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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

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

Hasan-Uddin Khan

(b Sousse, Tunisia, Dec 21, 1940).

French architect, active in Morocco. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, concentrating his studies on urban development and craft traditions. In 1968 he received his diploma and became a registered architect. He left France in 1969 and travelled in several countries, working in Casablanca before settling in Marrakesh in 1971, where he established his own practice. This remained a small one, allowing him as designer to retain control of every detail of his work. In both layout and design, Boccara’s architecture is rooted in the traditions of Islamic architecture in Morocco (see Islamic art, §II, 7(v)), which is characterized by refined decoration. His built works are not numerous but have been influential in developing a vocabulary for Moroccan architecture. They vary from the small Abtan House (1984), located in a palm grove outside Marrakesh, to the large, incomplete Opera House there (begun 1984...

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

Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

(b. Tripoli, Libya, 1945).

Libyan painter. He returned to Libya in 1970 after graduating from the Plymouth School of Architecture and Design in England. In 1974 he was appointed consultant to the Festival of Islam in London, and in 1981 he settled in England. He typically uses individual letter forms based on the maghribī style of script typical of North Africa, setting one or two large letters against a richly textured abstract ground with accompanying excerpts from Arabic and world literature that address social and moral issues. His works have been exhibited in more than 60 solo and group exhibitions and can be found in many major museums. Chairman of Muslim Cultural Heritage Center in London, he has also been involved with several other cultural and intellectual institutions there.

A. O. Ermes: Ali Omar Ermes: Art and Ideas: Works on Paper (exh. cat., Oxford, Ashmolean, 1992)A. O. Ermeswith S. Rizvi: Reaching Out: Conversations on Islamic Art with Ali Omar Ermes...

Article

Allan M. Craven

(b Liverpool, March 3, 1942).

English architect. Having studied at the University of Manchester School of Architecture (1961–7), he worked briefly in Montreal, in connection with Expo ’67, and in Tripoli, where he was a housing architect for the Libyan government. From 1968 to 1971 he was an assistant to Arne Jacobsen in Copenhagen, for whom he worked on the design of the Kuwait Central Bank (built 1973–6), Kuwait City. His doctoral dissertation (1979) has Jacobsen’s work as its subject-matter. In 1972 he formed the practice of Rod Hackney & Associates at Macclesfield, Ches, and soon became known for the refurbishment of several brick-built terrace houses (1972–5) around Black Road in the town. Although intended for demolition, the houses were saved and then improved and altered in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants. The significant contribution of the residents in determining what alterations were made and assisting in the execution of the work meant that the scheme was subsequently seen as one of the pioneering examples of ...

Article

S. J. Vernoit

(b Aïn Beida, Jan 20, 1947).

Algerian painter and graphic artist. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Algiers, and in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Ecole des Arts Décoratifs and Institut d’Urbanisme de l’Académie de Paris. After returning to Algeria he worked at the Bureau d’Etudes des Tanneries and the Bureaux d’Etudes des Textiles, and he then went to Tunisia, where he became cultural adviser at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Tunis. Inspired by the calligraphic movement in Arab painting in the 1960s, he explored the potential of abstract calligraphic compositions in graphic art to great effect (e.g. the engravings Testament of the Enemy, 1981) and also utilized such media as wood, silk, parchment and ceramics for this purpose, often with a minimal use of colour. Since 1970 he has exhibited his work in Europe, the Middle East, Japan, South America and the USA, and has won numerous awards.

Third World Biennale of Graphic Art...

Article

[tribal art]

The market for ‘tribal art’ emerged in the first decades of the 20th century. By way of avant-garde artists and pioneering dealers, African and Oceanic art slowly became accepted as ‘art’—with its inclusion in the Musée du Louvre in Paris in 2000 as a decisive endorsement. Initially, it was referred to as ‘primitive art’—alluding to an early ‘primitive’ stage in human development; later replaced by the equally biased ‘tribal art’. While still used widely among dealers and collectors (for want of a better word and being conveniently short), the term ‘tribe’, or its derivative ‘tribal’, is frowned upon by the scholarly community.

The foundations of the tribal art market were laid at the turn of the 20th century. European powers colonized large overseas territories in both Africa and Oceania and, along with other commodities, there arrived ethnographic artefacts. Europeans had conducted coastal trade with many African regions over centuries, but systematic explorations of the continental hinterland did sometimes not take place until the first decades of the 20th century. These resulted in the discovery of previously unknown cultures whose ritual objects, such as masks, were displayed during world’s fairs and colonial exhibitions. Many of these objects ended up in newly established museums, such as the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, outside Brussels. Vigorous competitors in the collection of ethnographic objects in both Africa and Oceania, these museums became the leading players in the early phases of the tribal art market’s development. Next to these large-scale official collecting activities, colonial, military, or missionary personnel also brought home exotic objects....

Article

Kimberly Bobier

(b El Nuhud, 1951).

Sudanese multimedia and performance artist, art critic, and art historian, active in France. Musa graduated from the College of Fine and Applied Art, Khartoum Polytechnic, in 1974. After moving to Italy from Sudan, Musa relocated to France and matriculated at Montpellier University, earning ah Doctorate in Art History in 1989 and a teaching diploma in Fine Arts from Montpellier University in 1995. Subsequently, Musa created artist’s books and illustrated tomes of Sudanese folktales and taught calligraphy. His work critiques European imperialism by parodying the authoritative spectacles of Western museum displays, popular icons, and artistic masterpieces such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (c. 1500–07; Paris, Louvre) and Gustave Courbet’s the Origin of the World (1866; Paris, Mus. Orsay), both referenced in Musa’s The Origin of Art (1998). Musa’s artwork has frequently addressed stereotypes of Africans and Arabs.

From the late 1980s Musa’s ongoing performance series ‘Graphic Ceremonies’ engaged public audiences in exploring the intersection between the art exhibition and ritual. In a performance at the ...

Article

Carol Magee

(b Khemis Miliana, 1948).

Algerian painter, installation artist and poet, active in England. She studied art and music in Algeria and at the Camden Art Centre and Croydon College of Art, both London, after moving to England in 1979. Her politics were informed by the Algerian war for independence and her experiences in Europe. Her work, exhibited in the USA and Europe, addresses European artistic treatments of African peoples, for example the Orientalist paintings of Delacroix and French colonial postcards; she reworked Delacroix’s figures, for instance, presenting a different reading of the female body. In an effort to engage her audience fully, she has produced multi-media and multi-sensory works. Her installations included video, sound recordings and photographs, and she often recited poetry and sang traditional songs at her exhibitions. Her paintings present layers of bright colours, with the darkest, top layer often scraped off to reveal those beneath. This scratching creates vital, dynamic lines that produce powerful effects on the viewer. She combines the visual traditions of West Africa, Algeria, Egypt and Europe in a critique of colonial and post-independence rule; her subject-matter also included representations of women and their treatment....

Article

Susan Kart

Susan Kart

Term that emerged in Francophone Africa in the early 1990s to define a series of contemporary art, artisanal, and craft practices in which artists laid claim to abandoned spaces and/or abandoned (found object) materials. Récupération does not translate well into English, but in a fine art context can loosely be explained as the retooling of materials and spaces from the natural and man-made environments to produce new objects and installations with cultural, political, and aesthetic implications.

One of the first documentarians of the movement was art historian Abdou Sylla. He positioned Senegalese artists who were practicing récupération (which he called ‘assemblage’ and ‘installation’) in opposition to the recycling operations by those he called ‘baay jagal’, a Wolof term for a person who collects trash to re-use or sell. Sylla’s distinction was necessary in order to situate the found object works of récupération artists in Africa against the craft practices of making shoes out of car tires, or toys out of soft-drink cans and electrical wire....

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

Robin Holmes

(b Paris, April 1, 1963).

French photographer, video artist, and installation artist of Algerian descent, active in the UK. Born in Paris in 1963, Zineb Sedira relocated to England in 1986. In 1995 she earned a BA in critical fine art practice with a focus on post-colonial studies at Central Saint Martins School of Art. She finished an MFA in Media at the Slade School of Art in 1997 and conducted research studies at the Royal College of Art until 2003. Through the use of self-portraiture, family narrative, and images of the Mediterranean, her work has addressed ethnic, religious, and gender identities as well as issues of stereotype, displacement, and migration. She draws on her Algerian heritage in much of her work, evoking North Africa through the integration of traditional Islamic forms and motifs into her installations. In her 1997 work Quatre générations de femmes, Sedira incorporated repeated images of her mother, daughter, and herself into traditional Islamic tile patterns (...

Article

Hasan-Uddin Khan

(b Cairo, Aug 7, 1943).

Egyptian architect. He graduated from Ain-Shams University in Cairo in 1965. Between 1965 and 1970 he lectured at the university whilst studying and working with his mentor Hassan Fathy, the well-known proponent of indigenous architecture. In 1971 he went into private practice, eventually establishing offices in Cairo, Jiddah and Ashford, Kent. From 1993 he was based in Miami, Florida. He acted as an adviser to the Ministry of Tourism in Egypt (1972) and as consultant to UNESCO (1979–80). In 1980 he won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for the Halawa house in Agamy, Egypt, completed in 1975. The two-storey house was built around a courtyard, and the articulation of space was handled with great sensitivity and simplicity. Openings in the white walls filter light to the interior through carved wooden screens (Arab. mashrabiyyas), and much of the courtyard remains in shadow, staying cool during the heat of the day. From this small vacation house El-Wakil went on to design larger houses such as the spectacular Al Sulaiman Palace in Jiddah, which uses the same principles but on a more lavish and larger scale. For a short time the architect toyed with other expressions of form but quickly returned to his exploration of tradition. El-Wakil’s most convincing designs have been those for mosques (for illustration ...