5 New Contemporary African Art exhibitions to check out this month in London

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Lionel Smit, Aligned, 2019, Oil on Linen, Image courtesy of Everard Read London
Lionel Smit, Aligned, 2019, Oil on Linen, Image courtesy of Everard Read London

May in London could feel like an anticlimax; wedged between the Venice Biennale and the much-awaited Frank Bowling’s retrospective at the Tate; closely followed by the June blockbuster exhibition “Get Up Stand Up Now” at Somerset House, that will explore the last 50 years of “black creativity in London.”

However, the city is bristling with new exhibitions from established and up and coming artists, most of which fortuitously engage with issues of identity, representation, and memory. Here is a selection of 5 newly opened contemporary African Art exhibitions to check out this month.

Cheikhou Ba, Antipodes at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery.

Cheikhou BA, Missing Moon,
Cheikhou Ba, Missing Moon, 2019, Acrylic on Canvas, Courtesy of Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery

Cheikhou Ba’s kaleidoscopic portraitures with hazy contours are visual allegories of the philosophical question of “who we are”? They elicit the tension of trying to capture and define in static terms notions of identities that remain very fluid and ever-changing. “My paintings,” Cheikhou Ba says, “consider fundamental existential questions. Who we are? When are we? How many identities are there in one self? What are the limits of our ignorances? What makes us who we are? Are we all immigrants since nobody is from here?” These questions run through the 16 paintings that make up “ANTIPODES.”

Until June 15th at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, 533 Old York Road, London, SW18 1TG.

Lionel Smit, Destructure at Everard Read.

Lionel Smit, Divergent, 2019
Lionel Smit, Divergent, 2019, Oil Silkscreen on linen, Courtesy of Everard Read London

What do our facial expressions reveal about us, about our identities, our inner thoughts, dialogues, and emotions? Perpetually navigating between sculpture and painting, South African artist Lionel Smit’s latest exhibition “destructure” picks apart the different elements that make up the human face and proposes a rugged, textured navigation through various states of mind.

Until June 8th at Everard Read, 80 Fulham Road, SW3 6HR.

Benedicte Kurzen & Sanne De Wilde, Land of Ibegy at TJ Boulting.

Twins at Igbo-Ora high school
Bénédicte Kurzen/Sanne De Wilde/NOOR, Twins at Igbo-Ora high school, Bénédicte Kurzen/Sanne De Wilde/NOOR

If, as an individual, we are consumed with the existential question of who we are, how potent does that question become when our physical characteristics are duplicated and identical to someone else’s? Benedicte Kurzen and Sanne De Wilde immerse the viewer into the double world of twinhood with the photo exhibition Land of Ibegy. Some of the pictures were taken in Igbo-Ora, dubbed the world capital of twins, during the town’s twin festival. From the town where they are celebrated to the places where their presence causes alarm, to their sheltered space this is a discovery journey into “the mythology of twinhood” in parts of Nigeria.

The exhibition continues at TJ Boulting, 59 Riding House St, Fitzrovia, London W1W 7EG, until June 22nd. Click here for more information.

Lola Flash, [Sur]passing at Autograph ABP.

12 Robin Cloud USA 2017 From the series LEGENDS
12 Robin Cloud USA 2017 From the series LEGENDS © Lola Flash Courtesy of the artist.jpg

According to estimates, there were over 1 trillion pictures taken in 2018. Despite the exponential rise in the production of visual materials, some communities are continuously under and misrepresented, especially within art spaces. Photographer and activist Lola Flash has centered her practice on creating an alternative visual narrative; one that gives visibility to Queer people and challenges preconceived ideas about their identities. Her first major solo exhibition in London encompasses images from various photographic series, [Sur]passing, Legends, Cross colour. They coalesce in this exhibition to simultaneously recount the complexity of multifaceted identities and chart the journey of Flash’s visual practice over the last three decades.

Until August 17th at Autograph ABP, Rivington Place, London, EC2A 3BA. More information here.

Gonçalo Mabunda, Orator of Time, Jack Bell Gallery

Goncalo Mabunda, Untitled (throne), 2019, Courtesy of Jack Bell Gallery
Goncalo Mabunda, Untitled (throne), 2019, Courtesy of Jack Bell Gallery

Gonçalo Mabunda returns to Jack Bell Gallery for his 6th solo show with sculptures made of old weapons, vestiges of the civil war that devastated his native country, Mozambique, in the 1980s. Back then, each component of Mabunda’s majestic sculpture could have torn bodies apart, forever altering the life trajectories of families and communities. Now, revamped as raw material and assembled as masks or thrones, they are emblematic of life forces that transcend war, destruction, and death.

Until May 31st at Jack Bell Gallery, 13 Mason’s Yard, St James’s, SW1Y 6BU

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