The aesthetics of contemporary African art is bold and powerful, but Africa’s artists, often overlooked in the mainstream art world, are creating masterpieces that are influencing and helping to lead the development of African modern art. With their complex styles and creative niches, these producers of fine art, mixed media, sculptures, and abstract paintings can compete across the global art world. Here, Face2Face Africa takes a look at 10 avant-garde artists who share themes of African history and political issues in their work.
1. Kudzanai Chiurai of Zimbabwe (work pictured at top) is positioned to become one of Africa’s most-important artists. Rembrandt would appreciate her coloring and techniques that connect to his work “The Blinding of Samson.” Chiurai’s work — like Rembrandt — is subtle yet the lighting and coloring has a depth of emotion.
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2. South African artist Tracey Rose’s (pictured above) style incorporates digital manipulation and hunting imagery to skillfully portray the duality of a people, a nation, their sub-cultures, and the conflicts that lie within.
3. Meschac Gaba‘s work of Benin uses local materials to create his installations that consist of paintings and ceramics.
4. Nástio Mosquito (work pictured) of Angola creates multimedia art and videos that look more like dreamscape hallucinations. Mosquito conveys a self-reflecting form of dual reality that seems to ask the question, “Who is looking at whom?”
5. Ethiopia’s Julie Mehretu (work pictured) has a very independent style. Her art does not directly display any historical significance, but in her piece entitled, “Stadia Series,” she uses calligraphy and scattered brush strokes within a collage of geometric shapes to portray the solidity of time and space. Each individual viewer would find something different in this piece.
6. Ghana’s El Anatsui’s process of using power tools to create his art (work pictured) elevate his materials into a masterpiece of art, turning what would be considered worthless items into collectable items. Anatsui uses his art to express social historical conflicts.
7. Ibrahim El Salahi of Sudan is considered the “God Father of African modernism.” The former political prisoner is a calligraphy artist (work pictured) who’s work spans 40 years.
8. Sokari Douglas Camp of Nigeria has broken barriers to become one of the top-female African sculpture artists (work pictured). She employs tribal Kalabari culture and traditions to create her signature modern steel sculptures.
9. Mali’s Abdoulaye Konaté dominates different fields of art; he uses photography and digital media manipulation along with ink and oil paint to create social, political, and imaginary objects that are self-reflective dreamscapes.