4 Female African Artists Whose Work You Should Bring into Your Home
Throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, we have all gone through different stages of subconscious anxieties, all of which we have been trying to defeat with various forms and approaches to self-help. The first few weeks saw many of us lounging out in our pajamas and active wear 24/7 a day, while others found their sense of normality getting dressed for the office every day. Some of us used this opportunity to wind down completely from social responsibilities, whereas others scheduled regular Skype and Zoom calls with their friends for a sense of togetherness. We all adapted to this unprecedented situation in our own ways but there’s one thing we all started to appreciate more through all this: our homes.
Chances are, we have never spent so much time continuously at home before and, now that we are, we are giving it the love and attention it deserves. Many busy entrepreneurs have used their places as crash-pads more than an actual home: simply a place to return to at the end of a hectic workday and crash into bed, nothing more. Now that our apartments and houses have turned into our number one hangout and workspace, however, we are starting to recognize just how important it us to create a homely, inspiring and beautiful environment. A place that makes us feel safe and comforted, happy and positive, motivated and energetic, but also relaxed and tranquil. The best way to go about creating a space as such is through art and interior design.
If you, like so many others, have spent the last few months sprucing up your home and garden, and would like to add a touch of feminine Africana art into your home, look no further. Here are four female African artists whose work you should bring into your home.
Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi
“We are going through a historic moment in the African world, especially in the global diaspora. There’s a focus on putting images of black people on the walls of key institutions,” Johannesburg-based painter, Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi said of her Heroes series adorning the walls of the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. Nkosi, whose work is partially political, is determined to reclaim spaces through her paintings, and her Heroes series does so in the most personal and captivating manner.
Each painting from this series consists of a photo ID style portrait of political or social figures – as well as friends and family members – Nkosi considers heroic. Featuring the likes of Winnie Mandala and Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, these portraits speak of courage, power and social movements, with the subjects popping from the canvas against flat backgrounds.
Sokari Douglas Camp
Born in Buguma, Rivers State, Nigeria, artist and sculptor, Sokari Douglas Camp, has become a permanent feature in world renowned museums including The Smithsonian, the Setagaya in Tokyo, and the British Museum in London. Sokari, who has had more than 40 solo shows all across the globe, is known for pushing gender boundaries as an artist and with her sculptures, often using methods and depicting cultural traditions and instances, that are still very much considered manly and, in many African cultures, thus unacceptable for women.
Her works deal with the darker, gender-biased aspects of African culture as much as it does with beautiful personal experiences, as can be seen in her Primavera sculpture made from steel and toy cars and Hibiscus Kiss, a mixed media piece merging acrylic and metal drawing and steel. As for her political work, the nickel-coated steel sculpture, Looking for Grace, features Victorian influenced clothing in Namibia and focuses on the pattern making and posing of the Herero people, who were forced to dress in this attire.
“Through appropriation and reconfiguration of normative fashion aesthetic, classic juvenile literature, African masking forms, and children toys, Marcia Kure produces hybrid, darkly striking images and objects that insinuate postmodern loss of certainties and postcolonial destabilization and fragmentation of identities. Her work suggests that from our complex encounters with the present might emerge new orders of being that are at once hopeful and despairing, reassuring yet haunting, beautiful and terrifying.”
In Kure’s Shifters and Monarchs series, the Uli art influence is particularly noticeable. The Nigerian art form merges sinuous linear forms with intense graphic visuals, which is something that can be seen throughout this series, in which, according to OCULA’s Stephanie Bailey, “the existential and hybrid conditions of postcoloniality—as well as the lived experience of women through time—are expressed in figures whose forms are an amalgamation of imagery and materials that span histories, genres, and traditions.”
Born in Ethiopia, Aïda Muluneh spent much of her early life between Yemen, England and Cyprus before finally settling in Canada, where she graduated from Howard University with a major in Film. Upon graduating, she went on to work as a photojournalist for various international publications. Since then, her photography has earned her many solo exhibits around the world, and a collection of her images and art now forms part of the permanent collections of the Hood Museum, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art and the Museum of Biblical Art in the USA.
As an artist, she merges her trained eye as a photojournalist with vivid colours and visual storytelling. In her series, The World is 9, she focuses on the lessons she learned living in Addis Ababa over the course of nine years. It was “a lesson in humility, and a lesson in what it means to return to a land that was foreign to me. Over the past nine years, an expression of my grandmother has stuck in my mind – she would say, “The world is 9, it is never complete and it’s never perfect.
I thought it was interesting, but it wasn’t until much later as an adult that her voice echoed in my thoughts of whether we can live in this world with full contentment. In this world, we are idealists seeking perfection but living in a reality which does not afford us that balance. Life is unpredictable and imperfect – we must conquer these challenges with strength and endurance because the world within us and the world knocking on our door, bears the unknown future.”