What is African art? It's a good question. While many of us consider art that comes from Africa ``Primitive", we must remember that "primitive" is a term that was coined during the 19th and 20th century colonial period, and it carries with it negative connotations of underdevelopment and poverty. African art is more than that, and it's complex, vast and almost impossible to describe since the continent is so big, with many cultures, nations and religions that make it hard to define.
Here are some current shows of African art or artists that you can visit from your sofa (next to our baskets, we hope!). A good place to start your journey into African art:
- “Second Careers: Two Tributaries in African Art," at The Cleveland Museum of Art.
This is an interesting exhibition that explores the connections between historical African art and contemporary practices through a selection of exemplary highlights from the museum’s African collection and loaned works. The exhibition’s second focus is the relationship between historical arts of Africa and modern and contemporary artistic practices.
- Zanele Muholi at Tate Modern
One of the most prominent South African photographers, Muholi first reached acclaim in the early 2000s with photographs that told powerful visual stories of black lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex lives in their native country. Check some of her 260 photographs and see a different Africa, something less known in the west.
- ‘Mirrors of beauty’ at Christie's
If you're looking for more traditional art, check out "Mirrors of beauty" — two Kota figures and a Bobo mask once owned by Helena Rubinstein at Christie’s in Paris:
Helena Rubinstein, the famous pioneer of modern cosmetics, had an interest in African art as early as 1908. Three of her African pieces were offered at Christie's auction last month: two Kota reliquary figures and a ceremonial Bobo mask.
‘Kota is the name of a people who live in Gabon,’ says Christie’s specialist in African & Oceanic Art, Rémy Magusteiro. ‘Each reliquary would be mounted on a basket containing the remains of an ancestor. It is a guardian figure, placed there to oversee the tie between the living and the dead.’
In conclusion, "African art" is a complex subject, and it has as many definitions as the continent itself. A good place to start to explore it is through museums such as The Smithsonian Museum of African Art or if you want to check what's going on now, the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair is the right place. Support African art, check out what's new even in Tel Aviv in The African Studies Gallery or buy African handcrafted wall pieces such as these. And say Hi to African from us!