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The career of the sculptor Felix Idubor

tunde folawiyoAnyone with an interest in African art, like Tunde Folawiyo, will be familiar with the work of Felix Idubor, an artist from Benin who is widely considered to be one of the pioneers of contemporary Nigerian art. He was renowned for his ability to remain faithful to traditional creative processes and themes, whilst simultaneously expressing his own unique artistic ideas. Idubor’s elaborate door carvings were particularly popular; he was commissioned to create works for the doors of many prestigious buildings, including the House of Parliament in Lagos, and the Palace of the Oba.

Born in 1928, Idubor began to making wood carvings at an early age. Using wood cut from Iroko trees, he created a series of ornate wooden bird sculptures. Despite the fact that he had no qualifications at this stage, his artistic talents led to him being appointed, at the age of 17, as a tutor at Benin’s Edo College.

Although his lack of education had not hindered his ability to teach or make art, Idubor was eager to obtain formal training, and so in 1945, he moved to the city of Lagos, where he earned a small income from selling his wood carvings, and spent his evenings attending lectures. After he had acquired sufficient funds, he then went on to enrol at the Royal College of Art in London.

In 1953, Idubor had his first major exhibition; hosted by the Nigerian Exhibition Centre, this event provided him with a far greater level of exposure than he had ever had previously, and several of his pieces ended up being purchased by American collectors. Three years later, he was appointed as a sculptor teacher at the Yaba College of Technology. However, one year after accepting this role, he was named as the winner of the UNESCO travelling fellowship, and so left his post at the college in order to travel around Europe.

In 1958, he established the Idubor Arts Gallery. It was initially located in Lagos; however, in 1970, it was relocated to its current site in Benin. It is now run by Ayo Idubor, Felix’s son. Inside, one can find a vast array of artwork on display, including wall murals, ornate metal railings and gates, ceramics, raffia works, as well as carvings and sculptures made from bronze, wood and stone.

Folawiyo is fascinated by the work of African artists like Idubor. Information regarding Tunde Folawiyo interest in art is available online.

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African Artists: Marlene Dumas

South African artist Marlene Dumas is widely regarded amongst the African continent’s most beloved painters. Whilst her works have formed from various media throughout her career, Dumas is perhaps best known for her use of human figures to portray her point tunde folawiyoof view on contemporary issues such as race and sexuality. Her works of art have been displayed around the globe, inspiring millions of fans of art enthusiasts with her moving creations. Tunde Folawiyo and other collectors of African art may regard the works of Marlene Dumas to be amongst the most significant of the era.

Born in 1953 in the South African city of Cape Town, Marlene Dumas studied painting at Michaelis School of Fine Art in the early part of the 1970s. During this decade, the artist found herself fascinated by the photos of famed photographer Diana Arbus, who proved to be a great inspiration in Dumas’s representations of the human form. The late 1970s saw Dumas travel to Amsterdam to attend the distinguished institute de Ateliers. It was during these years that Dumas formed her own unique art style, combining media such as photographs, drawings and texts to create her works. In the years following, the artist began portraying figures and heads using photographs from the archives of a variety of personal snapshots, many torn from newspapers and magazines.

The artist’s first show of entirely paintings was comprised of nine portraits and took place at a gallery in Amsterdam during 1985. A decade later, she was chosen to represent the Netherlands at Venice’s 46th Biennale. Her first solo exhibition premiered at New Museum during 2002. During June of 2008, Dumas’s career received a significant boost in fanfare with a major exhibition at Los Angeles’s foremost contemporary art museum. The retrospective, “Measuring Your Own Grave” was widely received, later moving to New York’s Museum of Modern Art. That same year, galleries in Cape Town and Johannesburg showcased her solo exhibitions, marking a first for her homeland. Tate Modern museum, Beyeler Foundation and Stedelijk Museum are currently organising a retrospective of Dumas’s works, set to premiere in Amsterdam during September of 2014. Tunde Folawiyo and others with an appreciation for African art regard the works of Dumas as groundbreaking. Her paintings will continue to delight revelers in galleries and museums all over the globe for centuries to come.

Ben Enwonwu: His Art and Legacy

Nigeria has a long history of influential and important artists. Ben Enwonwu is regarded as one of these, and has continued to inspire both art fans and contemporary artists with his sculptures and paintings long after his death. It is testament to the importance of his work that his name is still mentioned as one of, if not the, most highly regarded Nigerian artist in his field.

Originating as a member of the Igbo people in South East Nigeria, Ben Enwonwu moved to England in the 1930s where he studied at Goldsmith College in London, before moving on to Ruskin College in Oxford. Following on from this he graduated from the Slade School of Fine Arts before moving to the USA where he completed a postgraduate course in Ethnography and Anthropology at Louisiana State University. In his time at the Slade School of Fine Arts in Oxford, the Queen sat for him as he produced a famous sculpture which is now displayed at the entrance of the Parliament in Lagos, testament to his skills.

Tunde FolawiyoWith such a rich background in both African and European cultures, Enwonwu took the controversial approach of melding both styles. He was highly vocal about the dangers of limiting artists from Africa by expecting them only to work within the traditions of their own cultural artistic heritage. He believed that there was an inequality in the treatment of artists from Africa in that they were encouraged to stay within one style, while artists from other parts of the world were not expected to limit themselves in this way. He therefore promoted the idea of expansive art where different styles could be amalgamated to produce new forms.

After teaching at several colleges and Universities, he continued to focus on the development of his own art works, and the continued fusing of African and European techniques. This can be seen clearly in his most famous work, Anyanwu, which means “Eye of the Sun”. This sculpture is displayed on the exterior of the National Museum in Lagos, and beautifully combines African traditional sculptures with a contemporary European aesthetic of the time. Enwonwu himself states that the sculpture represents the rising of Nigeria as a modern state, born from the fruit of its traditional past.

Art lovers from around the world, including Tunde Folawiyo, continue to be mesmerized by Enwonwu’s work and the impact it has had on Nigerian culture. For more information on Nigerian culture and Africa in general, visit Tunde Folawiyo’s YouTube page.

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.

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.

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.