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Venice Biennale: The Colors of Africa, The Voices of a Continent


The Venice Biennale is undoubtedly a major international event in the world of contemporary art. The event is organized by artists, with artists and for artists.

The 57th exhibition is open now through November with the participation of 120 artists from all over the world. 103 of the artists have never been shown in Venice, including ambassadors of art from Nigeria, Tunisia, South Africa, Morocco, Mali, Egypt, Zimbabwe and more. One of the main objectives of this event is to establish a new “market” for contemporary art and present the contributing artists to the world with focus on the issues of migration, slavery, racism and misogyny.

This year’s main exhibit is called “Viva Arte Viva” which is “an exclamation, an expression of passion for art and for the state of the artist” says Christine Macel, curator of this flagship event.

Here are nine African artists exhibiting at Venice Biennale inthe heart of the historical city of Venice.

Abdoulaye Konaté, Mali

Abdoulaye Konaté is a renowned Malian artist from the city of Bamako. His work often takes the form of artistic installations based on textiles, using materials that come from his country. The dyed and woven fabrics are sewn into abstract compositions following traditional practices of West Africa. In his artistic works, he explores the ecological and socio-political matters affecting Mali and other African countries. War, religion, globalization, the struggle for power, ecological change and the AIDS epidemic are just some of the themes he deals with. Abdoulaye is taking part in the “Viva Arte Viva” Exhibition by presenting his amazing work entitled “Brazil (Guarani)”. The idea of ​​this work came to his mind during a trip to the Amazon where he perceived cultural similarities between the Guarani people and the Malian tribes of his native country.

MALI Abdoulaye Konaté MALI Abdoulaye Konaté Mohau Modisakeng, South Africa

The issue of migration is the center of interest at the South African pavilion. The young Soweto-born artist Mohau Modisakeng is representing South Africa by a video installation called “Passage”, a work which is articulated on three screens. It presents three characters, two women and one man, each with an attribute, alone on a boat that takes water. They struggle with the elements, but also with anger and forgetfulness, before their inevitable drowning.

“I started from the history of Cape Town, which is the first European colony in South Africa, where workers from the West Indies have converged,” explains Mohau Modisakeng. He stresses that the problems of xenophobia that are seen today are rooted in the very foundation of the city, with forced labor and forced immigration. His works are generally directed to present these kinds of issues in artistic ways.

Mohau-Modisakeng Hassan Khan, Egypt

This Egyptian artist based in Cairo works on sound, video, choreography and artistic production. His works are described as being interdisciplinary and multi-faceted. He is one of the youngest artists exhibiting at the Egyptian National Pavilion. Hassan Khan’s drawings are associated with his experiences during his childhood in the capital of Egypt, creating works that construct narratives about the disparate citizens of Cairo, its features and social phenomena.

For ten years, this multidisciplinary artist, who lives and works in Egypt, has exhibited his artistic projects in Europe. Today, in Venice, he presents a retrospective of his work representing his country.

HASSAN KHAN HASSAN KHAN Victor Ehikhamenor – Nigeria

Born in Udomi-Uwessan, Nigeria, Victor Ehikhamenor is an award-winning artist and writer. His artistic approach combines painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, installation and also a unique work of perforations on paper. His art reflects the spiritual traditions, which have permeated his education between Catholicism and traditional Edo religion.

Ehikhamenor presents his famous work “ The Biography of the Forgotten” to the visitors of the Nigerian Pavilion in Venice, It is a large-scale work combining abstract forms with a traditional sculpture inspired by classical art from Benin. It expresses and targets the consequences of colonialism on cultural heritage.

victor Ehikamenor Dana Whabira, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is represented by four artists including Dana Whabira, an artist and architect based in Harare. She has a multidisciplinary approach, experimenting with assembly, installation, spatial intervention, sculptural painting and photography. This artist directs her gaze to news, literature, philosophy and theater as a true source of inspiration. At the national Gallery of her country, she took part in a very successful group show called “ Idea of Self”. Currently, she manages “Njelele Art Station” which is a promising project that targets the empowerment of contemporary art in Zimbabwe and the region.

Dana Whabira Dana Whabira Younes Rahmoun, Morocco

The contemporary artist Younes Rahmoun is representing Morocco and the North African region. His artistic works take a variety of forms such as installation, drawing, new technologies and multimedia. Younes’ work, although introspective and born of his personal research on the meaning of life, leads to a broader level of spirituality, presenting something far more universal. His spiritual journey is a common thread that ties together his different bodies of work.

Younes Peju Alatise, Nigeria

Another multidisciplinary artist from Nigeria, Peju Alatise is a member of the Smithsonian Institute of African Art. This poet addresses issues of gender, race, politics and culture in his approach, and confronts the societal problems that women face in developing countries.

His works contain references to the Yoruba religion that commemorate his ethnic heritage. The work “Flying Girls”, exhibited at Venice Biennale, is an artistic installation of eight human-sized winged girls, one of them is a 10-year-old maid from the Nigerian city of Lagos. The girl feels and imagines an alternative reality where she is free and able to fly.

 Peju-Alatiste-flying-girls Moataz Nasr, Egypt

Moataz Nasr is another Egyptian artist exhibiting this year at the Egyptian Pavilion in Venice. In his work “This Too Shall Pass”, this award-winning artist focuses on the symbolism that incorporates layers of social commentary. His works include installations, video, sculpture, and painting. The need to maintain a connection with his native land is the thematic premise of his art, which touches the Egyptian traditions and populations. Moreover, Moataz endeavors to give a way to the anxieties and torments that affect the continent.

Moataz Nasr Moataz Nasr Qudus Onikeku, Nigeria

A Nigerian stage artist who uses choreography and dance to express himself. His artistic production is a mixture of dance, acrobatics and drawing associated with the traditional Yoruba approach that is the essence of his works. At the biennial of Venice, Onikeku presents his work “Right Here, Right Now”, a trilogy of interpretive films. It is an investigation into the mechanics of body memory and its relation to the national consciousness.

Qudus Onikeku

Enjoy African Art? You may like this article on the 10 African Artists to Watch in 2017

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