Africa International

From cross-cultural photography in London, to Africa-influenced publishing in Berlin and area-themed postcards in Harlem, it seems the world is the continent’s creative oyster.

Words Nana Ocran


Italy vs Ghana
A first-time creative partnership for Ghanaian street and studio photographer James Barnor and Italian photographer Daniele Tamagni has manifested in a special, one-off exhibition at London’s October Gallery. By documenting street-smart and playful images of stylish African men and women, both photographers expose their cultural and generational takes on their African subjects. Barnor – a sprightly 87 year old – showcases black-and-white as well as colour images of sharp-looking Ghanaians in 1960s Swinging London, while Tamagni – the award-winning photographer of the 2007 Congolese dandies Sapeurs Of Brazzaville project – highlights the compelling fashion subcultures that exist throughout contemporary Africa. The exhibition follows the launch of the publications Ever Young, by James Barnor and Fashion Tribes, by Daniele Tamagni.

The Daniele Tamagni and James Barnor exhibition shows at the October Gallery, London until 30 September.


A world of African art and design
For the best part of a decade, ‘Africa rising’ has been a global mantra that’s been talked up, celebrated and analysed through conferences, magazine covers and countless news stories. Even the combination of negative ‘slowdowns’ or pinpointed crises dotted around the continent hasn’t stopped the ‘rising’ narrative from growing into a social (and an economic) movement from African town to city and beyond.

However, it’s within the realms of creativity that the accelerated rhythm of the continent has long created a swirl of international interest, and a new Africa Rising publication is continuing this focus. Bold and undeniably good-looking, this book devotes 336 pages to the fresh, new and not so new, as well as firmly established design, designers, artists, musicians and photographers who represent the continent through their work and culture.
The publication is the result of a savvy, editorial partnership based on an in-house idea by Gestalten Books (Berlin), the publishing house made famous for its well-conceived books on contemporary creative culture, and its collaboration with Design Indaba (Cape Town), famed for its annual festival, events and online publications. Aesthetically eye-catching, Africa Rising highlights an eclectic range of creatives both well known and underground, with dynamic names including Ivory Coast fashion designer Laurence Chauvin-Buthaud; master indigo dyer Aboubakar Fofana; the playfully afro-futuristic designs of Sereina Rothenberger and David Schatz, South African designer Rich Mnisi, and Burkinabe artist and designer Hamed Ouattara, among so many others.

The publication also exposes the worlds of Cape Dutch architecture and artisanal farming, sustainable architecture, the various methods and means of African craftsmanship, sculpture and street photography as well as new African travel experiences. Complete with a series of chapter essays by international writers including Design Indaba editor Katie de Klee, fashion journalist Malibongwe Tyilo, arts writer Anny Shaw, arts practitioner Layla Leiman and travel writer Jeff Trollip, this must-have, artistically designed, highly visual book is a welcome addition to the wonderfully evolving Afro-cultural story.


New York stories
Picture postcards with a neighbourhood theme are behind this ongoing project at the Studio Museum Harlem. Until the end of October, limited-edition prints titled and designed by four artists – Alannis Alba, John Jennings, Miatta Kawinzi and Nontsikelelo Mutiti – will be available for free to visitors. The images represent this northern section of Manhattan as a site of ‘cultural activity, political vitality and cultural stimuli’, so be ready to pick up A Cage In Harlem by co-founder of the Afrocentric Comic Book Convention, Jennings; Perspective by Alba; Streetspeak by Kawinzi and Mutiti’s Masimba Avanhu? (Power To The People?), featuring Afro pick combs with Black Power fist-salute handles.

Unidentified Bamileke artist. Kuosi Society Elephant Mask, 20th century. Grassfields region, Cameroon. Cloth, beads, raffia, fiber, 56 3/4 x 21 1/2 in. (144.1 x 54.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Frieda B. and Milton F. Rosenthal, 81.170. Photo: Althea Morin, Brooklyn Museum

Unidentified Bamileke artist. Kuosi Society Elephant Mask, 20th century. Grassfields region, Cameroon. Cloth, beads, raffia, fiber, 56 3/4 x 21 1/2 in. (144.1 x 54.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Frieda B. and Milton F. Rosenthal, 81.170. Photo: Althea Morin, Brooklyn Museum

Brooklyn’s finest
Among the Brooklyn Museum’s programme, a big draw is the Double Take: African Innovations exhibition. An experimental focus on traditional art and artistic expression from the continent, the exhibition is split between two specific areas whereby 40 objects in the main first floor East Gallery – all carefully organised into small groups – are based on themes of power, satire, the body and virtue, among others. In an adjacent storage annexe, around 150 other pieces of African art are held for public view. Here, visitors can respond to the works in ways that provide an opportunity for the venue’s curators to explore themes.
Double Take: African Innovations is an ongoing exhibition held at the Brooklyn Museum.

Global African audio
A playlist of essential Africa-themed podcasts featuring a range of global voices and ideas
A series of podcasts exploring the influences of African music around the world, including 1990s UK dance music, Afro-Brazilian pop and the sounds of Nashville in Nigeria.
From flights of scientific fancy to continental cult crimes, this is an audio space for creative non-fiction from the African continent by African and non-African storytellers.

The Chicken & Jollof Rice Show
Africans, African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans can all tune in to this first-generational podcast from four hosts who talk news, politics, activism, culture and everything in between.

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