An Appraisal of Contemporary African Art and Artists

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Contemporary African art has reached higher heights in the international fronts due to the immense contribution of the continent’s prolific artists especially in the last half of the twentieth century. Contemporary African art is not demeaned as it used to be in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The global perspective of African art especially by the West is changing drastically from its derogatory terms as ‘imitators of the West’, ‘primitive’, ‘static and stereotyped’ to terms that it the continent’s art yearned for long ago such as ‘marvelous’, ‘creative’, ‘philosophically rich’ etc. that marks African art in recent years. This is as a result of the tiresome efforts of these artists in experimenting with diverse materials both organic and inorganic to create wonderful masterpieces. Partly, the continent’s vibrant art historians and art critics as well as renowned international curators and critics who have extensively written on the works of some of the leading contemporary African artists, unearthing its philosophical elements and concepts have been instrumental in the peak contemporary art has soared. This has deepened the comprehension of works from Africa as not just aesthetically harmonious forms but as functional.

There are various contemporary African artists who are recognized internationally while others especially the young elite still hold very promising and enterprising hopes of enjoying the feat of global impact. The ten leading very successful contemporary African artists who have impacted greatly globally are El-Anatsui of Ghana, Tracey Rose of South Africa, Meschac Gaba of Benin, Kudzanai Chiurai of Zimbabwe, Nastio Mosquito of Angola, Julie Mehretu of Ethiopia, Ibrahim El Salahi of Sudan, Sokari Douglas Camp of Nigeria, Abdoulaye Konate of Mali and Cheri Samba of Democratic Republic of Congo. All these contemporary African artists have shown with their great mastery and control over the media of their choice with powerful themes and dramatizing production techniques that they stand at equals with their Western counterparts in the field of art.

Art historians and instructors can boost the interest of their students in helping raise contemporary arts of Africa to a higher pedestal by talking passionately about the achievements, techniques and styles employed by the remarkable contemporary artists. Students can start working independently on some concepts by synergizing the traditional and contemporary styles and media to come out with a new artistic creation which can be their area of expertise. Moreover, art teachers can constantly hold jury sessions where the artistic productions of artists can be talked about, thus criticized and appreciated so that loop holes can be sealed for the students to progress in their chosen line of art. Gradually, these young artists will have a creative path or area and work steadily in it to become an exponent in it.

Another helpful tool that can be utilized by art instructors is constantly taking their art students to art museums, galleries and other educational field trips where they can learn and tap relevant skills and ideas from the art masterpieces that they view and appreciate.

Contemporary African art in this generation is gaining popularity globally. The perceptions and perspectives of the continent in the field of art is changing positively. The success as mentioned in the introductory part of this paper is credited to the ingenuity seen in the works of contemporary African artists and more importantly, the art critics and historians who blow the horn of these artists, so to speak. The onus thus lies on us as art historians and art critics to keep a catalogue of these great artists, rigorously writing about their works and embedding rich philosophical meanings to their wonderful, breathtaking and creative productions. This, to the writer, would aid in retaining the colourful image of contemporary African art now and bring it at par to compete the more with its counterparts globally.


Source by Dickson Adom

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