All posts tagged: africa

Conflict remembered: Jo Ractliffe’s photos of Angola and South Africa

African photography is under the spotlight at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a moving exhibition of work produced in the last decade by the South African photographer Jo Ractliffe. South African photographer Jo Ractliffe (born 1961) explores the themes of conflict, history, memory and displacement with her camera. She has described her work as an attempt to “retrieve a place for memory.” Ractliffe was born in 1961 in Cape Town and currently lives in Johannesburg. She completed her BAFA and MFA degrees at the University of Cape Town. Three recent series of photographs are featured in this show, focusing on recent conflict in her native South Africa and neighbouring Angola. Her earliest series Terreno Ocupado (2007–8) was produced around five years after the end of the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002), during Ractliffe’s first visit to the capital, Luanda. Her images of shantytowns speak of struggle and land occupation, highlighting the vulnerability of the city’s infrastructure post civil war. Her photographs highlight the imprint that the Portuguese colonial occupation of Angola had on Luanda. …

Capturing West Africa’s elite: the photography of a different era

A new exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, In and Out of the Studio: Photographic Portraits from West Africa, presents over a century of portrait photography in West Africa. Many of these works, which were taken between the 1870s and the 1970s, are being displayed for the first time. There’s a broad selection of images on show, including postcards and original negatives as well as conventional photographs. The choice of photographers is similarly broad, taking in both amateur and professional photographers who captured life in Senegal, Mali, Gabon and Cameroon, among others. What is interesting about these photographs is that they present us with an image of Africa that is seldom recognized – it is often presumed that photographs of Africa from earlier eras were taken by foreign photographers. West Africa, where photography arrived in the 1840s, became a booming photography centre on its own terms. In other words, photographic production was not controlled just by foreigners – rather it was adapted by locals to their own traditions and aesthetic preferences. European and …

Dream or reality?

Zimbabwean-born Virginia Chihota makes highly introspective work that occupies a place between dream and reality. The quietly striking works showcased in the following pages are from her series munzwa munyama yangu (A Thorn in my Flesh). Her expressive paintings result from a mixture of screen-printing and ink on paper, and the artist has said she finds inspiration in solitude. Chihota moved to Triploli, Libya, in 2012 and has spoken of how the culturally isolated experience of living in a foreign culture has fuelled her work. Continue reading about Virginia Chihota in the July/August issue of The Kurios.  Photo: Virginia Chihota, The Root of the Flower we do not Know, screenprint on paper, 2014. Courtesy of Tiwani Contemporary.

Beautiful waste

Serene mosaic figures rise out of the courtyard at Pallant House Gallery, the subject of a new exhibition displaying the eclectic work of the late Nek Chand (1924-2015). The renowned Indian artist died just a few days before the exhibition opened in mid-June, giving this show special significance. Chand was born in 1924 in the village of Berian Kala, in what is now Pakistan. In 1947, he relocated to India with his family. As his day job he was a public roads inspector, but in the evenings he began to mould figures out of recycled and found materials including shells, cooking pots, broken crockery, glass bangles and electrical fittings. Chand, who as entirely self-taught, would make the body of each figure from a mixture of cement and sand, before covering it with discarded objects. The resulting sculptures are highly tactile but also transcendently beautiful. “Nek Chand is a deeply spiritual man, fascinated by the mystical significance of rocks,” said the curators of the exhibition, which is taking place at the gallery in Chichester, southern England. “Chand believed that …

Blurred lines

In Boris Nzebo’s multi-layered works, human heads merge with urban cityscapes. These boldly coloured and patterned works evoke the visual dynamism of a West African city. Born in 1979 in Gabon, Nzebo now lives and works in Cameroon. He draws his subject matter from his hometown of Douala, where he is particularly inspired by the elaborate hairstyles of locals, which often feature as hand-painted advertising illustrations in West African beauty parlours. To continue reading about Boris Nzebo and see more images of his work, read the July/August issue of The Kurios. Photo: © Boris Nzebo. Photo courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London.

Truly, madly, beautifully

Portia Zvavahera’s sumptuous paintings draw on subjects from both life and dreams and combine printmaking with painting. Her vivid imagery is drawn from religious narratives from both Christian and indigenous African traditions. Her deep understanding of colour and form is evident. Zvavahera represented Zimbabwe at the Venice Biennale in 2013. The artist was born in 1985 in Juru, Zimbabwe. To continue reading about Portia Zvavahera’s work and see more images of her paintings, read the May/June issue of The Kurios. Photo credits: ©Portia Zvavahera, I Can Feel It in My Eyes [14] © Portia Zvavahera. Courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town/ Johannesburg. Photo: Mario Todeschini.

New voices

Mawande Ka Zenzile’s bold work deals with memory, ethics, politics, the politics of representation, and history. Through compelling imagery, he often draws attention to Xhosa history and heritage. The Xhosa are the second largest cultural group in South Africa, after the Zulu-speaking nation. The artist was born in Eastern Cape, South Africa, in 1986. He is in the process of completing a BA in Fine Art at the University of Cape Town. Please continue reading about Mawande Ka Zenzile and see more images of his work in the May/June issue of The Kurios. Photo credits: Mawande Ka Zenzile, The Problem We Didn’t Create (The Death of Socrates) 2015 © Mawande Ka Zenzile. Courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town/ Johannesburg. Photo: Mario Todeschini.