16 October 2013
Last updated at 01:14
London is hosting the first international fair dedicated to modern and contemporary African art – the 1:54 Contemporary Art Fair. 1:54 refers to the 54 countries on the African continent and will showcase more than 70 emerging and established artists. This is a new artwork by acclaimed Ivorian painter Abdoulaye Diarrasouba, known as Aboudia, who has recently had a painting bought by London’s Saatchi Gallery which specialises in contemporary art.
Aboudia was influenced by the violence that followed disputed 2010 elections – he was trapped for 10 days in his workshop during the battle for Abidjan. The country’s turmoil is reflected in his large-scale, heavily layered paintings with characters from his neighbourhood mixed with fragments of comic strips, advertising and newspapers. “Aboudia's unrestrained use of violent figuration is a welcome reminder of the power of paint to suggest the vitality and chaos of life,” the fair’s notes say.
"1:54 will offer visitors the chance to experience and engage with contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora like never before," said the founder of the fair Touria El Glaoui, daughter of celebrated Moroccan artist Hassan El Glaoui. The works of South African artist Cameron Platter, whose painting is pictured here, are described as "documents of contemporary morality, exploring a reality stranger than fiction, through fantasy, satire and subculture".
The fair is the first opportunity Boris Nzebo has had to exhibit outside Cameroon. His paintings draw on the surroundings of his home town Douala, in particular painted adverts outside Cameroon’s barber shops. “Adapting this aesthetic he creates portraits taken from detailed studies of traditional African hairstyles, often very elaborate, and combines them with the informal snapshots of local neighbourhoods, urban architecture and scenes from daily life," the organisers say.
Vincent Michea, who has also had work bought by the Saatchi Gallery, uses his home town as the backdrop and inspiration for his work. Senegal’s capital, Dakar, is famous for its beaches and this work is entitled Vamos a la Playa – we are going to the beach.
From Benin, artist Meschac Gaba has recently had an installation bought by the UK’s Tate gallery. This work is inspired by the late Nigerian Afrobeat star Fela Kuti, who often played the saxophone during his legendary performances.
Ivorian photographer Paul Sika uses digitally enhanced shots with vivid colours to tell a story. He directs each work like a film, even getting participants to research their characters.
Sokari Douglas Camp, a Nigerian sculptor who now lives and works in London, is one of the first female African artists to have attracted the attention of the international art market. She was shortlisted to have a work on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in central London in 2003. Her primary material is steel and she says her sculptures “refer to her Nigerian roots and international issues”.
Soly Cisse lives and works in Dakar. A painter, draughtsman and sculptor, he graduated from the Fine Arts Academy of Dakar in 1996 and has since gone on to establish an international reputation with numerous exhibitions in Europe.
Sammy Baloji is a photographer from Lubumbashi the main city in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s mineral-rich Katanga region. He has done a series of works imposing photographs over watercolours done by Belgian painter Leon Dardenne during an expedition led by explorer Charles Lemaire to Katanga in 1898-1900.
Zemba Luzamba was also born in Lubumbashi and is now based in Cape Town. “My artwork speaks about the people I see,” he says. Ms El Glaoui hopes 1:54 will build on the success of the Venice Biennale, where Angola won the top award for its pavilion which featured works from photographer Edson Chagas. “With some of our artists relatively emergent within an international market and audience, such exposure is unrivalled,” she told the BBC.
Another Congolese artist Cheri Samba learnt his craft as a sign painter in the capital, Kinshasa. This painting – The true map of the world – includes a self-portrait. "Everyone wants to be at the centre of the world, but no-one can claim to be the centre,” he told French art students at the Icart institute in an interview last year. (1:54 is taking place in London at Somerset House until 20 October 2013.)