Contemporary Art and Artists in Western Africa

Tunde FolawiyoLiving and working between Nigeria and Ghana, El Anatsui is currently creating some of the most striking sculptures in the world. His sculptures, large and often adorning walls rather than free-standing, feature bottle caps from liquor bottles and other items most often identified as trash, showing a good eye for use, reuse, and the power of context in creating meaning. At a 2013 show in New York’s Brooklyn museum entitles “Gravity and Grace,” Anatsui displayed sculptures in wood and metal impressive in both their scale and their delicate capturing of feeling and motion. Huge sheets of bottle caps hang from the ceiling, looking rich but telling a story of poverty and conflict as well. Anatsui creates his pieces with the help of many assistants, as the bottle caps by the thousands must be flattened and manipulated to work in the sculptures. He stated in a 2013 interview that the work of many hands transforms the caps, once only suited to be discarded, into objects full of human energy, raising their status to art, and showing something about the fluidity of their nature.

Sokari Douglas Camp is counted among the first female artists out of Nigeria to be internationally recognised for sculpture. She was born in Buguma and educated in California, at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, and at the Central School of Art and Design in London. Her late-nineties solo show at the American Museum of Natural History exhibited her predominantly steel, human-sized sculptures which reflect conflicts from her homeland. A sculpture held in the British Museum collection entitled “Asoebi, or Lace, Sweat and Tears” depicts five steel figures representing women from the Niger delta. The work serves as the centre attraction for the museum’s Ground Force Africa Garden, and is also a water feature. Camp received the honour of becoming a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2005, and received a bursary from the Henry Moore Foundation, as well as many other awards and prizes throughout her career.

Many foundations, nonprofits, galleries and individuals are working today to promote the future of emerging artists in West Africa. Leaders in politics and business are working to cultivate interest in this field, and many citizens, such as Tunde Folawiyo, are very interested in bringing native artists to a worldwide audience. Online articles from Tunde Folawiyo have more information on his work in the arts, business and elsewhere.

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