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A glimpse of African Contemporary Art

By Martina Kwenda (Ethelartconnect Creative Writer)

African contemporary art is finally on the rise after so many years of being repressed, it just may be the next big thing. Firstenberg (2003) says “contemporary African art” implies a particular kind of art that has conquered, or, as some would say, has been absorbed by the international art world and art market since the 1980s. Although African art has always been contemporary to its producers, the term has been redefined over the years. In the 1800s African art was seen as curiosity artifacts and in the 1900s it was defined as Natural History Museums and now in the 20th century according to Dr. Klemmi (2021).

 African Contemporary Art is not as popular as European and Western art because it has lacked publicity and awareness. Most Africans were trained in European and American schools so the African expressions are only seen when one connects back to their own roots. The effects of colonialism obscure African art, and the relatively recent introduction of Islam and Christianity has impacted the styles of some African art. 

The seeds in African Contemporary are seen now by the various Art schools emerging and a growing number of high-worth individuals and rapid urbanization in Africa especially in East Africa and West Africa. The goal or of African Contemporary art is to analyze the nature of art itself and make the viewer question what it is that defines art exactly. It is a means of expressing how one views social and cultural commentary. So when you see an African art piece remember most African art has multiple meanings and uses, so when you look at African art understand that it more than likely has a complex back story.

It would be an injustice not to mention that a lot of museums host a lot of unprecedented African Contemporary Art all over Europe and North America. Nigeria hosted the 4th edition of Art X Lagos in the first 6 months of 2019 and 1000 artworks were sold around the art. This form of art is growing because where most Art collectors we western now Africans have joined in the buzz. A lot of African artists have performed on a global scale example include Ibrahim El Salahi, Dominic Benhura, Kudzanai Chiurai, and   Okeke C Uche, Ntiro Sam J  amongst others.


Firstenberg, Lauri (2003). “Negotiating the Taxonomy of Contemporary African Art – Production, Exhibition, Commodification”, in Farrell, L. A., V. Byvanck (eds), Looking Both Ways: Art of the Contemporary African Diaspora. New York: Museum for African Art, p. 40.

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