Ekow Eshun: Why is it so important to be an African artist today?

Ekow Eshun: Why is it so important to be an African artist today?

Echo Eshon is a British writer, broadcaster and curator. All opinions expressed in this article belong to the author.

African art is going through a hot moment. People are very interested in him, but there is still a feeling that African and African art is something of a strange “other” that sits on the ocean and not at the heart of debates and debates. However, it is more important than ever to affirm Africa’s position as a place that has something important to say.

There is a historical trend to imagine Africa on the brink of history, cultural talks and world affairs. But across the continent, there is a powerful exchange of ideas – about who we are and how we live – that is not truly recognized globally.

This is changing. This year, Ghana first appeared in The Venice Biennale, The most important event in the art world, with a selection of stars from artists. Moments like these transform the novel, from an extraordinary extraordinary location to a place where African artists fully participate in the contemporary art dialogue.

John Akumphra worked at the Ghana Pavilion, sponsored by Nana Oforita Eyem and designed by David Adjay, at the 58th Venice Biennale. credit: Courtesy of David Levine

Works by artists such as British Nigerian installation artist Yinka Schoonebar Accra-born director John Accumphra shows fascination with the novels of history, memory, place, identity and race. They are interested in telling and re-telling the story of the role of Africa and African peoples on the international stage. At the heart of their research is the desire to present Africa in a new way, breaking down stories and stories to tell new stories – of potential and openness about Africa.

Yinka Schoonebar: Art must start the conversation

It is not the role of artists – whether from music, design, architecture, or fashion – to portray an original copy of Africa. Their role is to broaden our expectations and thoughts about what Africa can be.

Africa is the place of pluralism. You can stand on a street corner in any given city – in Dakar, Lagos, or Accra, for example – and see different influences, cultures, colors, and patterns from all over the world. This is what you hear in music. This is what you see in the movies. This is what you see referred to in art as well. Africa is not a separate part of the world.

Some people argue that African artists should not be seen as artists from Africa, and we should think of them as artists from the world. Personally, I do not buy this.

“Scrambling for Africa” Posted by Yanka Schoonebar (2003) credit: Courtesy Yinka Shonibare / Stephen White / Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

I think our mistake is assuming that if you are an artist from Africa, then your job is to faithfully represent Africa in excluding anything else.

Your job, as it were, is to be an African artist, and this only means that you have the space, freedom, luxury and possibility to draw from Africa and make this proportions and this heritage what you want, and present Africa not as a fixed proposition, but as a case of possibilities.

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