african-artists

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“I will not accept an inferior position in the art world. Nor have my art called African because I have not correctly and properly given expression to my reality.

I have consistently fought against that kind of philosophy because it is bogus. European artists like Picasso, Braque and Vlaminck were influenced by African art. Everybody sees that and is not opposed to it. But when they see African artists who are influenced by their European training and technique, they expect that African to stick to their traditional forms even if he bends down to copying them.

I do not copy traditional art. I like what I see in the works of people like Giacometti but I do not copy them. I knew Giacometti personally in England, you know. I knew he was influenced by African sculptures. But I would not be influenced by Giacometti, because he was influenced by my ancestors.”

- Ben Enwonwu

October: Highlighting African Art & African Artists

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Out of South Africa comes Mary Sibande recognized for her project called,  Long Live the Dead Queen. The exhibition revolves around a character named Sophie Ntombikayise, a maid inspired from her personal family history of four generations involved in domestic work. 

“Sophie’s eyes are always closed as she dreams and desires things that a maid and her family never had. Sibande created the figure in order to pay tribute to her mother, grandmother and her great-grandmother in a four figure sculpture series.  In this, Sibande too becomes the maid, crafting the history of the women in her family.”

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Artwork by Jamaican artist Tamara Natalie Madden

Artist Statement
Tamara has always felt a connection to ‘everyday folk’, the working class, the unseen and unheard, the true warriors of our time. She realized, however, that many people who may have suffered through a similar struggle, did not want to revisit those struggles. With great thought and consideration for her message, she decided to amend her ideas. Inspired, by the golden period of Gustav Klimt and images of royalty from Egypt and West Africa; she decided to turn regular folk into representations of nobility. It seemed, in her view, to be the only way to allow them to be represented and appreciated for who they were intrinsically; kings, queens and warriors, in their own right, who never had a chance to shine, their austere appearance setting the tone for others to judge them. The embellishments with rich fabrics and gold present an opportunity for these people to be seen. The quilted clothing have a double meaning, on one hand representing a sense of distinction, while also allowing for a bit of nostalgia. The birds in the pieces represent a sense of freedom. It was her way of injecting her personal experiences into each painting and remembering her escape and survival from illness and the dialysis machine.

info via ADA

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Interview Feature: “Alien Edits” Series by Loza Maléombho.

We spent a few quick minutes with Abidjan-based designer and creative Loza Maléombho, the mind and force behind her eponymous womenswear label, to talk about something a little outside of the fashion world. 

Over the past few months, she’s posted some highly intriguing portraits on instagram that merge the concepts of selfie culture, self-love and self as muse, partly inspired by her own life experiences, a socially conscious awareness, and exposure to artists such as Frida Kahlo. 

Can you give us a background or explanation behind this project and how it came about?

The concept of Alien Edits came to me rather intuitively and I am still expressing and experimenting as I am writing this, but if I had to pin it I’d say that it came from frustrations about the US judiciary system with its on going discrimination against African Americans and frustrations about social issues that are class, race, culture, sexuality and religious stereotypes, all of which cause a state of alienation on its victims.

In other terms Alien Edits is an effort to bring awareness on social and cultural issues that affect people of my generation and empowers them with uplifting messages of grace, royalty, empathy and elegance in order to push upward. Some symbols include the stretching of the neck for stature and pride and the constant use of the hand as a key element of grace and self validation for example. So I thought: what better and faster way to communicate these ideas than with a selfie?

Your are both subject and photographer. Did the decision to include yourself in these roles come about from practicality, the trend of selfie culture, or some other reason?

Being that I am what I call an impulsive creative, I come across ideas in the middle of making patterns for my collection or while overseeing production in my workshop and tend to become anxious and have fears that someone else will get them unless I realise them right away. Funny enough, I believe Michael Jackson and Albert Einstein suffered from this as well. I rarely have a model on hand to execute them so I make time in chaos for this project.

I also have a weakness for perfection and need to be able to communicate my ideas soundly to someone else, so most of the time I end up executing them myself. Lastly, and this will probably come off narcissistic, but I like to think of myself as my own muse. You will find that a lot of my work is reflective of my own style, some would even say that my models or my sketches look like me. I have spent a lot of time by myself ever since I was little. I would hide in my art projects using myself as a reference, or get lost in my imagination and create a world around myself.

I have always been a loner and that’s how I’ve learned to know, express and appreciate myself. In the words of Frida Kalho, “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” I can confidently say that I will never go wrong in portraying and expressing a message using myself as a medium. I use a trend available to all, “the selfie culture”, to spread messages that I take to heart. So far so good!

How long do you intend to keep the series going? Are there any plans to showcase this work somewhere?

There are many plans but you’d have to wait and see!! :)

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Sand Sculptors of Durban:

“Most often spotted alongside the pier, armed only with a spade, their hands and imagination, the sand-artists spend their days creating marvellous works of art for public admiration in the hopes of a steady stream of donations as this is often their only means of survival. Passers-by sometimes offer extra money so they can be photographed with these works of art, some of which can take up to a week to complete depending on size and detail, only to be destroyed in minutes. 
So why do their creators make them? Some of these guys are homeless teenagers - sculpting often means they don’t have to go to bed on an empty stomach. For others, the money they make is used to travel to and from home, or to pay for shelter for the night.” (Source)

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This six-minute video of the Noisettes performing ‘Atticus’ in 2009 is, like, on some spiritual shit. 

Whether or not you like their music, Shingai Shoniwa is one of the most soulful and enthralling performers alive. 

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[Hana] When I first came across Jamilla Okubo’s work, I felt an instant joy. Bright, colourful and bold with the use of African prints, her pieces offer both a celebration and a reclamation of black bodies. Today Jamilla tells us more about what inspires her and the stories she wants to tell through her prints and illustrations. 

1.Tell us a little about your work?

I really enjoy working with an array of mediums such as painting, digital/hand-painted prints, garments, and collaging. Color is definitely a key element in my work as well as prints. My work mainly focuses on subjects of the Diaspora because I just love the beauty within our culture and people. I just feel as though it is my duty to remind people of color that we have such a rich culture, and that we should love ourselves and one another. So I strive for my work to have a balance of conceptuality and beauty. These are two quotes that I live by when it comes to creating artwork:

“The role of the artist is exactly the same as the role of the lover. If i love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.”- James Baldwin

“The black artist is dangerous. Black art controls the “Negro’s” reality, negates negative influences, and creates positive images.”- Sonia Sanchez

2. What inspires you and what is your process?

I am heavily inspired by my background culture and experiences in life. My work is heavily fired by my emotions as well. Whether I am passionate or really angry about something, I use those feelings as an advantage to create from the heart and express myself. I am also inspired by other cultures. Being able to interact with people from all over the world and experience other cultures is a blessing.

Depending on the project that I am working on, I may gather inspiration photos from the internet or books, and create a moodboard (it’s a habit that I got from school, specifically fashion). Majority of the time I will randomly get inspired, whether it is from a movie or an incident that I saw on the news, I immediately start creating. I have a very odd way of working because, a lot of people always tell me “you work so much”, “you’re always creating something”, or “how do you have so much time to create?” Honestly I don’t!. When an idea sparks I immediately stop whatever I am doing and create what I envisioned at that moment.

3. Textile prints seem to play a key part in your prints and illustrations. What does this mean to you and is it telling of your own journey?

While attending Duke Ellington School of the Arts I was to create a 15-painting themed series for my senior year. As I found myself searching for inspiration I came across Africa Fashion Week NY for the first time. The textiles, beautiful african models, and vibrant expression of a culture I had been long disconnected from - struck a chord in me. From this I began my wandering - an earnest exploration of my history and ancestors. Blessed by a teacher by the name of Stanley Squirewell, seeing the fire in me as a young person, introduced me to a host of artists that continue to inspire me today: Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, Wangenchi Mutu, Hank Willis Thomas, etc. I played with how to take these narratives of blackness and interpret them through my work, my craft.

4. As a designer, what does the body mean to you?

As a designer, the body is an external way to express oneself. Also, being able to interpret and express your inner self through clothing and accessories is a wonderful thing. It gives all people the opportunity to treat their body as a canvas and not have to worry about others perceptions or opinions. The body provides a landscape on which my aesthetic inevitable conclusions come to life.

5. What can we look out for in 2014?

Well hopefully if all goes as planned, I am working on having my second solo art show in June. But as of now I am focusing on school, so you will of course see what I am working on throughout the semester. I always find a way to link my school projects with my own work. I cannot speak of all that I am planning on doing because I don’t want to jinx myself. Just know that I am always working on something!

Aspiring Textile designer, Jamilla Okubo, is an 20-year old African-American/Kenyan native from Washington, D.C. She is currently studying Integrated Fashion Design at Parsons the New School for Design. Jamilla’s prints invoke a life and sophistication in them. Constantly utilizing the vibrancies of African textiles to her advantage with color ways that would put a smile to both the viewer and wearer. Where her work gains depth lays in the subject matter of the prints. The prints, fun as they may be, acknowledge a deeper struggle which is rooted in black culture. She acknowledges the history, but similar to an upbeat song about heartbreak decides to shine a different light on the situation by claiming the story back for herself.

Follow her on: 
Blog: www.vivaillajams.tumblr.com 
Portfolio Site: www.jamillaokubo.com 
Shop: www.society6.com/jamillaokubo

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Select artworks from Nigerian artist Njideka Akunyili:

“Nigeria is almost a third character in my work,” she said. “A lot of my work is about investigating my love for Nigeria and my life in America.

"I met my husband at college and there was some anxiety that if I married outside my culture I would lose my identity, but there is a space in my work where these things come together.”

Akunyili is hoping to help change attitudes to art in Nigeria, where she said appreciation is growing slowly.

“If I hadn’t left Nigeria, I wouldn’t be an artist, I would be a doctor,” she said. “When I told my parents I wanted to be an artist, they couldn’t get their heads around why an educated person who went to college in America would want to be an artist.

"If people think of artists, it’s somebody by the side of the road painting signs.”

[…]

“When I was young, the less Nigerian you were the cooler you were, but now we have gone back to tradition,” said Akunyili. “There’s a nice energy about the country that’s finally coming into its own.”

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GRAPHIC ART:

Having done work for the likes of Cee Lo Green and Snoop Dogg, Haitian-born Serge Gay Jr is an accomplished graphic artist whose paintings are influenced by  popular culture. On his work, he says,  I love to showcase that journey from being born a Haitian then moving to America in the hopes of “the” American life at the age of three and the changes that comes along with that. Coming from a small island to the big New York, then later to Miami, that journey, having to adjust and trying to find ways to fit in. It made a good story for my art. English was not my first language; therefore art became my new way to communicate.”

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Doing, growing, learning, feeling. Every experience I have has taught me who I am both as a person and an artist. My art was always my first love, and the things I have learned this year made it so much more possible to grow within that love. I am a disaster, and I want my artwork to always show the many sides and distortions of all that I am

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The Egyptian Mona Lisa

I never get bored of people playing around with DaVinci’s, especially when non-Western artists provide their own take on the ever-mysterious painting that is the Mona Lisa.

Here, Egyptian illustrator FaTma WaGdi places herself wearing a hijab in her digital rendition of this 16th century portrait, poking fun at the expressionless original subject.