Archive for category Contemporary African art news

Ed Cross interview: African art and developments in the online market

mamady.saydi.les.cyclistesMamady Seydi | Les Cyclistes | 2012 | mixed media sculpture

Ed Cross was recently interviewed by in Omenka Magazine. Ed discusses his introduction to African art and his time spent in Africa as a sculptor. Ed shares his thoughts on the current state of the market and how selling African art online is growing in popularity and profitability.

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The tipping point for contemporary African art?

mario_macilauMário Macilau | Photo of Girl with Doll

Ed Cross was recently interviewed by Rachel Hamada for This is Africa about the contemporary African art market and art scene. Ed believes that the market has reached a tipping point, and that it is now getting the attention it deserves.

What does this increasing interest in contemporary African art mean for the artists involved? Is the term ‘African’ being painted with too broad a brush? Ed offers his opinions into these issues in this insightful article.

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Kimathi Donkor – a figurative master

Kimathi Donkor is a British artist living and working in London whose large, figurative oil paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries across the UK and internationally.

Kimathi Donkor - Oshun visits Gaba at Tate’s ‘Big House’Oshun visits Gaba at Tate’s ‘Big House’ | Oil on Linen | 170 x 140cm | 2013

Hailing from a family with roots in Ghana, Jamaica, England, Zambia and Poland, Donkor’s meticulously crafted compositions draw on the traditions of portraiture and historical painting. Yet the themes of his work address dramatic modern subjects – ranging from urban conflict in contemporary London to the adventures of Ghana’s anti-colonial heroine, Yaa Asantewaa. Sitters are often friends or family, which, he believes, imparts a degree of intimacy to the monumentality of his figures.

Donkor is a master painter in a digital age, but his work is anything but anachronistic. It is steeped in historical, contemporary and art history references that inform, entertain and challenge the viewer. His paintings are both beautiful works of art and complex political/historical conundrums, arising out of his own heritage and at times challenging personal journey and his astute study of history and art history.

Kamathi Donkor - NotebookNotebook II | Watercolour and pencil on paper | 32 x 24cm | 2013

In 2012, Donkor was commissioned by Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts) to produce new paintings for his acclaimed Queens of The Undead solo show at Rivington Place, London. In 2011, he was the recipient of the Derek Hill painting award for the British School at Rome, which included a three-month residency in Italy, studying the work of the Baroque master, Caravaggio.

In 2010, the artist’s paintings were exhibited at the 29th São Paulo Biennial in Brazil. His Caribbean Passion paintings are currently on long-term display at the Usher Gallery museum in Lincoln. From 2009 to 2011, Donkor collaborated with the artists Raksha Patel and Eleni Zagkali alongside a group of young Londoners to create artworks for the Seeing Through participatory project at Tate Britain.

Writing about the artist’s work has appeared in, Studio International, The Guardian and Visual Culture in Britain amongst many other journals.

Kimathi Donkor has been has been the recipient of two full-time painting bursaries from the Arts & Humanities Research Council. He gained his Master’s degree in Fine Art at Camberwell College of Arts (2010) and his Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College (1987). He is currently completing a doctorate in painting at Chelsea College of Art and Design.

Click here to view our collection of Kimathi Donkor pieces.

For enquiries about Kimathi Donkor’s work please contact:

Ed Cross +44 (0) 7507067567

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Joseph Bertiers – the master of African satire


The True Lier  | Joseph Bertiers | 2013 | Oil on canvas | 90 x 100cm 

When I  first visited Joseph Bertiers in Nairobi we had met by the main Dagoretti  road and drove together towards his house – I had no idea what to expect and was greeted by a walled compound with a large smart looking gate – we paused outside  as Bertiers gestured to what look like an “askari” (a guard) just visible inside.  The guard  turned out to be one of Bertiers’ many life-sized scrap metal sculptures that adorn his garden. This was the first of many jokes. Even his name is a joke. He renamed himself Bertiers from the original Mbatia to see if having a European name would  boost his art sales – it did apparently – though that was in another era. Perhaps he should change it back?  But that wouldn’t be funny – so he wont.

The painting you see here is a rollocking expose of a type of corrupt and venal pastor that plagues the African continent and many other parts of the globe. This painting was inspired by revelations about the Fire Gospel Ministry in Kenya where a pastor had been caught paying women to fake illness so that they could be miraculously cured. Bertiers depicts the realities of sexual harassment and the sheer lies and  hypocrisy peddled by these “true liers”.

In the words of the artist:

The time has come for people to realize that they are
conned, cheated and given no spiritual healing at all.  Although they take their  time, these people who pretend to be spiritually superior to their congregations enrich themselves through the poor exploiting the fact that  religion is the opium of the people,  as Karl Marx the philosopher said.

Bertiers is an increasingly successful and acclaimed artist. His work was recently featured in the Financial Times and his work  is in several major collections in Europe and the U.S.A..

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Mário Macilau and The Price of Cement

Mario Macilau The Price of CementUntitled (The Price of Cement ) 5 |  C-Print | 2013 | Edition: 6

The Price of Cement is a series of photographs by the young and acclaimed Mozambican photographer Mário Macilau. The works show the tragic reality of young boys and girls who work in illegal cement bagging operations in Mozambique in darkened buildings, hidden from view, recycling and cutting cement from cement spillages with disastrous consequences for their health. The images that ironically and intuitively reference the world of mime and fashion speak devastatingly for themselves. The empowerment of his subjects to tell their stories with dignity is central to Macilau’s important work. 

Mário Macilau was born in the newly independent Mozambique, in the midst of the most critical phase of its civil war. His family struggled financially and moved from the Inhambane province to the capital, Maputo, in search of a better life. When he was 10 years old he began to work in a small market frequented by the middle / upper class where he became a street child, washing cars in the car park and helping to carry the groceries in an effort to support his family.

Mario Macilau The Price of CementUntitled (The Price of Cement ) 3 |  C-Print | 2013 | Edition: 6

Macilau started his journey as photographer in 2003, when he traded his mother’s mobile phone for his first camera. In 2007, he became a professional photographer. He specialises in long-term projects that focus on living and environmental conditions. As a documentary photographer he is committed to initiating positive change across different cultures, locations and perspectives. In his home country he uses his work to confront the reality of power, environment and cultural heritage that affect socially isolated groups, and issues that define our times.

Macilau shows his work regularly in national and international exhibitions.  In 2011, his work was included in the Pan African group exhibition during the Biennale of African Photography in Bamako. He won the Crossing Point residency  in France at Les Rencontres D’arles in 2012 from Fondation Blachère. He was a finalist for the 7th edition of BESphoto 2011 in Portugal where his work has been shown at CCB – Centro Cultural de Belém. In Brazil he has exhibited at Pinacoteca de Estado de Sao Paulo. In 2011, he exhibited at VI Chobi Mela Photo Festival in Bangladesh, the Photo Spring in Beijing, China, Lagos Photo I and II in Nigeria, The KLM in Malaysia, among others.

Macilau has won many national and international  awards including  the Young ACP Photographer’s Competition in 2010, the Visa Pour La Creation 2012 from the French Institute and the first prize from the Protection Project in Washington DC 2012. He also won the talent prize from France Embassy in Maputo in 2011. Mário regularly attends the Annual Photography Master Class  in Africa organized by Goethe Institute, Johannesburg.

Mário Macilau was featured on Al Jazeera’s Artscape programme in May 2013.

Click here to view our collection of Mario Macilau prints.

For enquiries about Mario Macilau’s work please contact:

Ed Cross +44 (0) 7507067567

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How the world discovered Cyrus Kabiru

I left Kenya in 2009 after spending twenty one years of my life there. I had gone there for romantic reasons and to practice as an artist and live on the shores of the Indian Ocean in a palm thatched Swahili house – the latter I managed for ten good years.

1980’s Kenya was President Arap Moi’s Kenya – a sort of inefficient totalitarian state which bordered on the comic unless you were on the receiving end of it. Where African intellectuals and artists  were deemed suspect by the authorities, many were in exile. The others only known about by a small group of African art experts. Gallery Watatu was the art colussus in Nairobi but by the time I arrived its  charismatic director, Ruth Schaffner,  was close to  the end of her life.

Jak Katarikawe was the artist that turned my head. I was in Lilian Towers a plush modern hotel complex in downtown Nairobi  allegedly named after Moi’s mistress for reasons I  cant remember. Unlike Mombasa with its sense of soul and historic charm there was little  in Nairobi that  stirred me deeply until I wandered downstairs in an “exhibition area” and saw extraordinary works by a man I’d never heard of on the wall – Jak Katarikawe.  There must have been about twenty black and white woodcuts – and one in particular caught my eye,  I remember the title clearly “Escape by night – Bride price later” It was a couple in a canoe paddling off at night.

Apart from Katarikawe most of my visual stimulation in those days came from art that had nothing to do with galleries made by people who wouldn’t have called themselves artists. Carvers of dugout canoes, a man in Mombasa who made impossibly realistic and suggestive gyrating dolls out of inner tubes, coat hangers  and .. actually no one ever knew how he made them. Fabrics, shop signs, driftwood, Baobab trees,the multiplicity of different bone structures in faces from different ethnic groups,   the vivid beauty of a still pristine Indian Ocean.

Years later after working for eight years as an artist myself and then as an art dealer. I thought I knew the Kenyan art scene pretty well but I missed a young artist called Cyrus Kabiru.

If Kabiru had been a young man in the 90s he might have ended up an anonymous  artisan  like the unnamed genius who produced the gyrating dolls. Other than being taken up by Jean Pigozzi (as Richard Onyango was) or being the darling of Ruth Schaffner as was Jak and a small group of lucky artists, there was limited scope for people with creative brilliance. The internet changed all that.


Cyrus Kabiru | C-Stunner : Revolution | Mixed media sculpture | 2009

Fast forward to 2013 and Kabiru (aged 28 yrs)  yesterday  accepted a TED Fellowship at TED’s Long Beach conference in front of thousands of applauding delegates. On March 1st – 9th I will be curating a show for him at Frank Pictures  Gallery in Santa Monica I “discovered” Kabiru (in the Christopher Columbus sense), on Facebook. He had posted a photograph of himself wearing one of his C-Stunners eyewear sculptures – I think it was Revolution – which  uses  spent bullets in its construction.  As soon as I saw the image and quickly looked at other works on his Tumblr etc I thought here is someone who  has got what it takes – the work radiated a confident perfectionism and obsessive quality that great  artists generally have – unless you are a purely conceptual artist in the end there is some artifact produced and it’s that attention to detail that makes it great. The work was literally and metaphorically visionary. It spoke of the aspirations of a generation looking beyond the cliches about Africa – it was art that transcended borders in more ways than one.

It was only later that I learnt that  the roots of Kabiru’s  obsession with making “glasses” came from a specific  family fable:


Cyrus Kabiru | C-Stunner : Gallata Mask| 13 x 33 x 21cm | Mixed media sculpture | 2012

Kabiru has been creating his ‘spectacles’ since childhood. First as toys for himself and later for his class-mates as a way of bartering his way through school work. His passion for ‘glasses’ stems from his father’s phobia about them. As a child, the artist’s grandparents punished his father severely for losing a pair of glasses that they had made huge sacrifices to provide him with.  When the young Kabiru began playing with his father’s glasses, he was told by his father “if you want to survive in my house you will make your own glasses”.  Taking him at his word, the young boy embarked on what would become his lifetime mission to create eyewear out of “trash”.

His father, bemused by the explosion of toy glasses became an unwitting curator, decreeing that his son should “only make the glasses when there is a reason” by recreating again and again the object of his father’s pain, and his grandparent’s hope, Kabiru began to create a body of work that would have symbolic significance well beyond his own family story, ultimately becoming a metaphor for the power of creative transformation both within Africa and worldwide.

Kabiru has been featured in group shows throughout Europe and the Middle East including Istanbul Design Biennale, Istanbul, Perimeter Art & Design, Paris, Rosetta Arts, London, Fashion Space Gallery, London College of Fashion, London, and upcoming shows in Dubai and Paris.

His C-STUNNERS were recently worn by Bobby Womack on the cover of Clash Magazine’s December 2012 issue and he has been profiled by the New York Times (September 2012), The International Herald Tribune (September 2012), and Under the Influence Magazine’s Africa Issue (November 2012).

For more information about Kabiru’s work, you can watch the following video links below:

MTV Base –

Manufactured –

Ed Cross Fine Art –

If you are in Los Angeles come along to see Kabiru’s biggest yet exhibition of his C-Stunner works and his first show in the U.S.A. at Frank Pictures March 1-9, 2013 11.30am – 6.30pm

Artist Reception: Saturday, March 2nd 5.30pm – 8.30pm

Frank Pictures Gallery
Bergamot Station, A-5
2525 Michigan Avenue,
Santa Monica, CA 90404

310.828.0211 tel

The C-Stunner Los Angeles tour is sponsored by Stunner of the Month, a monthly sunglass subscription service that is changing the way you see, and the way others see you. StunMo founders discovered and acquired some of Kabiru’s work more than a year ago. As avid supporters of bringing his creations to more people, they offered to put on a series of events while he is in Los Angeles to help one stunner from another. Stunner of the Month: It’s not just a brand, it’s a lifestyle. Start stunnin’ today, go to

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DAK’ART BIENNALE 2012 – the information

Dak’Art 2012 | Biennale de l’art africain contemporain 

Dates: 11 May -10 June 2012

Place: Dakar, Senegal


Curators: Christine EYENE, Nadira LAGGOUNE, Riason NAIDOO


The tenth edition of the biennale takes place in a particular context. Indeed 2012 is the year of the elections, as was 2000. This year also marks the twentieth anniversary of the longest established biennale on the African continent. A gathering well known to the international art scene, DAK’ART is scheduled in accordance to its biennial calendar. The theme chosen for this edition stands as a pretext to examine, through various angles, the dialogue contemporary artists engage with a social environment in constant change.
Throughout the world, and particularly in Africa, times of crises have given way to periods of stability. Some countries are recovering from a financial crisis, others, from a social dead-end; people’s movements have never been so crucial in the quest for a new equilibrium. In this quest, culture is one of the significant levers to activate. Each time, artists have played an instrumental role in social mobilisation and in the raising of individual and collective awareness and engagement.
“Contemporary creation and social dynamics” is an investigative field that scholars, art critics and artists are invited to explore as part of the encounters and exchanges of the 2012 edition of the Biennale.

Ousseynou Wade, Secretary General of the Dakar Biennale

Dak’Art 2012 brings together numerous events. In addition to the international exhibition presenting artists from several African countries and the diaspora at the Musée Théodore Monod, an exhibition at the Galerie Nationale will feature three invited artists: Peter Clarke, Goddy Leye and Berni Searle.
Spain will be honoured with a presentation of architects and visual artists at Maison de la Culture Douta Seck. Finally, two exhibitions will pay homage to pioneering artists Papa Ibra Tall et Joe Ouakam.
The encounters and exchanges will invite international participants to debate around the theme “Contemporary creation and social dynamics”. … Of course the OFF will offer numerous exhibitions in Dakar, Saint-Louis and in the whole of Senegal.

The selection committee was composed of three members and met in Dakar from 16 to 18 February 2012.
The members of the committee reviewed three hundred and twenty-nine applications submitted by artists from thirty-six African countries and twenty-one other countries […].
Each application was the object of lengthy discussions between the members of the international committee. The selection criteria were: the originality of the artistic approach, the aesthetic and conceptual qualities, as well as the currency of the discourse, regardless of the theme of the 2012 Dakar Biennale.

Forty-two artists from twenty-one African countries and one artist from Reunion Island have been selected for the international exhibition.


Adel Marwa (Egypt), Alleck Nirveda (Mauritius), Assie Romaric (Ivory Coast), Ba Cheikhou (Senegal), Baba-Ali Younes (Morocco), Baker Bridget (South Africa), Beckett James (South Africa), Caranda-Martin Doughba Hamilton (Liberia), Chachage Rehema (Tanzania), Cissé Mamadou (Senegal), Diallo Bakary (Mali), Emmanuel Paul (South Africa), Eyongakpa  Em’Kal (Cameroon), Fatmi Mounir (Morocco), Foli Jessica (South Africa), Goliath Gabrielle (South Africa), Hoareau Stéphanie (France – Reunion Island), Kameli Katia (Algeria), Kimani Wanja (Kenya), Konan Pascal (Ivory Coast), Lamrani Jamila (Morocco), Mba Bikoro Nathalie (Gabon), Modisakeng Mohau (South Africa), Modum Chika (Nigeria), Mteki Nancy (Zimbabwe), Mutelekesha Victor (Zambia), Nasr Moataz (Egypt), Ndiaye Cheikh (Senegal) Ngqinambi Ndikhumbule (South Africa), Niang Ibrahima Piniang (Senegal), Nsengiyumva Laura (Rwanda), Ramanankirahina Amalia (Madagascar), Sagna Henri (Senegal), Segueda Léopold (Burkina Faso), Seydi Mamady (Senegal), Shadi Lerato (South Africa), Sinzogan Julien (Benin), Tabti Oussama (Algeria), Tundula Christian (DRC), Youmbi Hervé (Cameroon), Zaidi Rafik (Algeria), Zouggar Sofiane (Algeria)

42 artists 16 females, 26 males from 21 African countries and Reunion Island


Christine EYENE is an independent curator and art critic currently working with Autograph ABP, London. In 2011 she was curator of the African section of the 3rd edition of ‘Photoquai – Biennial of World Images’, Musée du Quai Branly, Paris and ‘Gwanza – Month of Photography’, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare.
Her current exhibitions are: ‘Reflections on the Self: Five African Women Photographers’, Hayward Touring, UK (2011-2014) and ‘Women Speak Out’, Dakar and touring Africa (2011-2012). Previous projects include ‘FOCUS – Contemporary Art Africa’, as part of Art Basel Public Programme, Switzerland (2010-2011).
As an art critic she has contributed to Africultures, Art South Africa, Basler Zeitung, Manifesta Journal, Third Text, and written essays in art books and exhibition catalogues.
Eyene has been member of jury of Fondation Blachère Prize at the Bamako Encounters 2007, 2009 and  Dak’Art Biennial 2008, 2010. She currently sits in the selection committees of Art Moves Africa and Visa for Creation, Institut Français.

Nadira LAGGOUNE is curator and art critic. She graduated in Law and holds a Master in audiovisual criticism and art theory. A doctoral researcher, she is currently assistant lecturer at the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-arts in Algiers.
Laggoune has been member of numerous art jury in Algeria and abroad, including the Arab Fond for Art and Culture (AFAC). Today she is a permament member of the Fond Algérien d’Aide à la Production Cinématographique and AICA.
She has written extensively on contemporary art, especially Algerian art, as well as gender. She has curated many international and local exhibitions including the 2nd Panafrican Festival, Algiers 2009 and the International Festival of Contemporary Art (FIAC), Algiers 2009 and 2011.
Nadira Laggoune lives and works in Algiers where she strives to give visibility to emerging artists in Algeria and on the African continent.

Riason NAIDOO was born in 1970 in Chatsworth (Durban), South Africa. He has BA and MA in Fine Art from University of the Witwatersrand. Riason has curated several photographic exhibitions dealing with the archives − most notably on the work of photographer Ranjith Kally shown at the 6th Bamako Encounters (2005), touring includes Reunion Island − and more recently the exhibition entitled ‘The Indian in DRUM magazine in the 1950s’ shown at museums in South Africa. He most recently directed the South Africa-Mali Project: Timbuktu Manuscripts project for the South African Presidency and the Department of Arts & Culture, also NEPAD’s first cultural project. He has previously been in charge of artistic projects at the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) in Johannesburg; taught drawing, painting and art history in the Department of Architecture at the University of Witwatersrand; and worked as Education Officer at the Durban Art Gallery. He has been on exchanges to the MS University of Baroda in India (1997) and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Bordeaux in France (2001).
He is currently director of the South African National Gallery and the Old Town House museums, part of Iziko Museums based in Cape Town. He recently curated ‘1910-2010: From Pierneef to Gugulective’, that showcased a century of South African art at the South African National Gallery. He has also worked as an artist in painting and new media.

The Dakar Biennale is organised by the Ministry in charge of Culture, Senegal


Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie
L’Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine
Ambassade de France
Ambassade d’Espagne
Communauté Française de Belgique
Institut Français
Fondation Blachère France
Ville de Dakar


– For information and press enquiries please first register for an accreditation. The form is available on
Accreditation requests have to be returned by 20 April.

– A media space will be available online for accredited journalists.

– Press contact:

Le communiqué de presse est disponible en français sur le site de la biennale

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