London: The 13 African Art exhibitions you need to visit.

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Painting Fragile 3, Eddy Kamuanga Illunga, 2018.
Fragile 3, Eddy Kamuanga Illunga, 2018. Courtesy of October Gallery

After a long winter, the longer days have come at last to signal spring’s triumph.  Along with the colorful flowers, the 2018 spring/summer “collection” of artistic events has come out with an unmistakable Afrocentric, Caribbean vibe. Whatever your taste, from sublime figurative paintings to portraiture or live performances there is something for every art lover in London. Here is my selection of African art exhibitions not to miss this spring/summer.

1.    October Gallery: “Fragile Responsibility.”
The gallery has an exciting program of summer exhibition this year. The ongoing “Fragile Responsibility” is the second solo show of the young artist, Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, who is taking the contemporary African art world by storm. He revisits through the series “Fragile,” the history of the slave trade in his native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and reflects on its devastating and enduring consequences.
Until June 16th

2.    October Gallery: “Les Maîtres du Temps” (Masters of Time).
Still, at the October Gallery, Rachid Koraichi will be presenting his new series “Les osties bleues” until the end of July.
He draws on his sufi culture and calligraphy combined with a blue palette and terracotta to explore our “connection to the earth as a source of life.”
From June 21st to July 28th

3.    Stephen Friedman Gallery: “Talisman In The Age Of Difference.”
In this group exhibition curated by Yinka Shonibare MBE, he investigates the subversive role of artworks made by artists from Africa and its diaspora. “The exhibition includes painting, sculpture, drawing and other objects from the early twentieth century to the present day.”
From June 5th to July 21st

Picture The Impact of, Asiko Ade
The Impact of, Asiko Ade, 2018. Courtesy of Gallery of African Art

4.    Gallery of African Art: “Conversations + Women Code.”
In his first solo show in London, artist Àsìkò explores women’s’ identity within the context of a patriarchal society. The first series of conceptual photographs depicts violence against women while the second series references their resilience through the use of Adire textile, a traditional Nigerian fabric.
Until June 9th

5.    Tate: “The Head & the Load.”
Across Europe, 11th of November is remembered as Armistice Day. The official day, the guns fell silent after the first world war. While much has been written about the bloody battles, the stories of the African porters and carriers who formed the logistical backbone of the war have remained untold.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the war, William Kentridge will be staging at the Tate, his “most ambitious project to date: “The Head & the Load.” The show, co-commissioned by “14-18 now” is a combination of “dance, film projections, mechanised sculptures and shadow play.”
From July 11th to July 15th

6.    Gallery Oxo: “Windrush: Portrait of a generation.”

Before “Windrush generation” became synonymous with a political scandal, the term referred to the Caribbean workers who came to England between 1948 and 1971 to help with the reconstruction effort. The impact of their arrival stretched beyond the renovation of the country’s infrastructure. They have forever changed the make-up of British society and shaped the country’s modern culture.
For the past year, Photographer Jim Grover has been documenting the lives of this first generation of Carribean migrants – now in their sixties, seventies and beyond. His photo essay:  “Windrush: Portrait of A Generation” is exhibited at Gallery Oxo.
Until June 10th

7.    Lambeth council: “A snapshot of Brixton: Harry Jacobs and the Empire Windrush.”
While the previous show depicts the current lives of the “Windrush Generation,” photographer Harry Jacobs’ exhibition at Lambeth Town Hall is a walk down memory lane. It showcases the pictures the photographer took in his Brixton studio from the sixties onwards. In those days, he was the “de facto portrait photographer for the new West Indian community.” The exhibition is a visual account of life as an immigrant. It marks the 70th anniversary of the boat “Empire Windrush” first docking in Essex in June 1948 with about 500 young Carribean men. They were the first of the generation that will become known as “Windrush Generation.”
Until July 6th

VEssels - Sands - Peterson Kamwathi. Courtesy of ARTLabAfrica
Vessels – Sands – Peterson Kamwathi. Courtesy of ARTLabAfrica

8.    ArtlabAfrica: “Vessels: Constellations & Sediments IV.”
Meanwhile, in West London, it is the “structure and anatomy of the recent mass migration” that is at the core of Kenyan artist Peterson Kamwathi’s solo exhibition. In this work, the vessel and its shape are a metaphor for people’s desire to move beyond geographical and political boundaries.
Until June 16th

9.    ABP photograph: “Devotion – A portrait of Loretta.”
At ABP photograph, a series of large-scale and close-up portraits examines “what it means to look in the human face.” With “Devotion – A portrait of Loretta,” Franklyn Rodgers pays homage to his mother Loretta and people from her close-knit community.
Until July 7th

Painting Sounds of Hope, Bambo Sibiya, 2018
Sounds of Hope, Bambo Sibiya, 2018. (Jack Bell Gallery).

10.    Jack Bell Gallery: “Izikhali ze Mpilo” (The Weapons of Life).
Bambo Sibiya is a young African artist. He explores through his figurative paintings the black masculine identity of  “the Swenkas.” These men moved from poor rural communities across South Africa to cities, in search for better economic opportunities. To withstand their grim living and working conditions, they formed “the Swenkas” subculture with their unique code of conduct and dressing.  Bambo Sibiya’s second solo show in London entitled: ‘Izikhali ze Mpilo’ (translating into ‘The Weapons of Life’) includes four large-scale paintings. He examines “the weapons,” from radio, fashion, to board games, “the Swenkas” resorted to, to preserve their dignity and humanity in the townships.
Until June 8th

11.    Tyburn Gallery: “Emergency Exit,”
Wallen Mapondera’s abstract wall hangings echo the harsh material conditions in his native Zimbabwe. In this solo exhibition “Emergency Exit,” he examines how ordinary peoples use “their creativity to invent short-cuts and back doors to escape harsh living conditions.
Until July 04th

12.    KristinHjellegjerde Gallery: “Kubatana” (Togetherness).
It is the final few days to see “Kubatana,” meaning ‘togetherness.’ In this joint exhibition, the two artists, Takunda Regis Billiat and Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude explore “life in Zimbabwe.”
Until June 2nd

13.    Black Cultural Archives: The Adamah papers.
Step back in time, to discover the Ewe culture, everyday life in Ghana in the early 1900s and the global history of colonization and trade through the personal archive of a British Ghanaian family, the Adamahs.
Until September 1st

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