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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

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

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

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

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 ...

Article

Willemijn Stokvis

(b Constantine, Algeria, Jan 23, 1913; d Paris, Feb 12, 1960).

French painter, lithographer and writer. The Jewish intellectual milieu in which he grew up led to his interest in philosophy and religion, and from 1930 to 1934 he studied philosophy at the Sorbonne. While in Paris, however, he was confronted with modern painting for the first time, and his interest in poetry was awakened. Recognizing a means of expressing his interest in magical phenomena, in 1941 he began to paint and write poetry. His activity in the Résistance and his Jewish ancestry led to his arrest in 1942; by pleading insanity he was able to save himself but was confined to the Sainte Anne asylum, where he wrote poetry and painted. In the autumn of 1944, shortly after leaving the asylum, his first and only collection of poems, Le Sang profond, was published, and he exhibited drawings at the Galerie Arc en Ciel.

During the immediate post-war years Atlan’s work was well received in Paris. He had a one-man show in ...

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

El Hadji Sy

(b Agniam Thiodaye Matam, July 11, 1945).

Senegalese painter. Primarily an autodidact, he also learnt engraving at the Institut National des Arts du Senegal, Dakar, in 1975. His early work was often rendered in china ink, but he later worked mainly with oil or acrylic paint. In the 1980s and 1990s his canvases focused on the world of Fulani cow herders, as seen in Vache (1988; Frankfurt am Main, Friedrich Axt priv. col.). Ba employs a palette of subtle, earth-tone hues to suggest the arid Sahelian landscape, populating these scenes with stylized cows and herders. His painting is often appreciated by collectors for its visual affinity with ancient rock art. He was considered for membership of the Ecole de Dakar and participated in the government-sponsored exhibition Art contemporain du Senegal, which traveled internationally from 1974 to 1982.

Contemporary Art of Senegal/Art Contemporain du Senegal (exh.cat., Hamilton, Ont., A.G., 1979) F. Axt and El Hadji M. B. Sy...

Article

Esmé Berman

(Whall)

(b Somerset East, Cape Province, Jan 6, 1906; d Port Shepstone, nr Durban, Aug 20, 1982).

South African painter and printmaker. He trained as an art teacher in Johannesburg (1929–32), and his long career culminated in his appointment to the Chair of Fine Arts at the University of South Africa (UNISA), Pretoria (1964–71). In the 1930s he was among the first to recognize the aesthetic value of southern African rock art, proclaiming his empathy in several books; he replaced his own former realist style with motifs derived from ancient petroglyphs and paintings, as in Quagga Race (610×760 mm, 1948; priv. col., see Berman).

The influence of European modernists from 1938 confirmed Battiss’s commitment to forms of primitive art but also led him closer to abstraction and gave rise to the bright palette that became his hallmark. Subsequent travels broadened his acquaintance with early cultures. Increasingly convinced that ‘calligraphic symbols are a universal language’, he began to incorporate rhythmical calligraphic figurations into compositions such as ...

Article

Baya  

[Mahiedinne, Baya]

(b Borj al-Kiffan, Dec 1931; d Blida, Nov 11, 1998).

Algerian painter. Orphaned at the age of five, she was adopted by a French family who took her to Algiers in 1943. She taught herself to paint, and in 1947 her work, recommended by André Breton, was exhibited at the Galerie Maeght in Paris. In 1949, living at Vallauris in France, she worked on sculptures and pottery, which were exhibited in 1950 at the Maison de l’Artisanat in Algiers; in the same year she married and moved to Blida. While raising a family she stopped painting but resumed in 1963, when she had an exhibition of her early work in Algiers. The following year she participated with other Algerian painters in an exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. In 1966 she had a solo exhibition at the Galerie Pilote in Algiers and thereafter exhibited regularly in Algiers, as well as in Casablanca, Brussels, Marseille and Paris. The distinctive style of her early paintings, such as ...

Article

Bela  

Jean-Pierre Ibio

(b Fort Archambault c. 1917; d Brazzaville, c. 1968).

Chad painter, active in the Republic of Congo. He worked as a cook and caretaker for Pierre Romain-Desfossés in Chad, and followed him when he moved near Brazzaville in the mid-1940s. There he spent the mornings cooking and began to paint in the afternoons at the studio founded by Romain-Desfossés. He painted with his fingers, not a paintbrush, though at the end of his life he experimented with brushes. Using his fingers gave the images a highly textured feel and impressionistic look, as seen in Oiseaux blancs (1955; Tervuren, Kon. Mus. Mid-Afrika). He depicted all variety of life: human events, aquatic scenes and animals, often in hunting scenes. Initiations and lively nocturnal dances were among his most frequent subjects, the power and mystery of them emphasized by his masterful sense of colour. His palette is bright, and primary colours predominate; his figures are usually in profile, and surfaces are normally filled....

Article

W. Ali

[Bilkahīyya, Farīd]

(b Marrakesh, Nov 15, 1934).

Moroccan painter. He began painting at the age of 15, and from 1954 to 1959 attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he studied the work of Georges Rouault and Paul Klee. He was then sent on a scholarship to study theatrical design in Czechoslovakia. Upon his return to Morocco in 1962, he was appointed director of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Casablanca (1962–74), where he introduced classes in the principles of Arabic calligraphy, which he believed could be utilized in modern painting. In 1964 Belkahia and the artists Mohammed Melehi and Mohamed Chebaa (b 1935) formed what became known as the ‘Casablanca Group’. They replaced models of Greek statues and still-life paintings at the Ecole with reproductions of Moroccan handicrafts, and taught their students to draw geometric forms and design jewellery and carpets. Their aim was to close the gap between craft and art, and break away from imported academic teachings and the naive painting tradition of the past. In his own work, Belkahia began to use such materials as beaten brass, leather, henna, saffron and natural dyes. He developed a distinct style, producing paintings on hand-stretched leather that incorporated popular signs and motifs, numbers, Arabic calligraphy and characters taken from Berber script. In his later work he turned to erotic themes while using this style and medium (e.g. untitled, henna on wood and leather, ...

Article

David Cast

(b Durban, Transvaal, Nov 21, 1910; d Newark-on-Trent, Notts, Aug 9, 1943).

British painter of South African birth. He studied at Durban School of Art and after showing his work in 1930 earned enough money to travel to London, arriving there in 1931. Some years of poverty followed, and in 1935, a year after participating in an exhibition of paintings based on abstraction from nature (see Objective Abstraction), he gave up painting and became a journalist. He returned to painting, however, after the establishment in 1937 of the Euston Road School in London by William Coldstream, whom he had met in 1934, finding in the ideas and practices of its artists a way to accommodate both his social concerns and his admiration of a tradition of painting derived from Cézanne.

In the first paintings he produced in England Bell explored the lyrical possibilities of the paintings of Duncan Grant, but after meeting Coldstream he sharpened the social focus of his work and painted in a more formally disciplined manner. This way of working is evident in his best pictures, such as ...

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

Konjit Seyoum

[Eskender, Alexander]

(b Addis Ababa, July 22, 1937; d Washington, DC May 4, 2003).

Ethiopian painter of Armenian descent, active in the USA. Boghossian studied at St Martin’s School of Art and the Central School in London from 1955 to 1957. He then moved to Paris to study at the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. During his Paris years, Boghossian embraced Pan-Africanist ideals and participated in the Negritude movement. Skunder returned to Ethiopia in 1966 and taught at the Fine Arts School in Addis Ababa, where he exerted considerable influence on young Ethiopian artists, until 1969. In 1967 he was awarded the Haile Selassie I Award for Fine Arts. He migrated to the United States in 1970 and became active in the Black Power movement. He joined Howard University in 1972 where he taught until 2001. During his tenure at Howard he inspired many Ethiopian diaspora and African American artists. Skunder drew on African mythology and Ethiopian Orthodox Church art to create mystical universes populated with masks, creatures, magical forms, and symbols. In works such as ...

Article

Joanna Grabski

(b Mbour, June 13, 1965).

Senegalese sculptor and painter. He graduated from the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Dakar (1993). As a student, he was inspired by the popular social movement Set Setal, which emphasized the role of Dakar’s citizens in cleaning up their surroundings and transforming used objects rather than abandoning them. His work focuses on the aesthetic interplay of recovered materials, as exemplified in Environnement 2 (...

Article

El Hadji Sy

(b Dakar, July 29, 1958).

Senegalese painter and sculptor. After graduating from the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Dakar (1977–81), he attended the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Paris (1987–9). Characterized as an abstract realist, his extensive training is exemplified by his skill at combining visual elements from painting, sculpture and decorative art. Throughout his career he has explored themes of local life in urban Dakar, including car rapides and market venders, as in Rang Bi Dokoul (1999; artist's col.). This portrayal of a tomato-seller demonstrates Camara’s expressionistic application of intense color to convey both sculptural volume and the effects of light. In the 1980s and 1990s his work often incorporated shadows, handprints and looming figures. He has exhibited widely, participating in Africa Explores (New York, 1991), Dak’Art ’92 and Dak’Art ’96, and the Tenq workshops of 1994 (in St Louis) and 1996 (in Dakar). He has also been active in supporting the training and exhibitions of young artists in Dakar. His work has been recognized by national and international awards, including first prize for painting, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Paris (...

Article

El Hadji Sy

(b St Louis, Sept 28, 1948).

Senegalese painter, sculptor and teacher. After graduating from the Institut National des Arts du Senegal, in Dakar (1972–7), he attended the Ecole Nationale Supérieure, Cachan, in France (1988). He took a position as a professor at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts, Dakar, in 1988 and was named head of the Departement Arts plastiques in 1996. From 1986 to 1996 he produced mainly paper collages, creating abstract, highly patterned works. He began working with accumulative wood and metal sculpture in 1996. His sculptural work, for example Untitled (1998; artist’s col.), makes use of organic materials such as straw, fiber and calabash. Both collages and sculptures are characterized by the notion of accumulation and the lyrical repetition of forms. Camara has participated in several group exhibitions in Africa and Europe, including Dak’Art ’96 and Dak’Art ’98. He received the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Merite from the government of Senegal in ...