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Contemporary African Artists Of Our Time

By Beatrice Porbeni 26 November 2017   |   9:00 am

Over time, African artists have taken inspiration from modernity, which primarily includes notions of global cultural diversity, technology, and social advancement. Using various multimedia mediums, modern day artists push and question the norms and explore topics such as culture, identity, family, community, and nationality. Most importantly, African contemporary art provokes reflection and many times, questions the postcolonial identity. Here are a few contemporary African artists whose works are internationally recognised.

Tracey Rose

Tracey Rose MAQUEII 2002 Lambda print

Tracey Rose is a multimedia artist and feminist best recognised for her daring performances, video installations, and fascinating photographic works. Her work confronts the politics of identity, including sexual, body, racial, and gender issues. Her themes predominantly revolve around the mixed raced multicultural society in South Africa. She has held solo exhibitions in South Africa as well as America and has participated in a number of international events.

Julie Mehretu

Julie Mehretu

Describing her work, as “story maps of no location”, the Ethiopian Julie Mehretu is a well-known African artist in the 21st century recognised for her large-scale paintings, which draw inspiration from aerial mapping and architecture. Her pieces contain an underlying calligraphic complexity, with geometric abstract lines and futuristic elements of compressing space and time. Her work represents urban growth, densely populated cities, and social networks. The artist works with thin layers of acrylic paint on canvas, finalising her work with delicate, superimposed marks and patterns using pencil, pen, ink, and streams of paint.

Sokari Douglas Camp

Originally from a large Kalabari town in the Niger Delta, Nigeria, Douglas Camp’s work is largely inspired by Kalabari culture and traditions. She is one of the first generation of African women artists to have attracted the international market. She works with modern sculptural techniques with the primary use of steel. Despite having migrated to London, she creates large, semi-abstract figurative works decorated with masks and native clothing to depict her Nigerian heritage. Camp has held numerous solo and group exhibitions all over the world. She also has her works permanently displayed in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and the British Museum in London.

Kudzanai Chiurai

Kudzanai Chiurai, Moyo, 2013.

Kudzanai Chiurai is a Zimbabwean artist who was exiled from his homeland after producing an image of the infamous Robert Mugabe, the country’s leader, with flaming horns in 2009. The artist, who now resides in Johannesburg, was the first black recipient of a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Pretoria. Working with a mixture of digital photography, paint, printing, and film, his work is known to be brutally honest. He challenges controversial issues, particularly in the southern African region including displacement, corruption, conflict and violence and xenophobia.

Yinka Shonibare

Yinka Shonibare

Yinka Shonibare’s is a British-Nigerian who is popular for using Dutch wax, also known as ankara to explore ideas of cultural identity, colonialism, and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalisation. By using ankara, Shonibare questions the fabric’s authenticity and “African” origin. His works are included in prominent collections internationally, including the Tate Collection in London, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute in Washington and many other notable museums around the world.


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