Tuesday, 4 December 2007

The Tingatinga School @ AfricanContemporary.com

I found this website and thought I best bring it to your attention.


The site has a wonderful Collection of Tanzanian artwork from a school of art, now known as the Tingatinga School. This is an important development in the art of Tanzania.

The site has developed an Internet Exhibition that is not only informative but really worth a good look.

The Tingatinga School Edward Saidi Tingatinga - (1932-1972)

He was the origin of the naive style of painting that later take his name. Tingatinga started in 1968, and although his carrer was ended prematurely in 1972, his style inspired his five students and his followers to establish the Tingatinga school of painters that continues to florish today. This Tingatinga movement constitutes a genuine form of contemporary art, original to Tanzania.Tingatinga short lived as an artist (1968-72) but he triggered the emergence of a growing number of Tanzanian youngsters who claimed this style to be theirs and further developed it to become what is now known as the Tingatinga School of painting, a unique form of popular art genuine to Tanzania. Today, no one dares to paint like Tingatinga anymore and there are a few signs left in present time paintings subsisting from E. S. Tingatinga's iconography. The Tingatinga way of painting that has been entrusted to the younger generations of painters, has been percolating during the past thirty years, through the Tingatinga pyramid of know-how transfer, from teacher to student, and so on. In this process, the initial input of E. S. Tingatinga at the very top of the pyramid has been diluted, level after level, but it has also been blending at each new stage by the timely injection of the new artists' innovations or improvements of different sorts. Ultimately, what you see nowadays as the Tingatinga style of painting truly represents the time-matured chain-result of a popular school of art, of a popular art movement articulated on the old-fashioned, traditional way of master-to-apprentice transmission of knowledge.

Tingatinga's stroke of genius lay in the fact that he started to paint in an environment where popular painting was non-existing and fine arts painting was minimal. No matter how simplistic his renderings of wildlife might have looked, they were the spontaneous and sincere expression of an original character. His determination radiated confidence in what he had started and became inspirational for his entourage. As of today, the Tingatinga School of Painting has the form of a long and wide constellation of artists, with a higher density in the Dar-es-Salaam area but with patches of stars in Arusha and Zanzibar, and with a few scattered and isolated stars around the rest of the country. Within that constellation, all stars shine, but some are more brilliant than others.

Source: "Tingatinga - the popular paintings from Tanzania" - Y. Goscinny

African Art

The debate surrounding modern art in Africa has been all the rage both inside Africa and outside the continent from the beginning of the century until the last decade of the XX century. From one coast to the other, words ring out: Black Identity, African Identity, the trap of mimicry, the trap of academism, the trap of the international market, the forced marriage of tradition and modernity, the political desire for social art with a social vocation before and after the independence movement. Mixing genres is frequent between still living ritual art, popular art, urban art, recovery art and the art that certain people would like to call sophisticated. Social Anthropologists fight with too few art critics to assert a solely contextual reading. All speeches are good and accompany varied productions of varied talents. Contempt for artists who are conscious of their work has long resulted in there being seen as "sexual psychopaths sacrificed on the altar of acculturation". Attempts have even been made to portray these artists as merely "bastard" products of an impossible synthesis between Africa and the West. People want something that is authentic, true and pure, even if they have to invent it. Artists wishing to paint, sculpt or produce as they see fit have been tossed around, knocked down, and mostly ignored because they only partially participate in the debate from which they are the first to be excluded. (...)

Everybody is willing to subscribe to the idea that Africa is a single unit, provided, however, that the basis and content of this unit are specified. In actual fact, it is, quite paradoxically, a multiple unit.It is a unit of condition, first and foremost. In all of human memory, no continent has had a fate quite like Africa's. On the negative side, this fate is a long succession of hardships, from the slave trade to colonial domination, to post-colonial abuses. On the positive side, it is a sort of ongoing success story, in which the continent constantly gets up after being knocked down, overcomes the gravest of crisis, each time regaining an autonomy that is unceasingly threatened. That is why these issues of memory are so important in today's African communities, as can be seen in it's storybook, film, musical and of course, scientific production. The message is the same in all of it's languages: restoring the greatness of "Africa the cradle of Humanity" and land of notorious empires and glorious heroes.(...)

This is why we can bet that the Africa of tomorrow will be, in people's consciousness and in fact, both a cultural area and a plurality of cultural areas.

source: "An Anthology of African Art- the XX century" - N'Goné Fall & Jean Lup Pivin

Nesbert Mukomberanwa | Zimbabwe

Nesbert Mukomberanwa was born in 1969 in Buhera, in Masvingo province, Zimbabwe. He began to sculpt in 1987 working as an apprentice for his uncle, Nicholas Mukomberanwa, arguably the greatest Zimbabwean sculptor ever and one of the most internationally respected artists of the 'Shona Sculpture' movement, and was a most prestigious teacher. By 1989, Nesbert left his apprenticeship and established his own workshop at home in Chitungwiza. There he worked for nearly a decade, developing his own distinctive style yet at the same maintaining the Mukomberanwa attention to detail and pursuit for perfection. Each piece is meticulously worked and finished, a technique seen in all the work of the Mukomberanwa family.

In 1998, Nesbert relocated to the village of Dema, south of Chitungwiza. In the tranquillity of the bush, he was liberated and free to concentrate fully on his art.

Recently, he developed the 'Village Gallery', where promising young sculptors train in his workshop and their pieces are displayed in the gallery and gardens. Being a strong believer in helping other talented artists to prominence, Nesbert has shown works by selected Chitungwiza-based artists in his gallery. Over the years Nesbert has gained international recognition with recent group exhibitions held in the Netherlands (2001), Switzerland (2002), UK (2002) and USA Memphis, Tn in April/May 2003. He is quickly becoming one of Zimbabwe's leading artist's and one of the worlds most exciting sculptors.

Nesbert Mukomberanwa's "Composer" is dazzling, unique and commands attention. The lines are part of a new wave of modern sculpture. The piece has a wonderfully simple contemporary design of a single note but it is much more. The rough with the smooth, how symbolic. The true vision of an artist/a composer. The piece is sculpted out of Springstone, which is one of the hardest and heaviest stones found in Zimbabwe.

Through this artistic career Nesbert has taken his talent to new heights and set the bar at an all time high. This piece brilliantly combines texture with a contemporary design creating an exquisite interpretation of a "Composer."

Look out for this artists and his works.

Author: Joe Pollitt

George Hughes | The African Modernist

George Hughes The African Modernist

Looking at Hughes’ work one is initially struck by his spontaneity and his imaginative choice of materials for example, the use of spray paint, drawing parallels with American urban graffiti artists the application and fusion of oils, acrylics and fabric paint sends the onlooker into a quandary, even a spin. Hughes uses these numerous materials in order to permanently remain fresh but more importantly to create an interesting dialogue with himself and his audience. One thing that is glaringly apparent is his relentless artistic evolution and what makes his work so exciting is that one can draw few comparisons to other artists, either past or present.

Following no particular school of art Hughes is the ultimate artistic rebel and is in fact creating a new genre as an African Modernist. The closest artist that comes to mind is Julie Mehretu originally from Ethiopia and now a true New Yorker, she also uses a variety of artistic materials but that is where the comparison ends. Hughes is unique, dynamic and wonderfully understated. Once you think you know the work of George Hughes, he suddenly comes up with something outstanding, topical and brand spanking new. There is a distinct paradox to his work, an energetic confusion that incorporates blue prints and polyurethane enamels echoing the complexity of the artist and in this way Hughes keeps himself and his audience constantly interested and captivated.

In his series of paintings, which pay homage to the game of football, Hughes draws interesting comparisons to the way in which life is a game being played out. The constant need to keep the ball in play and the focus on having goals and scoring goals. He has extended this idea into a performance piece highlighting the use of space while kicking a golden football while wearing a pair of gold football-boots. Gold is a direct reference to Ghana’s extensive gold resources in the Ashanti Region and the Ashanti Goldmines.

In the words of the artist: “My works are a diary of introspection, and a residue of self-analysis. They are also an investigation into awareness in relation to the unknown, the familiar, and the essence of being. They are layered with multiple cultural, and poetic undertones that defy singular interpretation. Plural themes and the ambiguous use of pictorial space evident in these works reveal the contradictions of reality.”

Hughes is the artists’ artist, with his unwavering enthusiasm and appreciation for modernity, which seem almost infectious. His dedication and commitment to provide novel and original work is inspiring. Note his understated simple and fluid brushwork, which highlights his artistic ability, combined with his comprehension with the use and application of paint, which provides a sense of depth and a deep understanding of the unconventional materials chosen. Notice his creative use of complimentary colours, juxtaposed by the primary colours and the use of house paint, which sends messages to the audience of perpetual conscious mistakes. Hughes digests and filters everyday common visual language, such as a road signs or an exit sign and reassuringly places the familiar onto the canvas. Those scrutinizing Hughes’ work will detect his apparent obsession with the urinal the WC, the John, the toilette, the bathroom this is derived from America’s uncomfortable neurosis with physical ablutions. Hughes cleverly plays on the word ‘Waste’ and with his overflowing taps and his pissing men, draws attention to and stresses the lazy, disposable, ‘throw-away’, society that the West has become.

It is glaringly obvious that Hughes’ contribution to modern art is tremendous and his work defines him into a category that can best be described as an original African Modernist. His attitude to art is commendable and his contribute to the modern global society is yet to be revealed. Originating from Ghana and now working as a lecturer in the States, his work reflects his numerous cultural identities and defines him as an original global citizen. Hughes’ mixed media pieces are arguably amongst some of the finest artwork being produced in the world today.

For More: http://www.gohughes.com/Author: Joe Pollitt

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Nejib Belkhodja | Tunisia | 1933 - 2007

Néjib Belkhodja was born in 1933 in the Medina in the Capital of Tunisia, Tunis.

Néjib Belkhodja Tunisia 1933-2007
This is merely a whisper being sent out to the world about the genius of the late, great Néjib Belkhodja. He lived amongst us for seventy-four years and consumed life and lived like so few. He had integrity, something that is lacking in the world today. He set such high standards for himself and others around him. He was the man to teach the world about the power of art and the way in which we should conduct ourselves in our lives. It is difficult to put into words the importance of this man. He lived an outspoken existence with courage and conviction. The word Prophet is a word that best describes the giant that is, Néjib Belkhodja.
During his lifetime he was a Nation builder and a world guide. He was often ignored and marginalised yet still he bore the troubles of his Independent Nation on his shoulders. His work is so important, to see it and understand it will change the way you see yourself and all that is around you. Throughout his life the Leaders were fully aware of the power of Belkhodja; a man who would not be broken by the State or who could not be used as a political toy. He suffered enormously throughout his life, humiliated and disregarded by the Nation. On the 16th June 2007 in the Medina in Tunis I heard such pitiful tributes to a man of such stature who, at the end was honoured by hyocrites. He died virtually penniless and his work is jailed in Banks and Five Star Hotels around his native country of Tunisia. You wont see the work of Belkhodja in any Museum around the world. No. His work is too powerful to be released by his jailers. He sheds light on all the World Leaders. He opens our minds to what is the function and meaning of Art. His work develops Nations and his contribution to the world is beyond compare. His departure from this world has come at just the right time; when the world needs him most. Here is a man, who belongs to us all and in his lifetime has shown us the meaning of generosity. His work introduces us to poets and architecture, to calligraphers and musicians. The subtly within the work is breathtaking and he puts into place the order in which art should be seen, heard and spoken.
Born in 1933 his mother was Dutch and his father Tunisian. He grew up in the Medina in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, North Africa. For those that don't know what the Medina is, it is the heartbeat of the city, where all the aristocracy resides. It is a walled city within a city, with narrow streets as arteries and huge colourful studded doors, which break up the continuity of the whitewashed wall. The Medina has it's own language, it own specific architecture. The Medina is the untouchable heart of North Africa. The reason Belkhodja chooses to focus his work on the importance of the Medina is that it is the heart of life. It is beyond the control of modern dictatorship. So his work is about the spiritual heartland of the World. The significance of the Medina in Belkhodja's work is constant. For nearly forty years he focused his whole artistic life around the idea of the Medina and his work reads like a biblical message to us all. His work is invincible and belongs to us all, to cage it would be a travesty of justice. I would like the World to stop for just 2 minutes to Honour the Life of Néjib Belkhodja 1933 – 2007.
The African Medina Final Work by Nejib Belkhodja
This is the final work by Nejib Belkhodja - The African Median in 2007

Monday, 5 November 2007

Julie Mehretu | Breaking the DNA Code of Modern Art

Julie Mehretu is one the world's most exciting if not the most exciting modern artists. Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1970 she started her artistic career in Senegal at the University of Cheik AntaDiop in Dakar at the beginning of the 90's and then moved to the States in the latter part of the decade to study a MFA at Rhode Island School of Design. She now resides in New York and is a well-respected and prominent figure within the artist community. Her background and influences from Africa have really left their mark on the artist's work. Those that have left the greatest imprint are the genuine forefathers of modern African art, artists such as the late Alexander Boghossian, better known as "Skunder", who sadly passed away in May 2003 last year and is dynamic interpretation of all thematerials around him and the brilliant slight pen strokes from the great Sudanese artist, who now lives in Oxford, England, Ibrahim El Salahi, alongside these men is the ever present soft, gentle and finebrushstroke work of Islamic calligraphy, all these elements have had avisually dramatic effect on Julie's artistic upbringing and visual alphabet.When a viewer sees her work they are almost invariably reminded of the artist of the 50's, Willem de Kooning and the Cobra Movement and more obviously, Jackson Pollock and the Abstract Expressionists.One simply stands in utter amazement recognising what it was, they were all desperately trying to say in the troubled years after the Second World War. Julie has answered all the questions and has gone the distance,some might even go as far as saying she is Post Abstract Expressionismbut regardless; she leaves no stone unturned and maps out the new way of seeing. It seems she has taken the ideas behind the works of Jackson Pollock and given them mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, breathing new life and setting the colours, shapes and shadows free. Those that go to one of Exhibition's are surrounded by other viewers similarly astounded; all dumbfounded; open-mouthed and just nodding in agreement, amazement but mainly in approval.She has taken the viewer into another dimension and has seemingly taken a huge leap in terms of the development of modern art. All around one can almost hear the penny drop. Julie Mehretu has seemingly broken the DNA code to modern art. Once entering a room the viewer is absorbed into Julie's world. Her pictures are made up of layers. The initial layer is seemly a light pencil sketch but it is much more than that, it is closer to anarchitectural blueprint for the whole painting. She has combined so many elements into her work it is like looking into the artist's chaotic mind and being in it, then taking steps back from it and allthe while different images immerge and exciting thoughts run hazardly around one head. Julie takes the viewer on a personal tour of her mind and the viewer is drawn into the background having to ignore the foreground and the middle for just that instant, a moment to gather the thoughts and allowing the eyes to adjust. In focus, out of focus; looking at the sketch, then out of focus, looking at the busy middle and in focus and then looking again to the edges, out of focus and then in focus, purely dizzy with all the movement. To those that love art this is a feast rarely experienced. It is as if Julie has taken the onlooker to the fair and gently pushed them through the hall of mirrors on a roller coaster. Her understanding of colour is pure genius considerate with its use and how to apply it to maximum effect. Her wonderful appreciation of the primary colours of the reds and greens create a three dimensional quality coupled with blacks to create shape and movement and more importantly perspective. Playing on variants on this theme, orange and yellow give the depth of colour and the blues and black the overall definition. Julie Mehretu's work is unlike anything you have ever seen or likely to see. Simply put she is by far the best artistic fayre-ride in the world today.
Author: Joe Pollitt www.africanpainters.com

Julie talking on camera about printmaking.