Archive for category Contemporary African art

Nathalie Bikoro and the language of history

Nathalie Anguezomo Menier Mba Bikoro is a French-Gabonese interdisciplinary artist working with visual arts & live art performance.

With an education in Politics, Philosophy and Media Arts, Bikoro left France and the UK to return to Gabon to set out her work as an artist.

Nathalie BikoroInto The Looking Glass, 2011, Photo-etching; black ink on ivory paper, 9.3 x 10.5cm

Her 10 year battle with leukaemia during childhood in Gabon, the Netherlands and France has influenced the narrative and methods in which she chooses to create her work. This personal struggle for recovery and return back to her family has pushed her visual language as well as setting goals to develop independent creative initiatives in the arts and culture lead by local people. Her aims and objectives are to incorporate converging arts and sciences into her own practice and research towards developing a Cancer Recovery Arts Centre. She aims to do this by incorporating creative spaces for interaction for children and adults in Libreville, Lambarene & Bitam (Gabon) and by developing educational collaborative community projects lead by local people.

Nathalie BikoroLeaving Mum II, 2011, 10.5 x 14.5cm
Part of exhibition “The Middle Passage, Alice in Wonderland” at Tiwani Contemporary, London, 2012

Mba Bikoro uses the vocabulary of various art forms to make works that function to create fractured narratives and blurs boundaries between meaning, experience and aesthetics. Her alternative live art performances are unique interpretations of historical mythology and challenging appropriations of a knowledge far from ordinary. In doing so she highlights, accentuates and magnifies elements of the relationships present within these spaces.

Her practice proposes a composition of sound, body movement, archaeology and digital performance and encourages interactive response. Her approach responds to people and spaces mediating a great awareness of combining politics and philosophy.

Click here to view our collection of Nathalie Bikoro pieces.

For enquiries about Nathalie Bikoro’s work please contact:

Ed Cross ed@edcrossfineart.com +44 (0) 7507067567

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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.

Read the full article: http://issuu.com/richardmudariki/docs/85/1?e=8722852%2F5808048

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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.

Read the article: http://www.thisisafrica.me/visual-arts/detail/20070/the-quiet-explosion-of-contemporary-african-art-in-the-global-art-market

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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 Frieze.com, 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 ed@edcrossfineart.com +44 (0) 7507067567

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Joseph Bertiers – the master of African satire

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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 ed@edcrossfineart.com +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.

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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 https://www.facebook.com/events/212693828874991/. 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:

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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 – http://www.mtvbase.com/shows/touching-base/

Manufactured – http://vimeo.com/33167682

Ed Cross Fine Art – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3iWXSSj_6Y

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 www.stunnerofthemonth.com.

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