20 African Art & Design events you need to know about
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20 African Art & Design events

The African continent is at the epicenter of attention. For decades, art emerging from the continent has been hastily categorized as “exotic”, “primitive” and cornered into specialist shows. However the convergence of a series of factors, the emergence of contemporary African art, some high profile fairs and exhibitions and the success of some artists who managed to harness the power of social media, have contributed to a major shift in perception.

This is evident in the record level of growth recorded in African art in the last few years. This shows no sign of abating, sustained by both international collectors and wealthy Africans keen to invest and to promote their heritage. In a game of catch up, a record number of exhibitions and fairs have been organized so far this year, and the second half of the year is set to be just as riveting. Here is a selection of 20 African art and design events not to miss.

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Loud: Ndidi Emefiele’s first solo exhibition in London
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What does it mean to be a Black Woman today? And what is expected of a Black Woman today? These questions may lend themselves to a multitude of tentative answers. Over at the Rosenfeld Porcini gallery, the Artist Ndidi Emefiele is exploring these questions and offering an emphatic answer in her latest series of work: Loud.

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PICHA: Painting a contemporary image of Africa, one picture at a time
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Picture of Josiane Faubert, Founder of PICHA

Let’s run an experiment. If you google “Africa”, besides the maps of the continent, about 10% of the first 400 images are safari pictures closely followed by stunning landscape pictures. In comes Josiane Faubert. Three years ago, the creative Entrepreneur, originally from Gabon, launched Pichastock – a photography marketplace with a mission: paint a contemporary image of Africa, one picture at a time. We spoke to her to find out more.

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Sotheby’s launches its first Modern and Contemporary African Art Auction
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Sotheby's Modern and Contemporary African Art Auction

Contemporary African Art is booming with record number of exhibitions and fairs. Last year, Sotheby’s announced it was joining the fray with the creation of the department for Modern and Contemporary African Art headed by Hannah O’Leary. O’Leary brought with her a wealth of knowledge of the African Art market as she had spent a decade at Bonhams – The first international auction house to introduce a dedicated African Art Auction – Africa now.

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The African fabric shop : a little gem in the heart of Yorkshire
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African fabric shopYorkshire is known for many things: its green hilly pastures where sheep peacefully graze all day long, its cycling tradition or its infamous dish, the Yorkshire pudding. I headed there for another reason: for Yorkshire harbors a little gem: a small African fabric shop.

Nestled in the small town of Meltham, at the end of a scenic drive, the shop is located in an office building. I had given prior notice of my visit and upon arrival, I met Isobel, the shop assistant and Magie who owns the shop with her Husband.

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“Benchmarks” exhibition: An insight into the creative work of El Anatsui
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El Anatsui from the Eclipse Suite, Image Courtesy of the October GalleryThe Artist El Anatsui is famous for his large-scale sculptures, made of hundreds of flattened bottle tops intricately linked to one another that once installed, take the appearance of a textile draping a wall. In a departure from sculpture, he returns to the October Gallery with a new body of work: Prints created in collaboration with Factum Arte.

For years, the wooden tabletops in El Anatsui’s studio in Nigeria, have been the silent witnesses to the labour that went into creating his sculptures. They have preserved the traces and dents left behind by the repetitive cutting, flattening and piercing of the aluminum bottle-tops. And now, these wooden tops have been turned into story-tellers in the hands of Factum Arte in Madrid, where they were scanned and their textured surfaces turned into Prints.

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Africa is the Guest of honour of Art Paris Art Fair
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Art Paris Art FairOver the years, Art Paris Art Fair, has forged a reputation as a Spring Art fair that showcases both local talent and international artists, whose work is not readily accessible in France. The fair is staying true to that reputation by turning the spotlight on Africa, the ‘guest of honor’ of this year’s edition.

From March 30th to April 2nd, the fair will provide an in Depth view into the African Art scene through the work of about 100 artists of Africa and the Diaspora.

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Meet Gideon, the Kente Cloth weaver
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Kente Weaver

Kente is woven into the identity of some Ghanaians. While we have talked at length about the cloth itself and its origin, little is said about the Kente weavers who are always men, contrary to other countries like Nigeria where women weave as well. So we reached out to Gideon Gamado of Bigdreadkente to learn more about how one becomes a Kente Weaver.

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What is Kente Cloth: Tales of its origin & name.
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African textiles: Kente Patterns

Kente Cloth, with its vibrant colors and bold geometric patterns is one of the most recognizable traditional African textiles. Although it has come to symbolize Ghana, it is also woven in neighboring Ivory Coast and Togo (West Africa). Nowadays, Kente’s distinctive patterns are printed onto various materials destined for numerous uses; from fashion accessories to homeware and anything in between. While its usage increases, there is little known about the cloth itself, its origin and how it came to become so popular. So we picked up some African textiles literature and went back to the source with weaver Gideon Gamado in Ghana to learn more.

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