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Mario Macilau: The Road Not Taken

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The brilliant Mozambican photographer, Mario Macilau arrives in London next week for his first U.K. solo show, The Road Not Taken. This follows  his participation in The Saatchi Gallery’s first Pangaea: New Art from Africa and Latin America exhibition  last year. His new show contains a collection of powerful images from two major series The Price of Cement and Out of Town.

Most of Macilau’s work is concerned with representing the plight of marginalised people but what makes his images so so haunting is the absence of voyeurism and intrusion that is the back-story of many photographs  in the public domain. Here there is a palpable sense of trust between photographer and subject. Macilau’s explicit aim is to allow his models to tell their stories. The results are often  harrowing as well as beautiful but they invariably invoke a sense of shared humanity.

Cement girl

Mário Macilau | Untitled (5) | The Cement Series | C-Print | 80 x 120cm | Edition of 6 plus AP £2,000 courtesy of Ed Cross Fine Art Ltd and the Auction Room. .

His Price of Cement images portray workers in illegal cement bagging operations – working at night in lethal environmental conditions. His out of town works focus on neglected communities – the image below is of a Maasai man taken in Kenya in 2014.

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Mário Macilau | Untitled (1), Out of Town Series | 2014 | | C-Print | 80 x 120cm | Edition of 6 plus AP £2,000 courtesy of Ed Cross Fine Art Ltd and The Auction Room

Mario Macilau: The Road not Taken, 23rd March – 10th April, is at Mallet, 37 Dover Street,  W1S 4NJ

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landmasses without women

writing in relation

20110701123519_diarrassouba_untitled_black_painting Aboudia Abdoulaye Diarrassouba, ‘Le Couloir de la Mort’, 2011, Acrylic and mixed media on canvas. Image courtesy Saatchi Gallery.

This is a preview of a text to be published in the forthcoming edition of the magazine Art South Africa. Copyright Art South Africa Magazine. The exhibition Pangaea: New Art From Africa and Latin America is at the Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London SW3 4RY (2 April –  31 August 2014).

Exhibitions in London (about New Art from Africa and Latin America) run the risk of making a number of assumptions. Especially when staged as breaking new ground, advancing into the hinterlands of art worlds still to be recognised and consecrated by an imagined monolithic west. Pangaea, according to the catalogue introduction written by Gabriela Salgado, ‘takes its name from the pre-human landmass uniting Africa and Latin America’. The show ‘reunites the two former sister…

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Charles Sekano: The geometry of fate

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Charles Sekano | . Bridesmaids Of A Wedding | 2009 – 2010 Mixed media on paper 61 x 86 cm 

 

Maestro Arts,  in collaboration with Ed Cross Fine Art,  presents:

27 March – 6 May 2014 

Charles Sekano ,The Geometry of Fate

 

Exhibition Venue: Maestro Arts, Riverside Quarter,Eastfields Avenue, London, SW18 1LP (Putney Bridge)

 

This second exhibition of Charles Sekano’s work curated by Ed Cross Fine Art takes us on a journey of exploration, revealing vibrant images of women filled with an acute interest and sensitivity to emotions, moods as well as music and landscape.  The themes explored in Geometry of Fate revolve around women, music and nature. Women’s naked bodies and men smartly dressed in suits and hats seem to swirl around saxophones and pianos, bodies and musical instrument fusing in an harmony of shapes, with a classically jazz inspired nostalgia.  As we see in the works of fellow South African artists Peter Clarke and the late Gerard Sekoto amongst others, music and rhythm are celebrated both in the theme represented and in the choice of lines, visual cues and cadenced composition of the works. In Sekano’s case  the association with music runs very deep as he is both jazz pianist as well as poet and painter. Moreover most of the subjects of his works are drawn from the exotic if often harsh world of the Nairobi nightclubs in which he made his living for over thirty years.

Cohabitating with Jazz, a traditionally urban and nocturnal pleasure, nature and landscape strongly figure in the show, reflecting Sekano’s ties to the rich, wild and wondrous African landscape.  Women are portrayed walking, working or playing in fields of lush green grass at times filled with small burgeoning flowers against which the women’s silhouettes are offset.  Blue skies, foliage and trees form at once the foreground and background to the portrayal of sensuous women. 

In the Geometry of Fate, colours are core to the palpability of the works.  Deep blues, greens, violet, burnt oranges, champagne, lemon and vivid fushia are deployed in a harmonious and delicate balance, soft hues merge with deeper denser tones.  Colours seem to play a vital role in fusing people and nature, in grounding the characters in their environment, in the here and now.  Shapes and colours fuse to turn the artist’s ideas, interests and emotions in remarkable visions of place and time.  

With a fine balance between abstract geometric patterns and figurative style Sekano brings to the fore the soul behind his faces.  Noticeably, the men and women’s faces are strong and filled with life and emotions. The eyes are either closed, cast down, gazing away, pointing to a moment of self-reflection.  The many characters in his work serve as a tribute and testament to the diversity of people in Kenya and are at once daring and melancholic, strong and vulnerable.  The passion, fervor, sadness and pride on display call us to empathize with and to immerse ourselves in Sekano’s world. However, most arguably, his composition, colours and portaiture, whilst vividly drawing from African, convey universal values.

 

This exhibition brings together works from the artists time in Kenya (the 80’s and 90’s) together with new works post 2009 when the artist embarked on a new stylistic phase in which four-sided shapes assumed an increasing symbolic significance. His subjects remain female and are often strikingly beautiful but their forms are etched in to the paper with a series of geometric four-sided shapes that speak of another reality that coexists alongside natural beauty. The reality of life’s limitations – of benign human political structures that the artist has witnessed failing to materialize since his return to his home country as well as other structures, the grave included, that are inescapable. 

 

Charles Sekano, now seventy years old, lives modestly in Pretoria. Despite having no studio and only limited funds for materials he continues to develop a prolific artistic practice and has a unique, if hitherto largely unacknowledged, place in the story of South African artists in exile. Due to the political turmoil of the 1950’s and the brutality of the apartheid regime of the time, Sekano’s family was scattered and he lived for thirty years in exile in Nairobi.  In turn this brought him a major position in the history of Kenyan art as he rose as one of the foremost painters in Nairobi in the eighties and nineties.

A self-taught artist, Sekano’s career started in earnest and gained serious international  recognition when he was taken on by Ruth Schaffner of Gallery Watatu in Nairobi. When Schaffner died in 1996, Sekano lost a significant actor ensuring his artistic visibility. It is in 2009 that Ed Cross located Sekano in South Africa and put on Seknao’s first exhibition in London: Charles Sekano: House of Women.   Last year Red Hill Gallery in Nairobi staged a retrospective of Sekano’s work and in November the artist’s work featured in Circle’s highly successful East African art auction in Nairobi.  Ed Cross Fine Art is today delighted to present Geometry of Fate and to once again bring Sekano’s beautiful, vibrant  and bitter-sweet  works to London audiences.

 

 

 

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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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SHORT-SIGHTED U.K. BORDER AGENCY MISS THE BIG PICTURE

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Next week the young and highly talented Kenyan visual  artist, Cyrus Kabiru,  should be in Edinburgh receiving his TEDGlobal 2012 Fellowship one of an elite group of  nineteen  fellows worldwide, acknowledged by TED as emerging global leaders in their fields. But thanks to the British High Commission in Nairobi who have refused his visa application for the second time, he won’t be there. 

It seems that the British government now has a very crude immigration policy when it comes to Africa that excludes anyone who is not married and who is not “wealthy”. There seems to be no value placed on culture, enterprise and achievement. 

TED Global 2012  Fellows http://www.ted.com/pages/tedglobal_2012_fellows

Ed Cross 07507067567

Ed Cross Fine Art Ltd, 19 Tylney Rd, London E70LS ed@edcrossfineart.com http://www.edcrossfineart.com


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The Yellow Crossing: The Peoples’ Waltz

Nathalie Mba Bikoro

Nathalie Mba Bikoro

Au fil du Fleuve
15 rue El Hadj Abdoul Aziz Sy (ex rue Ribet)
Sindone, Senegal
Tel. 00 221 77 379 95 34

16 May – 10 June 2012
Open daily 10am to 12pm and 3pm to 7pm

The Yellow Crossing: the Peoples´ Waltz presents new visual works in collaboration between Marie-Caroline Camara and Nathalie Mba Bikoro. Comprising of an installation in the old house of the Devès family and its outer surroundings, the exhibition presents a journey of the people of St Louis, focusing on family, migration, displacement and returning home. Both artist’s works present their own journeys from Africa and beyond, of life, history, travel and family. Both return to this home in St Louis, combining visions to pay homage to their histories and specifically developing works for St Louis and its people. This unique site-specific collaboration celebrates our stories of how we came to become who we are today and where we go from here.

With its starting point connecting the two artists with the home of the Devès family, from slave trade economies, threading through stories and myths of political struggle and human rights, the visual displays create an installation of sculptures, found objects, photography, print-making, film and a series of on-site live performances that will engage the participation of the local audiences.

Inspired by a Fang proverb from her grandmother “you must go very far to come back”, Gabonese artist Mba Bikoro investigates these routes and concepts of returning home. Inspired greatly by the history and the people of St Louis, the two artists pay tribute to the people to rediscover the myths of the home and identity.

The exhibition will transform the home of the old Devès working factory, a former Arabic gum producer, into a sanctuary presenting a homage to the people. From mixed medium visual displays, the artists combine both their skills to create installations of film, photography, sculpture and printworks. During the exhibition, the artist will present a series of live art performances to local audiences within the home and its outer surroundings creating spaces and events engaging in viewers’ participation. Camara and Mba Bikoro meet to give life to these forms and objects by narrating fractured narratives as a way of reconstructing hope and vision.

Nathalie Mba Bikoro

Nathalie Mba Bikoro

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 leaves France and the UK to set out her work as an artist to return back to Gabon.

Her 10 year battle with leukeamia 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.

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.

Marie-Caroline Camara

Marie-Caroline Camara

Marie-Caroline Camara was born in France and has lived in Senegal since 2007. She has a bi-cultural background as her father was from Saint Louis and her mother from Normandy. Her exquisite restoration of a warehouse by the Jay Wharf in Saint Louis in Sénégal is one of her many contributions to the cultural life of the city. The house itself, where the exhibition will take place, belonged to the Devès family. Gaspard Devès was a local merchant involved in the Gum Arabic trade who was also a political and civil rights activist. Amongst her passions, Marie-Caroline has a fascination with architecture and craft. For her warehouse conversion, she chose plain colours and low maintenance materials such as chiffon-like fabrics, concrete and oxidized metal sheets. All the furniture in the house has been designed by Marie Caroline, inspired by cultural cross-fertilization and made by local craftsmen. She has also sourced recycled objects as decorative items. She believes that Saint Louis is a vibrant city full of emotions which informs her choice of light colours and her minimalist style.

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The Tate Modern – engaging with Africa

Pause – the work of Cote D’Ivoire sculptor Jems Koko Bi

An African art collection at the Tate has been mooted for a while but thanks to the single-mindedness of Tate Modern’s International Curator Kerryn Greenberg herself a South African, it has happened sooner than most would have expected. The sponsorship of Nigeria’s progressive Guarantee Trust Bank  has  kick started the  process which includes the recent appointment of Elvira Dyangani Ose to the curatorial team and the establishment of a large acquisitions committee made up mostly of collectors active in this field – many from the African continent. It is exciting  to see this begin to unfold – not withstanding the usual tired debates about what constitutes African Art – the effects of this initiative will ripple far and wide – effectively forcing other  key global institutions to be cognizant of art emerging from Africa or art inspired by this continent. In addition to validating a number of fine artists who have been under examined and under exposed it will, by its very process of fundraising for the collection,  engage the continent’s governments, entrepreneurs, institutions and other stakeholders together with Africa’s trading partners,  in the business of supporting contemporary visual arts.  I hope that Tate Modern wont succumb to a general tendency to  favour African photography and New Media at the expense of work linked to painting, drawing, print making  and other more traditional mediums. I am a huge fan of African photography but I think the danger is that it is often  “easier” for the west to view Africa through the photographer’s lense despite the fact that the photographer may be living and working in their own country it can  chime  with that sense of the outside looking in and it is for “Westerners” a comfortably familiar and technically clinical medium often invoking memories of viewing harrowing or entertaining documentaries from the comfort of the sofa. How different from and El Anatsui “cloth” with its all its thousands of bits of actual histories embodied by branded bottle tops and foils,  a Hazoume mask made from a fuel smuggler’s modified jerrycan or indeed a Peterson Kamwathi charcoal drawing produced on the wall of  his studio in Kiambu with the neighbour’s dog looking in hopefully at the door. Of course there is a huge role for fine art photography (including that of “ambassador” for the wider art scene in Africa) anyone interested must buy George Osodi’s brilliant newly published book The Rape of Paradise from Trolley Books or look at the wonderful work of Mauro Pinto from Mozambique or Adolphus Opara from Nigeria to name but a few.

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