Nataal’s highlights and favourite art works from the debut edition of AKAA (Also Known As Africa) art fair
Without a doubt, the maiden voyage for AKAA (Also Known As Africa) was a rousing success and Nataal enjoyed the ride. The international art fair devoted to contemporary art and design from Africa attracted 15,000 visitors to Carreau du Temple in Paris last week to enjoy works by over 100 artists plus insightful performances and debates. “AKAA paves the way for a meeting place where the actors of the contemporary art market from Africa come together to exchange dialogue and share with spontaneity,” says founder and director Victoria Mann.
As one of its five special projects, Nataal’s exhibition was busy for the duration of the three day event with collectors, dealers, curators and art lovers appreciating our chosen projects by Andrew Dosunmu (read story here), Chris Saunders (read story here), Cyndia Harvey (watch film here ) and Durimel (read story here). Meanwhile 30 galleries put their best foot forward with works by leading talents around the globe. Here’s our top 10 highlights.
Rachid Koraïchi, represented by the October Gallery, festooned the centre thoroughfare of AKAA with the installation Les Maîtres Invisibles. The renowned Paris-based Algerian artist’s piece comprised multiple large-scale embroidered banners and wooden sculptures giving reverence to the 14 great Sufi mystics of Islam.
Franck K. Lundangi
Angolan footballer turned artist Franck K. Lundangi showed his paintings with Galerie Polysémie. Now based in France, his simple watercolours reflect his dreamy memories of home. Humans, animals and celestial figures create their own supernatural universe.
Art Meets Camera dedicated its entire booth to emerging South African photographer Nobukho Nqaba, who debuted her new body of work Ndiyayekelela (Letting Go). The series of deeply personal images address Nqaba’s attempts to deal with the death of her father. Her tussling with blankets and clothing symbolise the artist’s taught emotions, which she also brings to life in performance pieces.
50 Goldborne selected images from Joana Choumali’s highly praised series Hââbré, The Last Generation. The Ivorian photographer adopted a classic studio portraiture style to raise questions around the dying practice of facial scarification in Abidjan. Each photograph “illustrates the complexity of African identity today in a contemporary Africa torn between its past and its future,” Choumali says.
A striking tapestry in the style of a grand Victorian portrait was the centrepiece of the ARTCO gallery space. German-born multi media artist Marion Boehm sets African subjects dressed in fineries against theatrical backdrops as a reaction to their absence in such imagery from the colonial period. Her stitcheries and gobelins create a rich textural reaction to a history that should have been.
Farida Hamak’s hazy, romantic images of the Saharan town of Bou Saada, entitled On The Traces, dominated the Regard Sud booth. The former photojournalist captures the people and places of this sandy trading post in a soft, almost anonymous light, as if each image is itself being blown away on the harmattan winds. “I have exalted transparency and white, ultimate expressions of brightness,” says Hamak. “The effect rubs out all the details to show only purities.”
Clémentine de la Féronnière hosted Ghanaian photographer James Barnor and some of his well-loved archive taken in Accra and London in the 1960s and 70s. Through his lens both cities are swinging with a young generation of Africans who, whether at home or in the diaspora, are embracing the liberating fashions and lifestyles of their times.
Ephrem Solomon’s woodcut and mixed media pieces depict life in his native Addis Ababa with a graphic quality that infuses his lonely figures with political agency. The young artist, here represented by Circle Art Gallery, uses heavy black and white markings to ground us in reality while meaningful objects such a chairs and slippers, and flashes of bright colours, question the void between personal and public power.
Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga
Established Kenyan sculptor Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga uses tin cans and oxidised sheet metal to create wall hangings that exude a transient yet abrupt beauty. Her corroded and discarded materials speak to the concept of Jua Kali, the Swahili expression meaning ‘under the hot sun’, while the way they are stitched together reflect her grandmother’s Kikuyu weaving skills. Ephemeral meets monumental in the able hands of this October Gallery artist.
Daniel "Kgomo" Morolong
The work of Daniel "Kgomo" Morolong has been posthumously recognised as an invaluable documentation of life in apartheid South Africa between the 1950s and 1970s. Jazz band double bass player by night, jobbing photographer by day, Morolong captured social scenes on the streets and beaches of the Eastern Cape, his archive now a prized record of the everyday lives of people rising above oppression to live normal, happy lives. He was presented at AKAA by Everard Read Circa, courtesy of the Morolong Estate.
Words Helen Jennings