Smithsonian African Art Awards Dinner Honors Contemporary African Artists

November 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

The Smithsonian’s historic Arts and Industries building in SW Washington, DC was the venue for the first Annual African Art Awards Dinner on Friday October 28, hosted by the National Museum of African Art. Museum director Johnetta Betsch Cole launched the fundraising dinner as a way to honor established and up-and-coming artists, and also to show gratitude to major philanthropic organizations that have supported the museum and its mission.

Yinka Shonibare, MBE giving remarks after receiving his award

Yinka Shonibare, MBE giving remarks after receiving his award

The 2016 awardees are Kenyan born artist Ato Malinda and Nigerian-British Yinka Shonibare, MBE, one of the most important contemporary artists in the « Read the rest of this entry »

Jimi King on African Fashion and Art

September 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

Jimi King

Jimi King

You can’t call Jimi King a “fashion designer,” even though he is quite a successful one. You can’t really call him an “African artist” either, even though he is an artist, and most definitely a proud African. Like many individual artists in the art and fashion world, Nigerian artist Jimi King is uncomfortable with labels. “I don’t like to be boxed in,” he revealed in an interview with Afrofusion TV on a recent visit to the Washington, DC area during his 2016 summer tour. Given the length and breadth of his experience, it’s understandable. In addition to fashion (wearable art, as he calls it) King does painting, sculpture and music (drumming). He has been a regular in Paris at the UNESCO Africa Week and Bazaar for the past five years, and participated in Africa Fashion Week London during the « Read the rest of this entry »

The Divine Comedy: African Artists explore Dante’s Epic at the Museum of African Art

April 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

Aida Muluneh, part of The 99 Series. Photo courtesy the artist

Aida Muluneh, part of The 99 Series. Photo courtesy the artist

What do you envisage when you think of heaven and hell? Most people’s imagination of the afterlife is tied to something written in a novel or depicted on screen. At the Smithsonian’s Museum of African Art until August 2nd you can see a refreshing new take on Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, collected and curated by noted art critic Simon Njami, and featuring a host of contemporary African Artists from the continent and the Diaspora. Divided into themes of Heaven, Purgatory and Hell, the exhibition takes up all three floors of the museum, with art also displayed on the entry pavilion and

Wangechi Mutu, "The Storm has finally made it out of me"

Wangechi Mutu, “The Storm has finally made it out of me”

the stairwells. Forty women and men that include both established and emerging artists have their work displayed here, and it ranges from paintings to textiles to sculpture to collage to photography and video. Well known names like Kenya’s Wangechi Mutu and the UK’s Yinka Shonibare share the space with up and comers like Angola’s Edson Chagas, who was one of the breakout stars at the Venice Biennale in 2013. On Wednesday at the opening of the exhibition, Ethiopian photographer Aida Muluneh (Howard University alum), Egyptian artist Moataz Nasr, Senegalese painter Pélagie Gbaguidi and Benin’s Dmitri Fagbohoun were part of a discussion panel led by the guest curator Simon Njami.

Moataz Nasr, Aida Muluneh and Simon Njami at the opening of The Divine Comedy Exhibition

Moataz Nasr, Aida Muluneh and Simon Njami at the opening of The Divine Comedy Exhibition

(Nasr was later kind and accommodating enough to grant us an interview for Afrofusion TV’s upcoming web series.)

Students and artists alike are invited to submit an original poem inspired by three of the works from the exhibition, by Abdoulai Konaté of Mali, Wangechi Mutu, and Edson Chagas. For more information about submitting work to the contest, go their website. The deadline for submission is April 17. Bless.

Stolen African Art from Benin Up for Auction at Sotheby’s?

December 24, 2010 § 5 Comments

Benin Mask picturing Queen Idia of the Ancient Kingdom of Benin

A 16th century Benin mask, whose image was famously used as the symbol of FESTAC ’77 (World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture) is about to be auctioned off at Sotheby’s in London – unless a group of determined Africans can stop it. Efforts have been ongoing for years to have the mask, which is said to represent the face of Queen Idia, the first Queen mother of Benin, be returned along with hundreds of other priceless artifacts looted from the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 during a “Punitive” invasion by the British. But what galls many African art historians now is that the descendants of Lt. Col. Sir Henry Gallwey (later changed to Galway) are putting the mask, together with 5 other precious Benin art works, up for sale in  February 2011 and hoping to get millions of pounds from them. Problem is, say historians, it’s stolen property.

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