Tag Archives: contemporary African art

The work of Nigerian artist Nnenna Okore

Nnenna Okore is an artist from Nigeria, who is currently based in the US. Born in 1975, Okore took an interest in art from a young age, and after finishing secondary school, chose to study this subject at the University of Nigeria. Although she is now famed for her sculptural pieces, Okore focused on painting while studying at this institute, and only began to explore three-dimensional surfaces during her postgraduate years. After completing her Bachelor’s degree in 1999, she went on to study at the University of Iowa, and it was here that she earned both her MA and MFA.

As an art lover, Tunde Folawiyo may be aware that Okore is known for favouring discarded materials; items such as newspapers, magazines and fabric feature heavily in her work. She uses a tunde folawiyovariety of methods to re-shape and assemble these items, including sewing, waxing, weaving, tearing and fraying, aiming to create forms which mimic the intricate designs often found in nature; the finished pieces are often made up of an array of textures and patterns. The use of found objects serves as a nod to the wastefulness and excessive consumerism which plagues society, while the organic quality of the materials symbolises aging, death and decay.

Okore’s work has been exhibited in several places in London, including the October Gallery, and the headquarters of Channel 4. In addition to this, her pieces have also been displayed in New York, at the Museum of Arts and Design, and at the Goethe Institute in Nigeria. The latter is a venue that most Nigerians, including Tunde Folawiyo, are probably familiar with.

Some of her most successful solo shows include Textile, which was hosted by the Blachere Foundation Art Centre, Reflection, which was held at the Contemporary African Art Gallery, and Affrika West, an exhibition hosted in the UK at the Oriel Mostyn Gallery. Okore has also participated in several group shows, which have been hosted at the Tang Museum and the Middlebury College Museum of Art.

In 2012, she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, which enabled her to spend a year working on her art in her homeland of Nigeria. She has also been featured in a number of well-known art publications, including an issue of the famous Sculpture Magazine. Currently, Okore works at North Park University as an Assistant Professor of Art.


Chike Aniakor – Nigeria’s most innovative artist

Chike Aniakor is a famous Nigerian painter, whom most art lovers, including Tunde Folawiyo, are probably familiar with. Born in tunde folawiyoAbatete in 1939, Aniakor was raised in a rural community. He was a precocious child whose artistic talents became apparent after he drew an exceptionally life-like picture of his primary school teacher. He also showed himself to be gifted at essay writing. In an interview, Aniakor said that he believed his creative inclinations came from his mother’s side of the family, as she herself was an excellent singer, and her father was able to play the oja (a traditional Igbo flute) extraordinarily well.

Aniakor received his BA from the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology in 1964. Towards the end of his time at this institute, he began to move away from the use of conventional tones when painting human figures; this would mark the end of his interest in photo realistic art.

After finishing his course, he moved to the USA, in order to attend Indiana University. It was here that he completed both his master’s degree, and his doctorate degree in art history. For the latter, he chose to base his dissertation on Igbo architecture. With the help of a fellow scholar, Herbert Cole, he later went on to write a book on this subject, which he entitled ‘Igbo Arts: Community and Cosmos’.

Whilst his own artwork takes up much of his time, Aniakor has been a teacher of art history and fine art at the University of Nigeria for several decades now. In addition to this, he has been named as a fellow of Howard University, and of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As an art fanatic, Tunde Folawiyo might know that during his time at Indiana University, Aniakor took a dislike to traditional European art forms, and instead developed a passion for re-inventing the ancient Igbo painting style, known as ‘uli’. In ancient times, uli was only used when painting the walls of houses and shrines, and human skin. This style consisted primarily of geometric shapes and patterns, but would sometimes include the use of images of celestial figures and mystic animals. Aniakor introduced these characteristic geometric shapes of this style into his own paintings, combining them with the rest of his chosen imagery.

Aniakor has continued to favour uli over the years, and as a result of this, many of his pieces – especially those in watercolour and ink – are linear in nature. He is also known for his elongation of the human body in his work, and his intelligent use of negative space.

Folawiyo enjoys collecting the work of many African artists. Those who would like to discover more about his interests should visit the Facebook page of Tunde Folawiyo.

Kampala Art Biennale Showcases Contemporary African Art

During the month of August, art lovers from around the world will be treated to one of the most comprehensive exhibitions of contemporary African Art ever presented. With its goal to educate, invite debate and expose attendees to the value of art in society, the Kampala Art Biennale hopes to recognise and incorporate those African artists who are creating important works outside the mainstream of traditional tunde folawiyovenues, using themes that encompass economic, political and social values of the present.

The Kampala Art Biennale is a festival of art that encompasses several venues in Kampala, including the Makerere Gallery, the Nommo Gallery and the Uganda Museum for display of visual art from both local and foreign locations that relates to contemporary Africa as well as side events that include discussion groups, workshops, lectures, films and a chance to hear artists talk about their works.

This year’s theme “Progressive Africa” was developed to showcase the Afro-centric art of Kampala and Uganda and show the region from the artists’ point-of-view as it is now versus what it was like in the past or what the future may look like. One hundred artworks from 45 artists including painters, illustrators, cartoonists, 2-D media artists, photographers and writers from 13 African countries will exhibit during the Kampala Art Biennale. Artists have the freedom to choose themes either for or against the present economic, political and social realities of Africa, with festival organisers hoping these works will create important discussions that will enable transformative growth for the country as a whole.

Organisers of the event are the Kampala Arts Trust and Uganda Tourism Board, which have formed a strategic partnership with the goal of promoting Kampala and Uganda as art tourism locations, encouraging more art exchange between Ugandans and other countries in Africa and inspiring and motivating artists to create more art.

During the Biennale, local and little-known artists share the limelight with more recognisable names in African art such as Kenya’s Michael Soi and Ugandan artist, Eria Nsubuga. Art lovers and critics from around the world will have many opportunities to observe works that depict political and social themes as well as everyday life scenes. African art has become one of the most popular genres for collectors, such as national museums, corporate collections and private citizens with an appreciation for art, such as Nigerian businessman Tunde Folawiyo.

Abdoulaye Konaté: one of Africa’s finest artists

Art enthusiasts such as Tunde Folawiyo will be familiar with the work of African artist, Abdoulaye Konaté. Born in DIré, Mali in 1953, Konaté studied painting in Mali’s capital, Bamako, followed by seven years’ study in Havana, Cuba. He later combined his talent for painting with installation work, composing powerful commentaries on environmental and political affairs. Abdoulaye Konaté’s work is popular the world over with African art collectors such as Tunde Folawiyo (the Tunde Folawiyo information page provides further reading on this African philanthropist and businessman).

When canvas and paint were unavailable to him, Konaté began working with Malian cloth. The large scale of his pieces mean that not only does Konaté support his local economy by using textiles manufactured in Mali, but he continues a long West African tradition of using textiles to communicate and commemorate. Konaté’s work is a social commentary fusing current day politics with traditional craftsmanship. Though his work explores weighty topics affecting Africa today, the overriding message in his art work is one of hope.

This award winning artist has returned to Mali, and lives and works in his home city of Bamako once more. In 1993, Konaté was appointed Director of Bamako’s Palais de la Culture, and is now the Director of the Conservatoire for Arts and Media in Bamako.

Konaté has covered many grave topics in his work, including the effect of AIDS in Africa, both to individuals and society as a whole. 75,000,000 people in Africa have contracted the illness, and more than 1,000,000 children and adults die from AIDS/HIV every year. The virus has had a devastating effect on Africa’s population. As an African artist and social commentator, it is easy to understand why Konaté feels compelled to examine the subject.

Tunde FolawiyoAnother plight close to Konaté’s heart is the desertification of The Sahel in West Africa. The dry lands are inhabited by a staggering 25% of the world’s population who depend upon the area for their livelihood. The vegetated areas are rich in species such as gazelles and desert partridges. Where the area is rich in vegetation, little soil erosion occurs. However, where deforestation and decimation of the vegetation has occurred, soil is quickly eroded by desert winds, meaning that The Sahel is rapidly shrinking. With so many people reliant on the area for food, not to mention the catastrophic effect losing The Sahel would have on the ecosystem of Africa as a whole, it is easy to understand why Konaté is so passionate about saving it.

The Striking Contemporary Art of West Africa

Tunde Folawiyo In West Africa today, artists in many mediums are putting out bold and provocative work, and receiving attention, awards and accolades worldwide. Support and promotion comes from collectors and investor’s native to or working in West Africa, including Tunde Folawiyo, and other ardent collectors of African art. For more information on this collector, discover Tunde Folawiyo’s creative projects and interests online.

Abdoulaye Konaté, praised as one of the top fifty African artists in any medium by the Independent, was born in Mali in 1953, and lives and works there today. His studies took place in Bamako (where he now serves as the director of an arts conservatory) as well as a period spent in Havana, Cuba. His work, which merges the field of painting with elements of installation art, tends toward social and political commentary, with a focus on the way that pressing issues from ecology to economy and political strife affect people’s everyday life. He works in paints and canvas, with larger works often being made in textile. Konaté’s piece Pouvoir et Religion, a large work in textile, recently appeared in the show “We Face Forward,” along with other visual art and music from West Africa, in Manchester.

Nigerian artist Dilomprizulike, known as ‘The Junkman from Africa’ creates sculptures and large installations made from found objects. He was a student at the University of Nigeria, and holds an MFA from the University of Dundee, in Scotland. His largest and most famous work is a full museum created out of refuse, which also serves as his dwelling, originally installed in his current home in Lagos but replicated for museum displays elsewhere. Some consider his life in this collected museum to be a work of performance art. He also creates installations in locations worldwide using refuse particular to the region. Many see his work as a reflection of contemporary consumerism, or statements on social situations in his homelands. His works was shown in London at the Africa Remix exhibition, and he is considered preeminent among sculptures and mixed media artists working in Africa today.

The world’s interest in West African artwork is growing, particularly due to the strong, original work artists like these are producing, and increased awareness due to exhibitions focused on bringing attention to West African work, and these trends are expected to continue, with much strong work still to come.

A bio of the Nigerian artist Yusuf Grillo

Tunde FolawiyoYusuf Grillo is one of Nigeria’s most renowned painters; he is someone that most art lovers, including Tunde Folawiyo, will have heard of. He is famed for the inventiveness of his work, as well as his preference for the colour blue, which features heavily in almost all of his paintings. Grillo sources his inspiration from the actions and behaviour of humankind, but is particularly intrigued by Yoruba culture, and much of his artwork tends to merge western and Yoruba art techniques.

Raised in Lagos, Grillo received both a Fine Arts diploma, and a postgraduate education diploma from the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology. In 1966, he moved to England to attend Cambridge University, after which he spent several years travelling around the USA and Germany. He eventually returned home, after he was appointed as the Head of Yaba College’s Department of Art and Printing. He retained this role for over 25 years, during which time he continued to paint, exhibit, and serve as the president of the SNA (Society of Nigerian Artists).

Although he has never been the most prolific of painters, the quality of the work which he has produced over the course of his career has led to Grillo being named as one of the most important artists in Nigeria. Grillo himself has acknowledged that it can often take him several months, or in some cases, even several years, to complete a painting. With this being said, he has, over the past few decades, produced a few hundred pieces of art, including not only portraits, but also statues and monuments.

Those who are familiar with his work, such as Tunde Folawiyo, may know that Grillo has expressed an aversion to photo-realism; rather than aiming for lifelike creations, he instead prefers to elongate and stylise the figures. This technique, which produces graceful, elegant human-like forms, makes his work instantly recognisable. His choice of colour tones and his compositional decisions have been praised by many, including Kunle Filani, a well-known art critic. In an essay about this artist, Filani noted that whilst many have attempted to mimic Grillo’s style in their own work, none have managed to achieve the same skilful combination of complimentary hues and perfect spatial balance.

For those highly interested in the work of many other African artists, find out more at the Tunde Folawiyo African art blog.

Famed Artists of Africa: The Works of El Anatsui

Tunde FolawiyoOne of Nigeria’s most influential artists, El Anatsui and his famed works of art showcase the magnificence of Africa’s thriving art culture. Using a variety of unconventional media for his sculptures, the artist and his impact upon the art world remain amongst the most highly regarded to stem from the continent. With his creative works serving as a social commentary on a variety of issues ranging from colonialism to the environment, El Anatsui’s pieces may continue to inspire Tunde Folawiyo and millions more with an appreciation for the diversity of Africa’s art.

Born in the town of Anyako during 1944, Anatsui was trained at an art institution in Ghana before beginning a teaching career in Nigeria during 1975. He would travel back and forth between the two countries frequently during his career. The artist long held a preference for media such as wood and clay, using these to sculpt objects tied to traditional Ghanaian ideals and other fascinating subjects. Whilst Anatsui found success in sculpture, he later transitioned to modern installation art. It was in this genre that he would later encounter tremendous success.

Anatsui’s works are world renowned, better known for their large scale and the thousands of crumpled and folded metal pieces bound together to form art. These intricate pieces, many of which are massive, require meticulous construction, demonstrating his magnificent artistic talents. In keeping true to his aesthetic, the artist encourages his pieces to take on a variety of forms upon installation in museums across the world. Several of his most recognised pieces are so large that they encompass entire walls in galleries across the world.

Some of El Anatsui’s most famous exhibitions are housed within numerous art institutions throughout the United States and beyond, including those in the popular Brooklyn Museum and several others in states like New York, Iowa, California, Florida and Ohio. NYC’s Metropolitan Museum and its Museum of Modern Arts are among the most notable to showcase the art of El Anatsui, demonstrating his world-wide popularity and immense impact forged upon contemporary art and African art as a whole. International exhibits have also shown his work, including Venice Biennale and Paris Triennial. Tunde Folawiyo and millions of others with an appreciation for African art may regard El Anatsui’s pieces as some of the most significant to hail from the region. His contributions to the world of art will continue to inspire new generations of art enthusiasts and African citizens alike.