From representations of the fast pace of city life, the communal relationships shared in villages, to quieter more focused and confronting portraits of African youth, though the works in this show were created by artists from nations as diverse as their form and subject matter, Life Is A Beautiful Colour unifies and celebrates the inherent pride of a shared black heritage and experience that these works celebrate.
Affen Segun is a Nigerian self-taught artist who found artistic inspiration from a young age in the popular Nigerian comic “Super Strikers”. In recent years, Segun has developed a distinctive style. His penetrating portraits of Nigerian youths confront the viewer, and though they maintain solemn expressions their character comes to the fore in the vibrant rendering of their clothing and background. Segun is inspired by the zesty colours and ankara fabrics worn by his Yoruba mother, paying homage to his roots. Similarly, Frank Asso is a technically experienced artist and teacher from the Ivory Coast. His works capture scenes of daily life, centring around women and children. Asso’s impressionistic approach incorporates traditional techniques of weaving and African mats with flatness and fragmentation. His employment of local materials unites his canvas with ochre tints and warm tones which evoke the warmth, joy and atmosphere of life on the African continent.
Likewise, Ivorian illustrator and painter, Alex Gbizié captures scenes from daily life. The inherent joyful nature of childhood is a central focus of Gbizié’s work, taking us back to our childhood memories. Pattern is a central feature of Gbizié’s body of work, with his backgrounds formed by alternating curved, straight, spiral and broken bands of colour that recreate the shapes and forms of young children. These lines, according to Gbizié, are representative of the paths that our dreams and intimate ambitions take. Like Asso, Muramuzi JohnBosco draws inspiration from the traditional technique of weaving by his mother that he witnessed in his childhood. From Sheema District, Uganda, JohnBosco’s artistic practice is informed by memories of the journeys taken from the village of Sheema to the streets of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, the places he has lived in, the experience of city life – the congestion and traffic jams, and the scenes of everyday life of an African city-dweller.
The emerging Ghanaian artist Joseph Kojo Hoggar combines his knowledge of classical art history and contemporary culture to create pastiches that are rendered on sheets and canvases. By appropriating images of distinctly contemporary African themes and inserting them into the composition and form of ‘canonical’ European works, Hoggar subverts the viewer’s reading of the works before them, and brings to the fore the black figure’s subliminal knack for easily being misunderstood. Contrastingly, Qhamanande Maswana is an emerging South African artist whose works centre on the depiction of women. His interest in daily life is clear in his works, as is his pride in his African heritage. In this show, Maswana’s portraits exude a stillness and power provided by the frontal pose of his models. His mastery of tonal modelling and acrylic come together to create a singular portrayal of African youth today. As Maswana says, “My work engages the viewer with the roots and the beauty of black people’s culture in South Africa, especially from the uncontaminated parts. It has a modern approach so as to take the viewer through our daily life experiences.”
Osman Salifu is a Ghanaian artist whose work expresses a fervent pride in his identity as a young black man embracing his uniqueness and heritage. Salifu’s glistening portraits of men and women showcase his advocacy against skin bleaching and its unfathomable trend in recent times. As he says, “this new body of work seeks to address the rampant skin bleaching, which has become common in black society worldwide. I literally want to make black people aware of how beautiful and unique our skin colour can be.” Salifu’s paintings straddle the imaginative and the real-world order where the processes involved are just as compelling as the outcome. Some specifics are definite, whilst others are more reminiscent and symbolic. This gives each portrait a tactile feel and a rich tapestry of entwined techniques.
Exhibition text by Luli Gibbs