Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Libyan Democracy

The State of the Masses

Here is a audio-book that maybe of interested to those looking for a new look at Democracy.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Shoowa Design from the Kingdom of Kuba

Shoowa Design: African Textiles from the Kingdom of Kuba Hardcover – 2 Feb 1987


The Shoowa people, a small tribe from the kingdom of Kuba, now Zaire, have been designing and making embroidered textiles for hundreds of years. With their complex geometrical patterning and bold colours, these works of art were used in a variety of ways by the Shoowas, as status symbols, dowries, shrouds, religious vestments or as a type of currency. Genuine production ceased around 1905, with the result that they have become collectors' items. This is a study of these textiles and their history. 100 designs have been selected, photographed and analyzed. Diagrams show each design's development from basic motif to complicated pattern. The history of the Shoowa people is traced and the various influences on their designs, such as prehistoric art are discussed.


Author | fastidious one - Published on

Format: Hardcover
Intriguingly enough, Kuba cloth or raffia is commonly known and typically used when mentioning these textiles. The Kuba people refer to themselves as Bushoong, which the word Kuba is actually a Luba word associated with the ancient Bantu Kingdoms. The SHOOWA people are a very small tribe within the Kuba kingdom, and have not been examined closely by ethnographers, so SHOOWA embroidery are recognized and known by a dwindling few collectors. Kuba design has three stages or cycles;

1) Cosmogony
2) The institution of royalty
3) Migrations in the Kasai

The Children of Woot: A History of the Kuba Peoples provides astonishing insights into Kuba origins and the cultures. In fact, the number "3" into "1" and particularly, the number "9" are essential symbolic elements weaved and embroidered into these textiles as tattoos and scarifications worn by women --- "9" being a royal (and divisible) number, as well as the number of Woot's children.

Shoowa and Kuba textiles display this numerical and complex encoded geometrical symbology and dynamic language, as well as other ancient symbols of royalty and power. These designs are traced and rooted in prehistoric human history, showing the development from basic geometric motifs to highly complicated patterns. Ironically, the "prehistoric" human continues to prove to have been more advanced, intelligent and civilized than his evolved successor's notions to accept and concede.

European artists such as Gustav Klimt and Henry Matisse were fascinated with these works --- juxtaposing certain textiles which deeply inspired and influenced their own artistic creations. Matisse even displayed them on his walls, and his personal bedroom had many of them. Some affectionately refer to SHOOWA and Kuba textiles as "Matisse cloths." In 1985 alone (around the year of this publication), it is estimated that over 10,000 pieces of embroidery left the Kasai in the course of the past 20 years. The oldest textiles range from early 20th century, and the most recent works shown are from the 1950s and 1960s era.

Although, Georges Meurant appears to be skeptical of the Kuba kingdom's (mythical) origins and the sort, it is high-time and fitting to rightfully accredit these indigenous people beyond the typical primitive labeling... And, this book is a giant step in the right direction!


The Kuba by Bonnie E Weston
Source: The Kingdom of Kuba

The Kuba live in the Lower Kasai region of central Zaire in a rich environment of dense forest and savanna. Organized into a federation of chiefdoms, the almost 200,000 Kuba are a diverse group of over eighteen different peoples unified under the Bushong king. They share a single economy and, to varying degrees, common cultural and historical traditions. Agriculture is the main occupation, supplemented by hunting, fishing, and trading. The name "Kuba" comes from the Luba people to the southeast. The Kuba call themselves "the children of Woot"— after their founding ancestor (Vansina 1964:6;1078:4).

Praised as "God on Earth," the king, nyim, is a divine ruler who controls fertility and communicates with the creator, Mboom. The royal court at Nsheng is a hierarchical complex of councils and titled officials who advise the king and balance his power. Outlying Kuba chiefdoms are largely autonomous, organized on models analogous to those of the capital but on a lesser scale (Vansina 1964:98-99; 1978:216). Kuba society parallels governmental organization in that it is stratified. Yet the Kuba people prize hard work and achievement, and while position of birth may secure advantage, it is not binding (Vansina 1964:188;1968:13,15).

Kuba religion, however, is not highly organized. The creator, Mfcoom, is recognized but is not formally worshiped. More consideration is given to Woot, who led the Kuba migration "up river" and established matrilineal descent, male initiation, and kingship. Local nature spirits, tended by priests and priestesses, are actively involved in people's lives, notably in matters of fertility, health, and hunting. The Kuba have no ancestor cult but do believe in reincarnation (Vansina 1964:9-10).

Kuba arts primarily address status, prestige, and the court; they are manifestations of social and political hierarchy. Rank and wealth are expressed in extensive displays of regalia: jewellery, rich garments of embroidered raffia cloth, ceremonial knives, swords, drums, and elaborated utilitarian items. Valuable imported cowrie shells and beads embellish garments, furniture, baskets, and masks.

The outstanding Kuba style diagnostic is geometric patterning used to embellish the surfaces of many objects. These designs are woven into raffia textiles and mats, plaited in walls, executed in shell and bead decoration, and incised on bowls, cups, boxes, pipes, staffs, and other forms including masks. All art forms and designs are laden with symbolic and iconographic meaning, and the same is true of the rich Kuba masquerades.

Masking was first introduced by a woman who carved a face on a calabash, the original model for initiation masks. The invention was taken over by men, incorporated into initiation, and remains a male privilege. Once Bushong boys move into the nkan initiation shelter, they can wear masks and make excursions into the village frightening women and small children. More powerful masks are worn by initiation officials. The masked Kuba dancer is, in every instance, a spirit manifestation (Torday 1910:250; Vansina 1955:140).

Three royal mask types exist: the tailored Mwaash aMbooy, representing Woot and the king; the wooden face mask, Ngady Mwaash aMbooy, the incestuous sister-wife of Woot; and the wooden helmet mask, Bwoom ,the commoner. These characters appear in a variety of contexts including public ceremonies, rites involving the king, and initiations. Although their dances are generally solo, together the three royal masks reenact Kuba myths of
origin (Cornet 1982:254,256; Roy 1979:170).

Bwoom is a wooden helmet mask elucidated by varied oral traditions. The Kuba feel that one " 'understands' the why of something if one knows how it 'began'; something is known if it is explained" (Vansina 1978:15). Thus Bwoom is the spirit first seen by nkan initiates; he is a hydrocephalic prince, a commoner, a pygmy, or one who opposes the king's authority. Two traditions trace Bwoom's origin to the reign of King Miko mi-Mbul, who had gone mad after killing the children of his precedessor. Although he finally became sane, Miko would lapse into madness each time he wore Mwaash aMbooy, the most important royal mask and until then the only one worn by the king himself. A pygmy offered the king Bwoom as an alternative. Suffering no ill effects with the new mask, Miko accepted it. A less dramatic version is that Miko, known as a great dancer, was simply seduced by the pygmy's creation and adopted it despite its humble character. In both cases the King is credited with improvements to the mask that justify its inclusion in the royal repertoire (Cornet 1982:269).

As inconsistent as they may seem, each account expresses an aspect of the mask or its character. The identification of Bwoom as a pygmy or a hydrocephalic man is often cited to explain the mask's enlarged forehead and broad nose. Bwoom appears in initiation and is always considered a spirit. The lowly origin of the character is reflected in its description: "a person of low standing scarcely worthy of being embodied by the king" (Cornet 1975:
89) and conversely in its defiant performance opposite the regal Mwaash aMbooy. The two may act out a competition for the affections of the one female in the royal mask trio, Ngady mwaash aMbooy (Cornet 1982:255). Mwaash aM-booy's dance is calm and stately, while Bwoom acts with pride and aggression (Cornet 1982:255). The masks are easily differentiated by material, for Bwoom is carved from a single piece of wood and Mwaash aMbooy is made from cloth and raffia textiles.

Bwoom appears on the nkan "initiation fence" of the Bushong (Vansina 1955:150-151) and in other initiation contexts. Little is known of this mask (or indeed most Kuba arts) outside of the royal Nsheng tradition. A royal mask, Bwoom is sometimes worn by the king. Yet unlike Mwaash aMbooy, Bwoom does not appear at funerals, and it is never interred with the king or other dignitaries (Cornet 1982:270). The costume is similar to that of Mwaash aMbooy: heavy with profuse layers of raffia-cloth, bead and cowrie decoration, leopard skins, anklets, armlets, and fresh leaves. Eagle feathers or other prestigious media are added to the crown of the head when the mask is danced.

Despite regional variations, the Bwoom mask conforms to a distinct type. All styles feature strongly rendered proportions dominated by an enlarged brow, broad nose, and usually naturalistic ears. Typical features include the metal work on the forehead, cheeks, and mouth, bands of beads that embellish the face, and an expanse of beadwork at the temples and back of the head. Plate 8 has these plus patterned raffia-cloth covering the top of the
head, with a fringe of hair. The blue beads set into the white band at the temples imitate ethnic tattoo patterns (Cornet 1982:266), and the design at the back of the head is one associated with royalty.

Kongo at the Met.

Kongo: Power and Majesty

Kongo: Power and Majesty
English | Français | Português

Source: The Met

September 18, 2015–January 3, 2016

Exhibition Location: Special Exhibition Gallery, first floor, Gallery 199

Press preview: Wednesday, September 16, 10:00–noon

A landmark presentation that will radically redefine our understanding of Africa’s relationship with the West, Kongo: Power and Majesty, opening at The Metropolitan Museum of Art this September, will focus on one of the continent’s most influential artistic traditions, from the earliest moment of direct engagement between African and European leaders at the end of the 15th century through the early 20th century. The creative output of Kongo artists of Central Africa will be represented by 146 works drawn from more than 50 institutional and private collections across Europe and the United States, reflecting five hundred years of encounters and shifting relations between European and Kongo leaders. From a dynamic assembly of 15 monumental power figures to elegantly carved ivories and finely woven textiles, the exhibition will explore how the talents of Central Africa’s most gifted artists were directed toward articulating a culturally distinct vernacular of power.
The exhibition is made possible by the Gail and Parker Gilbert Fund and the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund.

The story of Central African art has been told until now with a focus on the 19th century. This exhibition will take a longer view, establishing that Kongo’s great sophistication and spectrum of artistic expression was a continuum, from the time of the first incursions by Europeans along the coast through the colonial period.
“The electrifying Mangaaka power figure acquired by the Met in 2008 was the impetus for this exhibition,” said Alisa LaGamma, the Ceil and Michael E. Pulitzer Curator in Charge of the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. “On view in our galleries for the past seven years, this iconic symbol of law and order has been the object of universal fascination, so we decided to delve deeper into the history and circumstances of its creation. While exploring Kongo’s centuries-long cultural interaction with the outside world, and the full spectrum of Kongo aesthetics, our research led to new discoveries and to this unprecedented opportunity for the full play of the artists’ ingenuity to be admired across a range of genres.” 

European Powerbrokers and Kongo Luxury Arts

Nearly a decade before Christopher Columbus set foot in the New World, the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão disembarked along the coast of modern day Angola. This turning point in world history brought about significant exchanges of material culture across the Atlantic. Cão commemorated his arrival in 1483, as an emissary for King Joặo II of Portugal, by marking the site with a limestone monument that had been carved in Lisbon. That limestone landmark will now mark visitors’ entry into Kongo: Power and Majesty.

Among the earliest African artifacts preserved in the West are prestige items created by Kongo artists who were active in a series of distinct polities positioned across a region that spans what is today northern Republic of the Congo, Angola, and southern Democratic Republic of the Congo. In addition to the celebrated state known as Kongo, the exhibition considers its less well-known culturally related regional neighbors such as the Kingdom of Loango. The Kingdom of Kongo’s elite embraced literacy from the earliest moment of contact, and the survival of their writings on religious and political matters set the kingdom apart, making it one of the best documented pre-colonial African states. Featured in the exhibition are 16th- and 17th-century missives from Kongo sovereigns to their European counterparts, affording a critical African perspective on world events.

From the same period—and a focal point of Kongo: Power and Majesty—are the creations of regional artists that were prized for their refined workmanship and rarified materials. These exotic ivories, inscribed with delicate geometric designs, and woven raffia fiber textiles adorned with related abstract motifs, entered into the collections of European princes and wealthy merchants from the 16th through the 18th century. Most of these, including a series of ivory oliphants believed to have entered the Medici collections under Giovanni de’ Medici (1475–1521) (Pope Leo X), appear to have been sent by Kongo leaders as diplomatic gifts. The scope of this little-known Kongo pre-colonial corpus has never before been presented in an exhibition. Kongo: Power and Majesty will introduce a critical mass of these exquisite, rarely displayed works that are dispersed internationally. Among the celebrated and prestigious historical collections lending to the exhibition are the Royal Kunstkammer of King Frederick III of Denmark in Copenhagen, the Württemberg Kunstkammer in Stuttgart, the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II’s Prague Castle collections, and Queen Christina of Sweden’s Royal Collection, Stockholm.

For the first time, Kongo masterpieces will bring to life a critical chapter of Central African history that precedes colonialism by some 400 years. These early Kongo creations attest to the exceptional complexity of Kongo artistry predating contact with Europe as well as the degree to which its most talented practitioners immediately embraced the ensuing influx of ideas introduced from the outside.

A Container for Power in Kongo Society: The nkisi

The seminal form of expression associated with African art is that of the power figure, or nkisi (pl. minkisi). In the West such works are invariably conceived of in generic terms, but Kongo: Power and Majesty will explore some of the specific historical contexts that led to the development of such complex works. Following his adoption of Christianity in 1491, the Kongo sovereign Nzinga a Nkuwu called for the destruction of all local idols, or minkisi, in his kingdom. At the same time he and successive generations of Kongo kings requested that Christian devotional artifacts be sent from Europe. The exhibition will feature examples of Kongo Christian works that were initially cast from these prototypes as well as those that eventually reinterpret Christ according to a Kongo aesthetic. Outside the Kongo capital of Mbanza Kongo, Christianity was less influential and the creation of minkisi continued to be a significant dimension of the region’s devotional life. Although a Portuguese Jesuit Father is reported to have at once burnt some such “fetishes” and sent others back to Portugal in 1631, no examples of minkisi are known to have been preserved in the West before the second half of the 19th century, when massive numbers of works were gathered through European colonial networks. In recent decades the work of specialists in the fields of Kongo religion and anthropology has defined nkisi as a portable shrine designed to house a spiritual force. Among the important questions addressed in Kongo: Power and Majesty are why no examples of this tradition were preserved in the West before the colonial moment; what were the respective contributions of a Kongo carver and priest to the assemblage of such creations; and what deliberate interventions altered the condition of certain nkisi before they were released into the outside world.

Kongo Chiefly Attributes of Power

Kongo art is associated with the intimidating and aggressive aesthetic of nkisi sculptures depicting male subjects riven with hardware. However, such works were intended to be experienced as part of a far broader spectrum of representations identified with power and leadership in Kongo society. Just as prominent a visual metaphor to the definition of Kongo power is the nurturing and regenerative role of women. Kongo: Power and Majesty will present the full array of forms that framed the person of a Kongo leader—from the distinctive regional regalia of knotted fiber capes and caps studded with leopards’ claws, to staffs of office with finials that take the form of exquisitely carved ivory miniatures, to the seated female figures carved from wood that are positioned in shrines above a Kongo chief’s final resting place. 

Kongo Master Hands

Kongo society’s most gifted artists were in great demand by patrons who required their talents for the production of a diverse array of forms of expression. While the identities of individual sculptors have not been documented, their achievements are known through the surviving artistic record of their creative output preserved in Western collections. Over the last generation, the work of art historians has made evident the aesthetic qualities and carving styles associated with a number of distinctive workshops. These have been identified according to the sites associated with their creations. The presentation of Kongo: Power and Majesty will assemble for the first time the majority of works produced by three of Central Africa’s most talented master sculptors: the Master of Kasadi, the Master of Makaya Vista, and the Master of Boma Vonde.

The Ultimate Manifestation of Law and Order: Mangaaka

A catalyst for this exhibition is a great Kongo landmark that has been a centerpiece of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection since 2008. This massive sculpture of a formidable Kongo leader leans forward to confront the viewer with hands on hips. He is at once a physically commanding and deeply reflexive presence. The carved wood figure was conceived as the nkisi receptacle for an immaterial force known as Mangaaka, invoked over the course of its use through the hardware added to its exterior by petitioners. Over the last seven years this work has undergone close examination and study in relation to comparative examples by art historians, conservators, and scientists. Discussion of these findings with an interdisciplinary international network of specialists in museums and universities has contributed to a more nuanced and expansive appreciation of the significance of this outstanding sculptural achievement.

During the second half of the 19th century, an unprecedented array of minkisi were developed along the coast in response to incursions by colonial traders into the interior and related social concerns. Mangaaka, the undisputed “king and master” among these, was the personification of an abstract force charged with the arbitration of trade disputes. As the supreme adjudicator of conflicts and protector of communities across the Chiloango River region, it was the most ambitious and monumental sculptural form developed as a high point in Kongo expression. Mangaaka features attributes of chieftaincy and a physiognomy that might obliterate those who defy authority and the rule of law. Its displeasure was manifested through chest ailments and spitting blood. It likewise had the power to cure these literally and symbolically acute physical ailments. Slightly under life-size, the carving of Mangaaka’s figurative container required the talents and experience of a master sculptor. Because of the dramatic scale of the representation and the consistency of the iconography, the Italian art historian Ezio Bassani had at one time proposed they were the work of a single atelier. Close study of the corpus, however, has made it evident that they relate to a single genre but are in fact the work of a number of different artists. This will be made apparent to an international public for the first time in Kongo: Power and Majesty. Approximately 20 of these impressive Mangaaka figures survive in institutional and private collections in Europe and the United States. The exhibition will provide an unprecedented opportunity to view 15 of them together, from institutions in Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland, and the United States.

Credits and Related Resources

Kongo: Power and Majesty is organized by Alisa LaGamma, Ceil and Michael E. Pulitzer Curator in Charge of the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Coordination and support have been provided by James Green, Research Associate; Christine Giuntini and Ellen Howe, Conservators; Marco Leona, David H. Koch Scientist in Charge, and Adriana Rizzo, Associate Research Scientist, both of the Department of Scientific Research; Helina Gebremedhen and Remi Onabanjo, graduate interns; and Kristen Windmuller-Luna, graduate intern and Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, all of the Metropolitan Museum. Exhibition design is by Brian Butterfield and Yen-Wei Liu of the Met’s Design Department.

A major catalogue—published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press— accompanies the exhibition, with essays by Alisa LaGamma, John Thornton, professor of African history, Boston University; Phyllis Martin, professor emeritus of African history, University of Indiana; and Josiah Blackmore, professor of the language and literature of Portugal, Harvard University. The publication incorporates original research undertaken at the Met by Ellen Howe, Conservator in the Department of Objects Conservation; Adriana Rizzo and Marco Leona, research scientists, Department of Scientific Research; and Christine Giuntini, Textile Conservator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

The catalogue is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Education programs will be offered in conjunction with the exhibition, including a Sunday at the Met on October 18 at 3:00 p.m. in the Museum’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. A panel will examine Kongo society’s history and artistic traditions in the context of changing relations between Africa and Europe over half a millennium. Featured speakers will be photographic artist Jo Ractliffe, author David Van Reybrouck, and dancer-choreographer Faustin Linyekula. This multi-disciplinary Sunday at the Met program will also include a round-table discussion moderated by critically acclaimed journalist and New Yorker staff writer Philip Gourevitch. 

The exhibition will also be featured on the Museum’s website, including a blog that will host weekly posts by a variety of contributors—designers, scientists, musicians, historians, and others— offering fresh perspectives on the themes of the exhibition. Among the topics addressed will be the significance of body language in Kongo sculpture, exhibition design, scientific analyses undertaken on Mangaaka power figures, and gender and power dynamics in Kongo art.

The exhibition will be highlighted on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter via the hashtag #KongoPower

# # #

August 17, 2015
Image: Power Figure (Nkisi N’Kondi: Mangaaka). Kongo peoples; Yombe group, Chiloango River region, Cabinda, Angola, 19th century, inventoried 1898. Wood, iron, resin, ceramic, plant fiber, textile, cowrie shell, animal hide and hair, pigment, H. 461⁄2 in. (118 cm), W. 181⁄8 in. (46 cm), D. 133⁄4 in. (35 cm). Manchester Museum, University of Manchester (0.9321/1)

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Living with Voodoo

Best of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair | London

Daniel Blom, 'Priest', 2012, Reconstituted wood, iron particles and wire, 34 x 103 x 60 cm, Courtesy of ARTCO Gallery
Daniel Blom, 'Priest', 2012, Reconstituted wood, iron particles and wire, 34 x 103 x 60 cm, Courtesy of ARTCO Gallery  
Daniel Blom is a figurative sculptor and installation artist who utilises the human body as a stage for deconstructing and reconstructing visual form. His polymorphous sculptural figures, often more bestial than anthropoid and devoid of arms and shoulders, reject a human verticality. Instead they balance one-legged on a scaffold perch, such as with Blom’s birdy (2010), or appear hunched in a horizontal mode, more commonly associated with predatory canids, as with wolf (2009).

The white installation space, while maligned by some for its saturation of a certain ideology, is the favoured modus operandi for Blom. He considers the minimal environment perfectly suited to emphasising his raw, austere approach to minimalist sculpture. Materials that can be moulded and manipulated, such as plastic, wood, steel, resin, and fibreglass, accompany Blom’s ideals. Blom is a member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors in London.


Daniel Blom





Daniel Blom is a figurative sculptor and conceptual installation artist who uses the body, its partialized components, and some inanimate objects to translate the concept of order into text and sculpture. As a unit of visceral and conceptual meaning, it is repeated regularly and methodically as a corpus catalogued until meaning is violent and unusual. 

High density polyethylene, iron particles and steel
181 x 26 x 42 cm

In the closed and introverted system of the installation space where obsession, compassion, and humour are not contradictory, structures made of high-density polyethylene, wood and steel, function in rooms that strengthen the specific reductive approach of removing all non-essential elements to concentrate on concept, line and mass to get to the rawest and purest form of an austere minimalism. This awareness of abstraction is rooted in context where the process and the titles of the works suggest larger narratives concerned with the ordinary, the uncommon, and the ideas brought to bear.
As the focus is the simplification and intensification of the isolated form, its expression is in structure-based ordered arrangements, iteration, and seriality.

Plastic, wood and horn
33 x 212 x 40 cm

WOLF, 2006
Plastic and steel
157 x 50 x 65 cm

Fowler Musuem at UCLA

Disguise: Masks & Global African Art

October 18, 2015–March 13, 2016

This dynamic exhibition considers the past, present, and future of disguise - a visual act that can be a mask, a costume, or simply a camouflage. Disguise features exciting new works by twelve contemporary artists from Africa and of African descent who explore the impulse of disguise with optical illusions, street actions, computer magic, and virtual reality. Together these works will engage visitors’ imaginations as they consider the art of masking as a transformative process – one that is informed by a multiplicity of influences, from historical African masquerade traditions to contemporary global culture and digital media. 
The artists in Disguise use a variety of creative mediums, including drawings, photographs, videos, masks, sculptures, performances, and installations to hide identity and reveal issues of social, political or cultural import. The twelve featured artists are: Jakob Dwight, Brendan Fernandes, Nandipha Mntambo, Emeka Ogboh, Wura-Natasha Ogunji, Walter Oltmann, Sondra R. Perry, Zina Saro-Wiwa, Jacolby Satterwhite, Sam Vernon, William Villalongo, and Saya Woolfalk.

Press Release
Exhibition Credits
Disguise: Masks and Global African Art is organized by the Seattle Art Museum and is curated by Pamela McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art for the Seattle Art Museum, and Erika Dalya Massaquoi, Consultant Curator. Major funding for the Los Angeles presentation of Disguise is provided by the Barbara and Joseph Goldenberg Fund, the Shirley and Ralph Shapiro Director’s Discretionary Fund, an anonymous donor, the Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation, Dallas Price-Van Breda, and Manus, the support group of the Fowler Museum. Additional support comes from the Fowler Contemporary Council and the following members: Susan Burnett and Steve Dyer, Bronya and Andy Galef, Sarah and Bill Odenkirk, and Valerie and Brad Cohen.
Image Credits
Top banner image credit:
An Ancestor Takes a Photograph (video still), 2014, Wura-Natasha Ogunji, United States/Nigeria, b. 1970, video, filmed in Lagos, Nigeria, Seattle Art Museum, Commission, 2015. © Wura-Natasha Ogunji.
Animated GIF credits (from top to bottom):
Voo Doo You Doo Speak, 2010, Brendan Fernandes,Kenya/Canada, b. 1979, 4 monitors on totemic structures, mixed media (animation, sounds, architectural sculpture with wood, metal, and plastic), loan from the artist. © Brendan Fernandes, Photo courtesy of the artist.
An Ancestor Takes a Photograph, 2014, Wura-Natasha Ogunji, United States/Nigeria, b. 1970, video, filmed in Lagos, Nigeria, Seattle Art Museum, Commission, 2015. © Wura-Natasha Ogunji.
ChimaTEK: Virtual Chimeric Space, 2015, Saya Woolfalk, United States, b. 1979, installation with five costumes with 3-D masks and video, dimensions variable, Seattle Art Museum, Commission, 2015. © Saya Woolfalk, Courtesy of the artist and Leslie Tonkonow, Artworks + Projects, NY.
The Autonomous Prism / MSK03 (video still), 2010-2014, Jakob Dwight, American, b. 1977, 16 digital videos, looped in continuous playback, DVD for plasma or projection, 4+ minutes, Seattle Art Museum, Commission, 2015. © Jakob Dwight, courtesy of the artist.

Thelma Golden and Marisa Fick-Jordan

and the more commercial story of Marisa Fick-Jordon from South Africa.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Ernest Dükü, Akiineh

The Finest Artist in the London 

When?: October 14-18th, 2015
Where?: 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair
Somerset House, Strand,
London WC2R 1LA
Info :
Bio (pdf)
Press Release (pdf) 
Ivory Coast painter and sculptor Ernest Dükü was an architect and designer before dedicating himself exclusively to his readings and dreams transformed into paintings. It all starts with words, the mysterious heart of life, to shows things than cannot be written.

In Ernest Düku’s work textures, colours, signs are deeply intertwined. Traditional Akan signs engage dialogue with Egyptian, Ethiopian, Caribbean, Christian, Islamic, Jewish symbols to achieve well-balanced, rhythmic and contemporary results. The “mixture” is the sum of all the unsaid words we have in our heads and an open invitation to a peaceful rebirth.

His work constantly questions memory and identity by reading the post-colonial culture and understanding religion syncretism and history. It is everywhere in his latest Akiineh series.

© Ernest Dükü
Kurumaawale @ what a wonderful world. 2014
Drawing on creased paper
Format: 44 x 65 cm

© Ernest Dükü
Tombé du ciel @ metaphisikawale
Drawing on creased paper
Format: 65 x 44 cm

© Ernest Dükü
Seinbolyquement votre. 2013
Drawing on creased paper
Format: 63 x 48 cm

Ernest Dükü | Artist

Prior to dedicating himself to transmuting dream sequences and readings into textural paintings, Côte d’Ivoire painter and sculptor Ernest Dükü worked as an architect and designer. According to Dükü, producing artwork is an act of unveiling; art exposes a visual language that exceeds words.

Texture, colour, and symbols are deeply interconnected in Düku’s practice. Traditional Akan signs are drawn into dialogue with those of Egyptian, Ethiopian, Caribbean, Christian, Islamic, and Jewish cultures and languages. Düku’s latest series Akiineh, deals directly with questions of memory, identity, the postcolonial socio-cultural condition, and religious syncretism.


in Paris
As night falls across Africa bustling cities light up and neighbourhoods begin to buzz, fed by traffic from well-lit roads. In the countryside, meanwhile, villages are plunged into darkness, shutting down the night-time economies of rural communities as restaurants and shops close and children light candles to do their homework.

For Akon, the US-based rap star, the realities of living without electricity are a vivid memory from his youth growing up in Kaolack, southern Senegal. Today, 600 million African people still live without access to electricity, and 3.5 million people die each year from inhaling toxic fuels or house fires caused while trying to light their homes. The project Akon Lighting Africa aims to tackle the problem using a different approach to the usual methods of NGOs in Africa.

Akon and his two co-founders, Thione Niang, a Sengalese political activist and Samba Bathily, a Malian entrepreneur and CEO of the solar energy company Solektra International, believe that what rural African communities need is not overseas charity but affordable renewable energy delivered by fully trained African professionals managing for-profit projects that bring longevity, generate jobs and build new self-sustaining economies. They think this initiative could mark the beginning of an African energy renaissance in which the continent becomes the focal point of a global solar power industry.

For Akon, this second venture into development (he also founded Konfidence, a health and education charity) has been an eye-opener. “There have been a lot of issues and challenges that I honestly wasn’t aware of until I got involved,” says the 42-year-old rapper, who has just completed a Canadian tour and spent the summer on a roadshow with Bathily and Niang that took him from the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, through Rwanda, Congo-Brazzaville, Nigeria and Niger, culminating at the coastal city of Cotonou, Benin, where they inspected Akon Lighting Africa’s projects.

“One thing I’ve realised about Africa is that only the organisations that involve Africans themselves are successful. A lot of corporations that come with their own policies and try and implement them in Africa fail horribly. The advantage we had is that all three founders are African, so we were able to navigate through each country a lot faster.”

Niang and Bathily bring political and economic skills to the project, while Akon admits that his main contribution is his name and the marketing opportunities it brings.

The founders have already made deals with the governments of 16 African states and aim to be operating in 25 by the end of next year. The deals are pre-financed using a $1bn credit line funded by international partners, including China Jiangsu International Group, and distributed by the pan-African bank Ecobank. A Chinese manufacturer supplies the solar panels but, crucially, the workers are predominantly African. The pre-financing set-up means that Solektra International can begin the engineering work straight away, giving villagers immediate electricity. Repayment plans are worked out with individual governments on a case-by-case basis.

The deals are delivering three types of solutions for people without electricity: 100,000 street lamps are being installed in villages; 1,000 solar micro-generators will act as clean energy hubs for communities, replacing old generators that used fossil fuels; and 200,000 household solar electric systems - including devices that store energy to provide LED panel lighting at night and pocket-sized solar gadgets that charge phones and tablets - will be sold at affordable prices to families, subsidised by each African government or local authority. It is a for-profit business, with Solektra negotiating rates with each government to meet affordability targets and with payments structured to ease burdens on national budgets.

“Personally, I don’t think that charities in Africa really work,” says Akon. “I think it just holds the people down longer than it should. I think the only way to build Africa is to build for-profit businesses that create opportunities and jobs for the people locally. That’s why with Akon Lighting Africa we decided to take a for-profit approach. Ultimately, it’s providing empowerment to local people so they can start developing their own economies.”

To that end, the organisation is a month away from launching an academy in Bamako, Mali where young people will train in construction, engineering, clerical work and project management.

“When we launched we sent 20 young people from 10 African countries to university in Marrakech with a scholarship fund to complete the engineering programme and then come back and work for us,” says Niang. “But we then realised this was bigger than that so we set up the academy in Mali.”

However, the project is not entirely bypassing NGOs. Niang’s non-profit Give1Project specialises in mentoring social entrepreneurs and has been key in mobilising young, enthusiastic recruits who carry out the legwork and receive valuable training and employment in return.

“What happens usually is that when people come to do business in Africa, they bring the expertise with them but they also bring the workers, and once they’re done they’re gone,” says Niang. “That’s why many cities in Africa have a lot of solar lights but after three years none of them work and nobody is there to maintain them. So we thought it was important to train the young Africans in the local areas. And it’s important to give jobs to young people.”

Their efforts have been well received by governments seeking greater energy access but struggling to find reliable partners. Akon Lighting Africa holds direct meetings with the countries’ leaders, then with the energy ministers, then with finance ministers and then they set up pilot projects before discussions about increasing scale.

Akon Lighting Africa focuses on rural areas because that’s where the need is greatest. “If you want to make an impact start there,” Akon says. “My thinking is if you want to build Africa, you start from the rural areas because that is the heartbeat of Africa.”

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