For years, contemporary African art has been attracting the attention of investors and collectors worldwide and even more in recent years. With over a billion people, more than 2,000, languages and thousands of native tribes, Africa is united by a seemingly unexpected entity:art.
Within their creations, the artists portray the continent’s socio-economic realities, political challenges, their rich traditions and diverse beauty. The large continent is full of artists, not just El Anatsui, who has been the only artist that Westerners can cite as an African artist for the last 40 years.
With so many contemporary artists from Africa, we invite you to discover these 8 artists that you should know.
Born in Benin in 1962, Romuald Hazoumè is a renowned and accomplished contemporary artist. He is known worldwide for his masks carved from used petrol cans. The Beninese artist transforms his raw material into inhabited faces that bear witness to his Yoruba culture.
Thanks to his meeting with André Magnin in Cotonou back in the 1980s, Hazoumè’s voice was not only heard all over Africa but made it to the international scene. Hazoumè delivers an unequivocal message through his art, that is of an Africa bruised by corruption and the geopolitical situation.
Nigerian artist Sokari Douglas Camp is one of the first few African women artists to have attracted the attention of the international market. Her work is largely influenced by the Kalabari culture and traditions where she is originally from.
Douglas Camp’s work is unique with the use of modern sculptural techniques with her main element being steel. The large, semi-abstract figures that she creates are adorned with masks and ritual clothing to exhibit her relationship with Nigeria even though she has emigrated to London years ago.
3. Tracey Rose | South Africa
Currently residing in Johannesburg, Tracey Rose is a Durban-born contemporary artist from South Africa. Best known for her bold performances and arresting photographic works, Rose is an accomplished contemporary multimedia artist and outspoken feminist.
Through her art, Rose confronts the politics of identity covering body, racial and gender issues. Rose’s choice of themes often carry her multicultural ancestry which includes her own experience of mixed-race reality actually in South Africa.
Her art skillfully combines elements of popular culture with sociological theories to evoke powerful depictions of South Africa’s political and social landscape. With various solo exhibitions worldwide under her belt, Rose also participated in various international events which includes the Venice Biennale.
Young activist artist Mary Sibande (born in 1982) is based in Johannesburg. Sibande stood out with her resin work representing a servant. A character that she nicknamed Sophie, inspired by her family history. Sibande’s mother, grandmother as well as her great-grandmother were all domestic servants.
Sophie is molded to represent various situations. Wearing a headdress and a white apron, Sophie is sometimes a warrior on a crazy horse while other times she’s a princess. The vibrant character tells the story of all women, but especially black women from South Africa.
What Sibande wants to achieve with her art is to break free from the chains of the past and trace her destiny.
Born in 1972, Wangechi Mutu is a Kenyan artist and sculptor. She is one of the few to have managed to get a foothold in the North American art market. Mutu works with various media, from painting, collage and also videos.
With her work, she represents the place occupied by women, their role and their identity throughout history. Mutu’s artistic lineage is part of Afrofuturism, an artistic movement that was conceptualized in 1994.
Kudzanai-Violet Hwami is a very young artist, born only in 1993 from Zimbabwe. She is a rising star of contemporary African art. Her unique universe is an explosion of colors which reflects deeply on african identity and the black body. Although she is based in London since her late teens, her art is obviously deeply marked by her origins.
Her paintings represent a futuristic Africa where creativity and utopia are unlimited. Having lived in Zimbabwe and South Africa, questions around her own history, the diaspora and migration are often depicted in her art.
7. Omar Victor Diop | Senegal
The Dakar artist has been attracted to and fed his passion for photography and design since an early age. Born in 1980, he was revealed in 2011 on the occasion of his first exhibition at the Rencontres africaines de la Photographie in Bamako.
Diop completely diverted his career with a business background to dedicate himself fully to art. Rightfully so, his first series of portraits were instant successes which included “Le Futur du beau” and “Studio des vanités”. His art is full of fantasy in which he stages himself. Diop’s message is clear, with attention drawn to foreigners and their integration in European societies.
8. Kudzanai Chiurai | Zimbabwe
This fearless artist was exiled from his native Zimbabwe after he produced an inflammatory image depicting Robert Mugabe, with horns and swallowed by flames back in 2009. Chiurai actually resides in Johannesburg. He was the first black to be a recipient of a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Pretoria. He is now an important figure in the African contemporary art scene.
Chiurai makes use of dramatic multimedia compositions to depict issues in the Southern African region. He often covers subjects like the government corruption, conflict, xenophobia, violence and displacement.
Born in 1958 in Abidjan, Kossi Assou is an accomplished African contemporary artist, plastic artist, designer, a cultural entrepreneur as well as a teacher. His art expresses sobriety, simplicity and friendliness.
The artist is considered the greatest Togolese artist after the late Paul Ahyi. Through his aesthetic but functional furniture, Assou tries to give us a glimpse of the everyday life of Africans. A pioneer of African design, Assou is a graduate of the National School of Fine Arts in Abidjan and actually resides in Lomé.
10 – Peju Alatise | Nigeria
Artist, poet and writer, Peju Alatise is an accomplished contemporary African artist from Nigeria.
Alatise is one of the first Nigerians to appear at the Venice Biennale art exhibition. Her work is influenced by artists like David Dale, Bruce Onabrakpeya, Susana Wenger among others and also the Nigerian and Yoruba culture.
Her artwork is among the best priced among emerging artists with her work titled “Ascension” being sold for N4.4 million (close to $11,300 USD) back in 2011. Alatise best pieces are often the combination of art and literature.