Contemporary African Art Since 1980: exclusive image gallery

By Xeni Jardin

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(Image above: Nandipha Mntambo, "Europa," 2008)

coverafrth.jpg Contemporary African Art Since 1980, a new book by Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu, is the most comprehensive collection I've ever seen of modern art from or about Africa, by African artists.

A disclaimer first: my mother, Monica Rumsey, was the book's copy editor, and that's how I learned about it. I kept pestering her to share photos and details as the project took shape, and am now very excited to blog that we've obtained permission from the publisher and distributor (Damiani Editore, and DAP) to publish a large, exclusive gallery of wide-format images here on Boing Boing— these spectacular works are shown after the jump.

The book explores how political, social, and cultural changes over the past thirty years have shaped urban, indigenous, and globalized "diasporic" art forms. Contemporary African Art is a roadmap of change and of evolving identities.


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(Image above: Guy Tillim, "Mai Mai Militia in training near Beni, eastern DRC, for immediate deployment with the APC, Army Populaire du Congo" 2002)

Important works by some 160 artists are included in this beautifully illustrated, 320-page book, which unfolds in chronological order and covers an array of mediums: painting, sculpture, photography, film, video, installation, drawing, and collage. I've blogged before about some of the artists represented in this book, but when I saw the finished product, I was thrilled to learn about dozens whose work I had not seen before.

About the book's co-authors: Nigerian-born Okwui Enwezor is Dean of Academic Affairs at the San Francisco Art Institute, and editor and founding publisher of the African art journal Nka.
And Chika Okeke-Agulu is Assistant Professor of Art and Archeology and African American Studies at Princeton University, and editor of Nka.

Many thanks to the artists, authors, and publisher, for allowing Boing Boing to share a collection of featured images here. Where possible, I've also added links to the artist websites, for your happy exploring.

Amazon Link.


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Abu Bakarr Mansaray, "Sector A'Bubak," (1997)


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David Goldblatt, "Saturday Morning at the Hypermarket: Semi-final of the Miss Lovely Legs Competition, Boksburg, Transvaal, 28 June 1980"


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Samuel Fosso, "Le Pirate" (1997)


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Kendell Geers, "Counting Out Song" (aka "Tyre") (1988)


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Chéri Samba, aka Samba wa Mbimba N'zingo Nuni Masi Ndo Mbasi, "Les Pantalons sont Defendus"


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Bodys Isek Kingelez, "Ville Fantome" (1996)


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Willem Boschoff, "Kykafrikaans" (1980)


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Yinka Shonibare, "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (Africa)," (2009)


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Jo Ratcliffe, "Nadir no 15" (1988)


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Lalla Essaydi, "Les Femmes du Maroc / Grande Odalisque" (2008)

Published 7:30 am Mon, Dec 21, 2009

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About the Author

Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: xeni@boingboing.net.

15 Responses to “Contemporary African Art Since 1980: exclusive image gallery”

  1. peterbruells says:

    How dare they not limiting themselves to fetishes, masks and carvings of animals!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Well, lemme see if I can help with the translations. The French ones anyway.

    1) the pirate
    2) women are forbidden to wear trousers
    3) Ghost city
    4) Moroccan women / large odalisque

  3. khanti says:

    Lovely, just lovely. I hope I’m able to view the entire volume someday. Can anyone help with translation of the text in some of the images?

  4. Artimus Mangilord says:

    Caught my attention with the de Goya rendition on the cover, but I enjoyed the rest, too. A few are quite powerful.

  5. rmccall12304 says:

    Breathless. True art. Explosive, informative.

  6. BrokenRobot says:

    There’s a terrific Yinka Shonibare MBE show at the Smithsonian Museum of African Art in Washington DC right now that includes the entire Goya series, among other impressive works. Well worth a stop. (Also, note that Shonibare always uses the honorific MBE–Member of the Order of the British Empire–which he was awarded several years ago. Probably intends it somewhat ironically, given the themes of empire and race that run through his work.)

  7. umoja says:

    beautiful. i’m glad to see something that isn’t focusing on masks and bare breasted women. that isn’t what africa is. this is africa.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Good stuff. The Miss Lovely Legs Competition is too close to call.

  9. Anonymous says:

    francisco goya, cool.

  10. scifijazznik says:

    I was very worried when I saw the first image that it was going to be a gallery of African furry art….

  11. technogeek says:

    Erratic, for my taste, but some of those are stunning. I guess that’s true of any large anthology.

  12. Bera says:

    When I first so the title of this article, I was thinking :” No, another anthology of low talented, we have to look at because they are from exotic/3d world countries”. But after I saw the picture I have to shut up myself! These artists are amazing!!!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Fantastic and deep expression of the actually point of view of the world by an african artist.

    Think about it.

    Matteo Fraboni

  14. dejawooblog says:

    In the last picture it says “les songes de la raison produisent-ils des monstres en Afrique”. The best translation for this is, “dreams of reason produce the monsters of Africa”. It is related to Goya, but in French it’s an expression a sort of hyper-intellectual (des bobos, bien sur) would know. More interesting is to read Yinka’s thoughts about foreign perceptions of African people and his influences. Specifically, Roland Barthes’ Mythologies. Thank you for sharing these images. I grew up in Senegal and Morocco and am glad to see people taking a real interest in African art that isn’t in the form of a mask or some beaded jewelry.

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