Contemporary African art has many new stars. Here are five to watch.
11 May 2016 2:16pm
By Kelly Crow
1 Ato Malinda
Ato Malinda, who was born in 1981, makes haunting videos including 2014’s “Representation, 1/5″ that explore her struggle to grow up as a gay woman in Kenya. Her dealer Danda Jaroljmek at Circle Art Gallery said the artist isn’t afraid to examine “things that are a bit scary,” including one performance piece about prison sex she performed within the walls of a 16th-century Portuguese fort in Mombasa.
Related Reading: The New Face of African Art
2 Sabastine Ugwuoke
Over the past eight years, Nigeria’s National Art Competition has become a way for collectors to discover homegrown art stars like Sabastine Ugwuoke, who last year covered a bed with a pattern of colored, upright toothpicks. Curator Azu Nwagbogu said the work, “No Rest, No Comfort,” is a nod to the fact that “Nigerians in the north don’t sleep easy” in territories controlled by the terrorist group, Boko Haram.
3 Sabelo Mlangeni
A generation ago, South African artists were known for painstakingly chronicling the legacy of apartheid, but today’s artists like Sabelo Mlangeni prefer to explore their country’s exuberant youth culture—such as the swaggering figure in his 2011 series about the South African gay scene, “Black Men in Dress.” Ashleigh McLean at WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery said Mr. Mlangeni has “a fresh cocky confidence,” adding, “He wants to show whatever he thinks is authentic.” Correction: Ms. McLean’s gallery was incorrectly identified earlier.
4 Kudzanai Chirai
Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chirai caused a stir in his native city of Harare eight years ago when he created a series of election posters depicting president Robert Mugabe’s head in flames. He’s since won praise from the Museum of Modern Art and others for exploring power structures, including “Revelations IV, 2011,” part of a bigger series of portraits of people wielding guns in elaborately staged interiors.
5 Julie Mehretu
Julie Mehretu, one of Africa’s best-known artists whose family left Ethiopia when she was a child, has long been based in New York. But she recently visited Addis Ababa several times to help produce an Ethiopian film, “Difret.” She’s also planning an exhibition of her prints and paintings next month at Addis Ababa’s Gebre Kristos Desta Museum. The city has subtly informed much of her frenetic mark making, as seen in her 2004 piece, “Stadia III,” which now belongs to Richmond’s Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. “With me, you’re always seeing colliding and shifting views,” she said.