Aboudia, Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, Bandoma, Hassan Hajjaj, Paa Joe, Goncalo Mabunda, Hamidou Maiga, Vincent Michea, Zak Ove
Continental Living is a group exhibition of contemporary African art. Displacing a popular British euphemism for European sophistication, this show looks away from the tropes of late modernism in design and couture in the North, towards the cultural lights of Timbuktu, Bamako, Marrakech and beyond. Featuring strategies of appropriation and hybrid stylistics, it showcases fashion, function and self-creation from and about the continent.
The riots that followed the disputed Ivorian presidential election in late 2010 greatly influenced Aboudia's painting. As the violence escalated, daily life in Ivory Coast and particularly the capital Abidjan was thrown into turmoil. In March 2011 the conflict reached a crisis point and the country broke down into civil war. During this period the artist took refuge in a basement studio and began a body of work responding to the horrors of the country's devastating political situation.
Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou (b.1965)
Agbodjelou is one of the pre-eminent photographers of the Republic of Benin, based in the capital Porto Novo. Trained by his father, the world-renowned photographer Joseph Moise Agbodjelou (1912-2000), he has since developed his own individual style in contemporary and innovative ways. Leonce is the founder and director of the first photographic school in Benin and has recently been appointed president of the Photographer's Association of Porto-Novo. His work has been exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery, London, and collected by the CAAC Pigozzi Collection, Geneva, and Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, among others.
Bandoma describes his work as recycling found objects, appropriating imagery from contemporary advertising and magazines, in order 'to breathe new life into them'. In his most recent series, the artist creates imagined portraits of the inhabitants of Congo's sprawling capital Kinshasa. A shape shifting species of genetic mutations, his images are contemporary embodiments of traditional African gods and fetish objects. Bandoma lives and works in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. His work has been exhibited at Focus10, Contemporary Art Africa, Basel, Switzerland, curated by Christene Eyene, and more recently in Currencies in Contemporary African Art at Museum Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Hassan Hajjaj (b.1961)
Hassan Hajjaj was born Larache, Morocco and moved to London in 1975. He now works in between London and Marrakesh. In addition to his photographic art, he also designs furniture, clothing, album covers (for Momo, Blur and Pino Daniele); hotels (Riad Yima, Marrakesh, 2006); bar-restaurants (Andy Wahloo, Paris 2003); and installations. He has shown his work in numerous solo and group exhibitions in London, Paris, Florence, Toronto, Morocco and the Middle East. In 2009, he was one of the eight finalists in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Jameel Prize for Islamic art. His work is in the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Institut des Cultures d’ Islam, Paris; Kamel Lazaar Foundation, Tunisia; Farjam Collection, Dubai; Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond, Virginia; and the Wedge Collection, Wedge Curatorial Projects, Toronto.
Paa Joe (b.1945)
Paa Joe's sculpted coffins blur the line between art and craft. Each work is carefully constructed to reflect the ambition or the trade of the person for whom it was made. They are not dead things but are instead a manifestation of and indeed an affirmation of life. The works are wholly African and are a contemporary embodiment of traditional tribal burial rituals and art practice. They link back to pre-colonial West African sculpture but also recall the pomp and extravagance of ancient Egyptian royal tombs. In contemporary Western art practice the coffins recall Jeff Koons. They too are kitsch - Paa Joe, like Koons, plays with scale and with a work like the Jet, with material and commercial ostentation. The foremost sculpted coffin maker of his generation, Paa Joe apprenticed with Kane Kwei – who is credited with beginning the 20th century tradition of figurative coffins. Paa Joe's work is held in museum collections around the world including the British Museum in London.
Gonçalo Mabunda (b.1975)
Gonçalo Mabunda is interested in the collective memory of his country, Mozambique, which has only recently emerged from a long and terrible civil war. He works with arms recovered in 1992 at the end of the sixteen-year conflict that divided the region. In his sculpture, he gives anthropomorphic forms to AK47s, rocket launchers, pistols and other objects of destruction. While the masks could be said to draw on a local history of traditional African art, Mabunda's work takes on a striking Modernist edge akin to imagery by Braque and Picasso. The deactivated weapons of war carry strong political connotations, yet the beautiful objects he creates also convey a positive reflection on the transformative power of art and the resilience and creativity of African civilian societies. Mabunda is most well known for his thrones. According to the artist, the thrones function as attributes of power, tribal symbols and traditional pieces of ethnic African art. They are without a doubt an ironic way of commenting on his childhood experience of violence and absurdity and the civil war in Mozambique that isolated his country for a long period. Mabunda's work has been exhibited at Museum Kunst Palast, Dusseldorf, Hayward Gallery, London, Pompidou, Paris, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo and the Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg among others.
Hamidou Maiga (b.1932)
Initially trained in Timbuktu as a mason, Maiga's career as a photographer was launched in the early 1950s when he purchased his first camera, a medium format Souflex. At the age of twenty he learnt the rudiments of photography and printing through photojournalism, and in 1958 Maiga opened his first studio in N'Gouma. For two years he traced the route of the River Niger developing a clientele for his distinctive outdoor studio portraits. In 1960 he returned to Timbuktu with a successful business. In 1973 Maiga opened his first studio in Bamako. The period following independence from France experienced a great sense of freedom and confidence combined with economic expansion. European and American fashions became readily available to a Malian audience and energised local culture. Maiga constructed each image using a mixture of carefully chosen props, costume and painted backgrounds, giving them a new graphic intensity with black and white film. His subjects would dress like their idols and a specific film or look would dictate the way they wore their jackets or held their cigarettes. These unique images reflect both his client's social identity within the community and their enthusiastic embrace of modernity. While his precursor Seydou Keita and contemporary Malick Sidibe have achieved international recognition by museums, collectors and publishers worldwide, Maiga's archive of negatives has only just come to light.
Vincent Michea (b.1963)
Vincent Michea creates narrative, often hyperrealist paintings inspired by his hometown, Dakar. Although primarily African, his paintings evoke the Los Angeles shop fronts and Californian petrol stations of Ed Ruscha. Recalling early work by David Hockney, architectural shapes and heavy blocks of primary colour draw attention to the surface of the canvas. Stark shadows cast from the midday sun create geometrical forms, graphics stronger than the subject itself. His work has been shown in important museum exhibitions worldwide including the Musée d'Ixelles, Brussels, Museum der Weltkulturen, Frankfurt, Iwalewa Haus der Universitat, Bayreuth, and the Galerie Nationale de Senegal, Dakar, among others.
Zak Ové (b.1966)
London-based Zak Ové works between sculpture, film and photography. His mission is to reignite and reinterpret lost culture using new-world materials, while paying tribute to both spiritual and artistic African identity. The work is born from his documentation of and anthropological interest in diasporic and African history, specifically that which is explored through Trinidadian carnival. His work portrays the emancipation of personal existence through incarnation with an ‘other self’, showing us the power of play to free an individual from the contained experience of the self. This in turn is filtered through his own personal and cultural upbringing, with a black Trinidadian father and white Irish mother. Ové studied at Central St Martins (1984-87). He has exhibited widely in Europe, the United States and Africa including most recently a touring solo exhibition, "Past Future" at The Fine Art Society, London and the Freies Museum, Berlin.