in low relief; scenes of Muslim invaders and women working appear in many works. He was a prolific and well-respected master who received commissions from throughout the Ekiti region; Europeans learned of his sculpture through the writings of Father Kevin Carroll. Areogun’s house posts in the form of women with children or equestrian figures became archetypes for later Yoruba carvers. Other favoured themes include rulers and their pages with a panoply of admirers, supporters and praise-singers. Testifying to his skill as a carver, a line from his praise poem (...

Article

S. J. Vernoit

[Arab. Al-fann wa’l-ḥurriyya]

Egyptian group of Surrealist writers, artists and intellectuals founded on 9 January 1939 by the poet Georges Hunain (1914–73). The group included the Egyptian painters Ramsis Yunan (1914–66), Fu’ad Kamil (1919–73) and Kamil al-Talamsani (1917–72). Inspired by the work of André Breton, whom Hunain met in Paris in 1936, the aim of the group was to defend freedom in art by stressing the liberating role of the individual imagination. On 22 December 1938 Hunain and his colleagues signed a manifesto entitled ‘Vive l’Art Dégénéré’, which protested against Fascism, particularly Hitler’s claim that modern art was degenerate. The manifesto was followed by further writings, conferences and debates. Artists from the group exhibited work in June 1939 at the premises of Art and Freedom at 28 Shari‛ al-Madabigh in Cairo. In January 1940 the magazine al-Ta ṭawwur was launched, which presented ideas behind modern art to an Egyptian audience. This was followed in ...

Article

Chika Okeke

[Okoye, Augustin]

(b Nri, 1936).

Nigerian painter. He was apprenticed to a sign painter but is largely self-taught. His style combines narrative text with pictorial scenes in the manner of Onitsha Market literature popular in the 1950s and 1960s. When not working on commissions for portraits, signs for restaurants or barber shops, or package designs for local products, he painted narrative works using enamel paint. He was greatly affected by the Nigerian civil war (1967–70); as a Biafran he suffered injury, serious illness and economic hardship. To help him recuperate, Ulli Beier moved him from Onitsha to Ife for six months in the early 1970s. He was set up at the Ori Olokun Centre and allowed to produce paintings without concern for commissions. The resulting images, depicting scenes of the civil war, were exhibited in Lagos in March 1973. Since then, his work has dealt with romance and family life. His paintings were included in the ...