Special Projects at 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Special Projects at 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Athi-Patra Ruga - Night of the Long Knives I - African Art

Image courtesy Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD, Night of the Long Knives I, 2013

 

Returning to London for its 6th edition, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be held this year at Somerset House. The 42 galleries from across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and North America bring together a diverse set of perspectives from around the world with over 130 participating emerging and established artists, with 10 solo shows from selected galleries

We are so proud of how far we have come since our first London fair in 2013. Following the launch of our inaugural Marrakech fair in February and our fourth New York edition in May, we have gone on to develop new audiences for contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora across three fairs and three different continents. The growth and popularity of the fair is a real testament to the shift away from Euro-centric art-historical narratives.” states Founding Director of 1-54, Touria El Glaoui.

 

African Art Fair : Spotlight on Ibrahim El-Salahi and Athi Patra Ruga

This year the fair celebrates one of the most significant figures in African and Arab Modernism, Sudanese artist Ibrahim El-Salahi, with his piece Meditation Tree that will be exhibited in the Somerset House courtyard as an extension of one of his first public sculptures. Represented by Vigo Gallery, El-Salahi’s artistic practice has been influenced by the Haraz tree which grows along the banks of the Nile and is indigenous to Sudan. This specific tree drops its leaves during the rainy season and flourishes throughout the dry season. In its idiosyncrasies, is said to be very near the Sudanese character, underscoring his ongoing investigation into the tree / body metaphor.

 

El Salahi - Meditation Tree- african art

Ibrahim El-Salahi
, Meditation Tree, 2018
Polished aluminum 68 x 54 x 46 cm


 

Internationally renowned South African artist Athi Patra Ruga will also be exhibiting a free exhibition in collaboration with Somerset House as part of the Special Projects program, Of Gods, Rainbows and Omissions (4 October 2018 – 7 January 2019). Marking his first major solo UK exhibition, he brings together three seminal bodies of work – The Future White Women of Azania (2012-15), Queens in Exile (2015-17), and The Beatification of Feral Benga (2017- present). Ruga reveals a mythical world which challenges ones perception of cultural identity and parodies the construction of the South African nation-state in the post-apartheid era. Through his work, he explores a possible humanist vision for the future, immersing visitors in his vibrant world filled with powerful and striking characters.

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair – Hours

Somerset House, London, 4 – 7 October 2018
Thursday 4 October 11:00 – 19:00
Friday 5 October 11:00 – 19:00
Saturday 6 October 11:00 – 19:00
Sunday 7 October 11:00 – 18:00

VIP & Press previews
Press preview: Wednesday 3 October, 9:00 – 18:00
VIP preview: Wednesday 3 October, 9:00 – 18:00
Vernissage: Wednesday 3 October, 18:00 – 21:00 

Gam ’s Vivid Artworks on the Life and Legacy of Sankara

Gam ’s Vivid Artworks on the Life and Legacy of Sankara

Pierre-Christophe GAM, The Murder, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 60x45

Pierre-Christophe GAM, The Murder, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 60x45

Upper Volta was a colony of low strategic importance to France in economic terms, yet she subjected its people to harsh colonial rule. Growing up surrounded by stark inequalities, even after its independence from France in 1960, a young man was moved to pursue social justice: Thomas Sankara. His all-too-short life story remains an inspiration, both across Africa and in his own country, which he renamed Burkina Faso in 1984: “the land of the upright people”.

Sankara’s remarkable life story and his transformation of Burkina Faso during his four short years (1983–1987) as Prime Minister is brought to vivid life in the works of Pierre-Christophe Gam. The Cameroonian-Chadian artist’s mixed media installation, “The Upright Man”, offers a body of work that functions at the crossroads of the political, the personal and the spiritual. It encapsulates Sankara the man, the myth, and the visionary Pan-Africanist. The artist, who was 4 years old when Sankara was assassinated, captures in his works both the perspective of a child seeking the trail of his idol, and that of many contemporary Africans today seeking the truth of a shared past. Gam’s pieces feature certain milestones in Sankara’s time in power, expressed through both Christian iconography and visual symbolism specific to twentieth-century political history, such as the three colours (red, green and yellow) of pan-Africanism. It is an intriguing approach than befits Gam’s own definition of his art practice as that of a modern griot: a West African oral historian and storyteller.

The Battle, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 100 x 74 cm, Gam

The Battle, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 100 x 74 cm

In his representations of this towering political figure, Gam takes inspiration from a widely spread aesthetic practice in West Africa: commemorative cloths, which are printed textiles often featuring patterns, scenes, and memorial portraits. These colourful textiles, printed for commemorating everything from political campaigns to royal anniversaries, tell stories about people, movements, culture and society. Gam’s techniques include pencil colour drawing, pixel art, photography and digital manipulation; the results of this experimental mix are unique, yet somehow familiar to anyone who sees images mostly through a screen in their day-to-day lives. But to understand the story that these pieces visually narrate, it helps to grasp the significance of Sankara in post-colonial African history.

Some said Sankara’s visions were too grand, for he was impatient with those who insisted that a poor country should not set their sights too high.

Unlike the country’s previous military interventions, Sankara came to power in 1983 in a takeover that was conducted with the direct collaboration of several leftist civilian groups, resulting in a hybrid military–civilian formation at the helm of the country. From 1983 to 1987, Sankara transformed the institutions of the state fundamentally, so that they would cease to protect the interests of the few political elite. His aspirations for his fellow Burkinabé were rooted in social mobilisation and Pan-Africanist aspirations, but took direction from the needs of the majority of people. These included ecologically sustainable development, women’s emancipation, free education, accessible healthcare and community self-help projects. Some said Sankara’s visions were too grand, for he was impatient with those who insisted that a poor country should not set their sights too high. Yet Sankara’s quest was not impossibly utopian. In four years, he demonstrated repeatedly through initiatives that much social, political and economic progress could be made. His assassination in 1987 is widely confirmed by historians as having direct support from France, and other foreign powers alarmed by the Sankara’s policies.

The Temptation, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 60x45 cm, Gam

The Temptation, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 60x45 cm

Sankara’s strong stance against neocolonial dependency reflected in his programs for agricultural self-reliance, healthcare, and anti-corruption campaigns. From the outset, he also emphasised the emancipation of women as one of his central social and political goals – a rarity for any president in Africa at the time. These social and economic leaps are visualised with strong symbolism and joyful colours in several pieces of Gam’s series: Agricultural Reform, Battle of the Railway, The Emancipation of Women, Education for All and Self-Reliance (all 2017). Each concept is explored in two prints: one featuring Sankara initiating or demonstrating the task at hand, and the second featuring the people of Burkina Faso putting it into action together. A nod, perhaps, to the Sankarist approach to development, which was notable for its reliance on social mobilisation and community self-help.

Although Gam’s works illustrate key points throughout Sankara’s life and political career, there is also a strikingly original interpretative exercise at play: the religious and spiritual undertones to his art. Gam’s framing of Sankara as a Christ-like figure — both prophet and martyr — blurs the lines between the material and the spiritual world, as it does between the political and the personal. This acknowledges the contemporary relevance of West African traditional religions to social and political life, in which the spiritual world is widely accepted to exist in tandem with the physical one, and events in either are able to influence those in the other. Interpreting social and political changes not only for their implications in material reality, but also for their spiritual consequences, is part and parcel of community interactions and day-to-day life in many West African societies. The La Patrie triptych (2017), for instance, includes one mixed media collage featuring the dead Sankara, surrounding by six angelic female figures gesturing to his body, lying Christ-like in the arms of his widow, Myriam Sankara, who radiates a maternal and otherworldly persona reminiscent of the Virgin Mary. The third print in the triptych cements this biblical iconography by presenting the dead Sankara crucified on the cross. The two final works on the other hand, both titled La Resurrection (2017), bring the story full circle; one shows Sankara reawakened, draped in cloth like a prophet emerging from the desert, and the final one features the flag of Burkina Faso — a community of “believers” in symbolic unity under the pan-African colours.

The Resurrection, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 74x100 cm, Gam

The Resurrection, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 74x100 cm

The artworks’ formal qualities mirror this synthesis of traditional spirituality and modern political experience. Gam’s bright patterns in digital print, with their game-like aesthetic in certain places, make them unmistakably contemporary in their visual language. Sankara is represented in photorealistic style amidst geometric and repeating patterns that at times appear pixelated. All are composed of the same minuscule pattern, printed over and over again: an almost emoji-like head of a smiling African woman holding an abundance of colourful produce atop her headdress. When fused with the political content of the work — which is celebratory of the thoroughly secular, developmental goals of pan-African socialist thought — this Christian religiosity to the works do not remain static. They evolve into another kind of conceit: one that makes use of the familiar connotations of biblical iconography for much of Gam’s audience in West Africa and the world, but implies that this was the short-lived birth of a new “religion” in the form of pan-Africanism and a certain Sankarist humanism.

Tryptique “La Patrie B”, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 133 x 100 cm, Gam

Tryptique “La Patrie B”, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 133 x 100 cm

Gam’s synthesis of a digital aesthetic, biblical imagery and twentieth-century history is singular, and the result is a retelling of Sankara’s story through visuals that feel universal, youthful and dynamic. This story becomes, quite literally, anything but dead history. Gam paints Sankara garbed in spiritual mythologies to striking effect, but perhaps it is all the more remarkable that in doing so the artist reminds us Sankara was no saint or angel, but an ordinary man — albeit an exceptionally upright one.

Written by Sarah Jilani

Contributor - London

Africa : Guest of Honour at the Photo Festival La Gacilly

Africa : Guest of Honour at the Photo Festival La Gacilly

A man walks on a pedestrian bridge overlooking traffic in Lagos, Nigeria, September 18, 2006. The Africities 4 summit aimed at tackling the problems of the continent's expanding cities and huge slums opened on Monday in Nairobi. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye (NIGERIA) - RTR1HGS1

A man walks on a pedestrian bridge overlooking traffic in Lagos, Nigeria, September 18, 2006. The Africities 4 summit aimed at tackling the problems of the continent’s expanding cities and huge slums opened on Monday in Nairobi. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye (NIGERIA) – RTR1HGS1

Highlighting the importance that has gained African photography in the art market, the festival intends not only to shed light on the primary figures of the discipline such as Malick Sidibé, Omar Victor Diop or Seydou Keïta – well known figures – but to bring center stage lesser known photographers like Jean Depara, photographer who recorded the Congolese youth, or James Barnor, Ghanaian photographer, the first to switch from black and white to colour film. Photography has a particular position in African history for it testified the continent’s revolutions and independence movements contributing to the creation of identities. Photography didn’t freed this countries from the colonial yoke, nevertheless it helped them to establish their own history as well as to take control of their image.

Linked directly to the first part of the festival, Man and Beast explores human’s relation to endangered species. Africa, the continent per excellence where animal wildlife hasn’t completely disappeared, illustrates the conflictive relation between us and our surroundings. Have we failed to relate to the rest of the world? Has our thirst of power annihilated the future of other species? Such are the questions posed by the festival who, despite the of the subject’s negativity focuses as well on the shifting mores of the general public showing more compassion towards the animal kingdom.

Aside from the explicit photos poached rhinoceros, the festival exhibits rare photos taken by the great French poet Arthur Rimbaud who upon quitting to write travelled to Africa and photographed what he saw. The festival revisits once more Africa’s history and rewrites it showing a restored image of this mythical place.

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Peju Alatise

Peju Alatise is an interdisciplinary artist, architect and author of two novels. The Nigerian artist, born in 1975, draws on the manifold cultural meaning of the national costume in both literal and symbolic terms. This is the basis for her artistic investigation into the significance and essence of womanhood. Alatise often weaves her artistic creations into her literary discourse on the advocacy campaign, ‘Child Not Bride’. Her success with her novels and writing is accompanied by a growing support from the art market. In 2015, Alatise’s High Horses triptych has made a great sale and has broken her personal record at the ‘Africa Now’ auction in Bonhams London. Her work Missing is her poignant polemic against the on-going problem of sex trafficking in Nigeria. Her work was first exhibited at the Nike Art Gallery in Lagos under the title “Material Witness” in 2012. The artist is regularly participating in international exhibitions and art fairs across the African continent and beyond.

Peju-AlatiseThe Unconsious Struggle

The Unconscious Struggle, 2012, mixed media 254 x 152.5 cm – © Peju Alatise

Kudzanai Chihurai

Kudzanai Chiurai is an internationally acclaimed young artist from Zimbabwe. Born in 1981, the artist was exiled from his home country after producing an unflattering portrait of the President of Zimbabwe. He now works and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. Chiurai’s work is a mixture of digital photography, editing and printing, painting and film. He is the first black student to receive a BA in Fine Arts from the University of Pretoria in South Africa. His caustic, theatrical multimedia compositions address the most pertinent issues that his generation faces in Austral Africa, from government corruption to xenophobia and displacement. Chiurai has participated in numerous local and international exhibitions ever since his first solo exhibition in 2003 in the Brixton Art Gallery, London. Most recently, his work has been exhibited in “Figures & Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography” at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and ‘Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now’ at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which has also acquired Chiurai’s work for their collection.

Chihurai-The-English-Garden

Untitled (The English Garden), 2013, Oil and enamel on canvas, 222 x 180 x 5 cm

Pierre-Christophe Gam

Pierre-Christophe Gam is a French pluridisciplinary artist born in 1983 and raised in Chantilly, France. He studied architecture at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and art direction at the prestigious Central Saint Martins in London where he now lives and works. Inspired by his Egyptian, Chadian and Cameroonian heritage, his work combines design, photography and digital manipulation, creating an heteroclite palette of images where he explores identity, post-colonialism, globalization and power. In 2013, Gam founded AfroPolis, a cultural platform that through exhibitions and talks analyses Africa’s position on an international scale. His work was part of the exhibition “Making Africa” at the Vitra Museum in Germany and travelled to the Guggenheim Bilbao this year.

GAM-The-Affogbolo-green

The Affogbolo, Her Pink, 2015, C-print mounted on aluminium, 40 x 40 cm Edition of 5.

Maïmouna Guerresi

Maïmouna Guerresi is an interdisciplinary artist mostly known for her mythical portraits. Born in 1951 in Italy, Guerresi is now based in Dakar, Senegal while travelling to Italy occasionally. Her work is not only limited to photography, she is also a sculptor and a video and installation artist. She is inspired by the 1970’s Body Art movement with conceptual experiment as basis for most of her work. During her travels in several African countries in 1991, Guerresi had a change in identity and direction with regards to her work and started to focus on themes of multicultural symbolism and feminine spirituality. For over twenty years, Guerresi’s work has been about empowering women and encouraging appreciation of humanity and the human body in the African cultural context. Guerresi fashions the costume in the portraits from fabrics she has gathered from travelling around Africa, and the photographs are shot against a wall outside her house in Dakar, Senegal. Guerresi participated at the Venice Biennale in 1982, the Biennale was curated by Tommaso Trini. Her work is now exhibited across the globe, including France, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Mali, and the United States.

Maïmouna Guerresi-TALIBY-

Taliby, 2010, Lambda Print, triptych, Lambda Print

Julie Mehretu

Julie Mehretu, born in 1970, is a painter who does large-scale, gestural paintings that are built up through layers of acrylic paint on canvas, then marked with pencil, pen, ink and thick streams of paint. The Ethiopian-born artist now lives in New York and travels between the United States and Berlin, Germany. Having spent her formative years at the University Cheik Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal, Mehretu is extremely involved in the artistic education of the new generation in Africa. In 2003, the artist worked with 30 young girls from East Africa during her residency at the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis, US. In 2015, she was honoured with the United States State Department’s ‘National Medal of Arts’. Mehretu had her first exhibition in 1995 in “Ancestral Reflections” in the United States. One of the artist’s most widely known works is the 80-foot-wide mural in the Goldman Sachs tower titled Mural. Her pieces are shown in worldwide art fairs and exhibitions, and they are publicly accessible in museums across the globe including in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

 

 

Julie-Mehretu-Heavier-than-air

Heavier than air (written form), 2014, Ink and acrylic on canvas, 122 x 183 cm.

 

Athi Patra-Ruga

Athi-Patra Ruga was born in 1984 in Umtata, South Africa and is a multidisciplinary artist who constantly questions and confronts politics and ideologies through vivid colours and colourful installations as well as performances. His works are impregnated by eclectic references in which gender, humour and eroticism meet, creating a hybrid body of constructions. His first exhibition was in 2004 in South Africa. He currently works and lives between Capetown and Johannesburg. Moreover, his work is part of the Pigozzi Collection, the IZIKO South African National Gallery, Museion in Italy and the Wedge Collection.

Athi-Patra-Ruga-MISS-AZANIA-2019

Miss Azania, 2019, 2015, archival inkjet print on Photorag Baryta, 150 x 190 cm, edition of 10. Photographer: Hayden Phipps –

Yinka Shonibare Mbe

Yinka Shonibare MBE was born in London, UK in 1962, but his family moved to Lagos, Nigeria when he was three. Shonibare is known for his colonial and post-colonial themes within the contemporary context of globalisation through different media including painting, sculpture, photography, film and performance. He now lives and works in London, UK. The artist was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2004, and was awarded the decoration of Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in the same year. In 2010, for the first time, he was commissioned to create Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, which is on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London. Shonibare’s first solo exhibition was in 1989 at the Byam Shaw Gallery and the Bedford Hill Gallery in London. His work is included in many public collections and museums in the UK, the US, Canada, Israel, Italy, Monaco and Sweden.

SHONIBARE_Butterfly_Kid2015

 

 

Butterfly Kid (boy), 2015, Fiberglass mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, silk, metal, globe, leather and steel baseplate, 127 x 75 x 88 cm.
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Abu Bakarr Mansaray (1970, Sierra Leone) Allien Resurrection [sic], 2004 Graphique, colored pencils, feutre on paper, 150 x 205 cm - Framed : 160,6 x 212,5 x 4 cm Courtesy CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection

Abu Bakarr Mansaray (1970, Sierra Leone) Allien Resurrection [sic], 2004 Graphique, colored pencils, feutre on paper, 150 x 205 cm Framed : 160,6 x 212,5 x 4 cm – Courtesy CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection

The exhibition Art/Afrique, le nouvel atelier constituted of 3 main sections retraces Africa’s grandiose landscape and future in the contemporary art world. The first part titled “Les initiés”” showcases works from the private collection of the mythical collector Jean Pigozzi, a philanthropist who since the late 80’s saw the power of African art and chose to impulse the nascent scene. With the help of André Magnin, curator of the exhibition Les Magiciens de la Terre at the Pompidou Centre in 1989, he created an exhaustive collection from African artists living and working within the confines of the continent. Among the 15 artists selected from his collection, names such as Malick Sidibé, Romuald Hazoumé, Seni Awa Camara or Okhai Ojeikere are testimony of André Magnin’s visionary perception and his close relation to African artists.

Kudzanai Chiurai, Revelations V, 2011, ink Ultrachrome on paper, photo Innova, Image : 120 x 180 cm | Sheet : 145 x 200 cm. © Kudzanai Chiurai. Courtesy of the Artist & Goodman Gallery Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Kudzanai Chiurai, Revelations V, 2011, ink Ultrachrome on paper, photo Innova, Image : 120 x 180 cm | Sheet : 145 x 200 cm. © Kudzanai Chiurai. Courtesy of the Artist & Goodman Gallery Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The next section, which includes galeries 4,5,6 and 7, “Être là” is exclusively devoted to South African contemporary art. Contrasting with the the continent’s history, South Africa has always had its own identity and costumes. Propelled by institutions as well as galleries and collectors, the country’s contemporary art scene is already strong and cemented. Referent figures such as William Kentridge, Sue Williamson and David Goldblatt bear witness of the country’s progression over the years. Nevertheless, a new generation post apartheid is to be found in the exhibit, artwork from Athi Patra Ruga, Jody Brand, Lawrence Lemaoana, Kudzanai Chiurai amid others testify of the new South African identity where multiculturalism and globalisation mark them.

Ear Splitting-Hazoume

Romuald Hazoumè (Bénin, 1962), Ear Splitting, 1999
plastic jerrycan, brush, spekers, 42 x 22 x 16 cm
Courtesy CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection –
© ADAGP, Paris 2017 – Photo Credits : © Maurice Aeschimann

Finally, the last “volet” exhibits a selection of artworks from the Louis Vuitton collection. From Kentridge, to Omar Victor Diop, Wangechi Mutu, Meschac Gaba, Barthélémy Toguo and more this last stage confirms Africa’s fecund ecosystem aiding to create a new chapter in the whole continent’s history.

In the Spring of 2016, ArtPremium dedicated an issue to the rise and flourishing of this region, the exhibition thus comes to confirm African contemporary art’s power and its imminent growth in the art market.

Siwani, Qunusa_ Buhle 2

Buhlebezwe Siwani, Qunusa! Buhle, 2015,
Ink jet print on 
Hahnemuhle PhotoRag, 111.8 x 55.4 cm,
courtesy Of the Artist & Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape Town.
© Buhlebezwe Siwani

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Djenne Mosque – Mali ©James-Morris

L’Institut du monde Arabe is currently exhibiting The Islamic Treasures of Africa, a show gathering both contemporary and ancient creations from African creators, influenced by islam.

The idea behind the eclectic election of artworks was to underline and connect the past and the present to create a coherent African islamic history, written by its inhabitants rather than the colons. As a hub reuniting several cults and ideologies, Africa witnessed the rise of sufism, a branch of islam where love and poetry are center stage. Reinterpreted by artist Maimouna Guerresi’s work, her photography, with its vibrant colours and contrast, stresses on the spiritual tradition of islam.

Minarets, mosques, madrasas and other architectonic structures testify of islam’s importance in the continent. While in the surface we could be tempted to think of orthodox ritualistic practices, the exhibition proves otherwise for much of the animistic beliefs melted with islam creating thus a religion on its own, detached from the sufi’s radical roots. In Ivory Coast, some masks from ancient rituals were utilised, the syncretism gave birth to a particular islam incorporating local beliefs. Magic is the additive giving another meaning to islam.

Contemporary artists, rendering homage to artisanal practices employ old techniques refreshing them. Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté for instance presents a work denouncing the political situation in his homeland, where an extremist group has submerged the country in a civil war. Finally, the arabic calligraphy with its inherent beauty demystifies the assumption stating that African cultures have a rather oral tradition. Some manuscripts are showcased in the exhibition rooms unveiling centuries of African islamic history. Contemporary artist Babacar Diouf recreates in his work the arabic calligraphy while he creates a new language. Taking a parcel of tradition and adding his own codes, he alters arabic converting it into an aesthetic.

The scenography is incredibly well adjusted urging the spectator to look for them even in the ceiling. The light as well enables us to neatly see even the slightest details of every piece presented at the exhibition: it is clear to us, the exhibition endeavour is to give a positive image of islam and prove that it was an ignitor in Africa.