Africa Represented at the Venice Biennale: The Artist, Imagery and Messages

Victor Ehikamenor Art

The Venice Biennale is undoubtedly a major international event in the world of contemporary art. The event is organized by artists, with artists and for artists.

The 57th exhibition runs until November 22nd, with the participation of over 120 artists to be discovered all over the world, with 103 artists having never been showcased in Venice, including ambassadors of art from African countries such as Nigeria, Tunisia, South Africa, Morocco, Mali, Egypt, Zimbabwe, among others. One of the main objectives of this event is to establish a new “market” for contemporary art and to present the contributing artists to the world with the primary focus being the issues of migration, slavery, racism, and misogyny.

This year’s main exhibit is called “Viva Arte Viva” which Christine Macel, French curator and director of the 2017 Venice Biennale, says is “An exclamation…an expression of passion for art and for the state of the artist.”

Below is a presentation of nine contributing artists from Africa exhibiting their art in the heart of the historical city of Venice at this year’s Venice Biennale.

 

Abdoulaye Konaté, Mali

Abdoulaye Konate Gallery

Abdoulaye Konaté is a renowned Malian artist from the city of Bamako. His work often takes the form of artistic installations based on textiles, using materials that come from the country. The dyed and woven fabrics are sewn into abstract compositions following  traditional practices  of West Africa. In his artistic works, he explores the ecological and socio-political matters affecting Mali and other African countries. War, religion, globalization, the struggle for power, ecological change and the AIDS epidemic are just some of the themes he deals with. Abdoulaye is taking part in the “Viva Arte Viva” Exhibition by presenting his amazing work entitled “Brazil (Guarani)”. His piece was inspired by a trip Konaté took to the Amazon, where he recognized cultural similarities between the Guarani People and the Malian Tribes of his native country.

Abdoulaye Konate Posing

Mohau Modisakeng, South Africa

Mohau Modisakeng Art

The issue of migration is the center of interest at the South African pavilion. The young Soweto-born artist Mohau Modisakeng is representing South Africa by a video installation called “Passage”, a work which is articulated on three screens. It presents three characters, two women and one man, each with an attribute, alone on a boat that takes water. They struggle with the elements, but also with anger and forgetfulness, before their inevitable drowning.

“I started from the history of Cape Town, which is the first European colony in South Africa, where workers from the West Indies have converged,” explains Mohau Modisakeng. He stresses that the problems of xenophobia that are seen today are rooted in the very foundation of the city, with forced labor and forced immigration. His works are generally directed to present these kinds of issues in artistic ways.

Hassan Khan, Egypt

Hassan Khan

Egyptian artist Hassan Khan, is a Cairo-based artist who uses sound, video, choreography, and artistic production to draw on personal experiences in his past. His pieces are described as being interdisciplinary and multifaceted. His drawings are associated with his experiences during his childhood in Egypt’s capital, creating pieces that construct narratives about the disparate citizens of Cairo, its features, and social phenomena.

Hassan Khan Gallery

For ten years, this multidisciplinary artist, who lives and works in Egypt, exhibits his artistic projects in Europe. Today, in Venice, Khan presents a retrospective of his work while representing his country.

Victor Ehikhamenor – Nigeria

Victor Ehikamenor Art

Born in Udomi-Uwessan, Nigeria, Victor Ehikhamenor is an award-winning artist and writer. His artistic approach combines painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, installation and also a unique work of perforations on paper. His art reflects the spiritual traditions, which have permeated his education between Catholicism and traditional Edo religion.

Ehikhamenor presents his famous work “ The Biography of the Forgotten” to the visitors of the Nigerian Pavilion in Venice, It is  a large-scale work combining abstract forms with a traditional sculpture inspired by classical art from Benin. It expresses and targets the consequences of colonialism on cultural heritage.

Dana Whabira, Zimbabwe

Dana Whabira

Zimbabwe is represented by four artists including Dana Whabira, an artist and architect based in Harare. Whabira has a multidisciplinary approach by way of experimenting with assembly, installation, spatial intervention, sculptural painting and photography. This unique artist directs her gaze to news, literature, philosophy, and theater as a true source of inspiration.  At the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Whabira took part in a very successful  group show, “Idea of Self.” She currently manages “Njelele Art Station,” a promising project that targets the empowerment of contemporary art in Zimbabwe.

Dana Whabira Art

Younes Rahmoun, Morocco

Younes Rahmoun, Morocco

The contemporary artist Younes Rahmoun is representing Morocco and the North African region. His artistic works take a variety of forms such as installation, drawing, new technologies and multimedia. Younes’ work, although introspective and born of his personal research on the meaning of life, leads to a broader level of spirituality, presenting something far more universal. His spiritual journey is a common thread that ties together his different bodies of work.

Peju Alatise, Nigeria

Peju Alatise, Nigeria

Another multidisciplinary artist from Nigeria, Peju Alatise is a member of the Smithsonian Institute of African Art. This poet addresses issues of gender, race, politics and culture in his approach, and confronts the societal problems that women face in developing countries.

His works contain references to the Yoruba religion that commemorate his ethnic heritage. The work “Flying Girls”, exhibited at Venice Biennale, is an artistic installation of eight human-sized winged girls, one of them is a 10-year-old maid from the Nigerian city of Lagos. The girl feels and imagines an alternative reality where she is free and able to fly.

Moataz Nasr, Egypt

Moataz Nasr, Egypt

Moataz Nasr is another Egyptian artist exhibiting his work at the Egyptian Pavilion in Venice. In his piece, ‘This Too Shall Pass,’ this award-winning artist focuses on the symbolism that incorporates layers of social commentary. Nasr’s work ranges from installations of video and sculptures to painting. The need to maintain a connection with Egypt is the thematic premise of his art, which touches the Egyptian traditions and populations. Moreover, Nasr endeavors to give way to the anxieties and torments that affect the continent.

Moataz Nasr, Egypt

Qudus Onikeku, Nigeria

Qudus Onikeku, Nigeria

A Nigerian stage artist who uses choreography and dance to express himself. His artistic production is a mixture of dance, acrobatics and drawing associated with the traditional Yoruba approach that is the essence of his works. At the biennial of Venice, Onikeku presents  his work “Right Here, Right Now”, a trilogy of interpretive films. It is an investigation into the mechanics of body memory and its relation to the national consciousness.

Jalal Bounouar
Jalal Bounouar is a Moroccan teacher, researcher and writer. Jalal has always been interested in journalism and writing since he was a student. He earned a Masters Degree in Applied Language Studies and Research with an MA thesis on the language of media and journalism. He has contributed to different writing projects for a variety of international magazines and news websites. Jalal writes about politics, trade, education, culture, sports and more.