By Tajudeen Sowole
For most young generations of Africans, the city of Manchester, U.K. is synonymous with football. But currently, art of West Africa is being celebrated in the backyard of the famous coach of Man-United, Sir Alex Ferguson.
About 30 visual artists and musicians from 11 countries in West Africa are showcasing their works in a gathering titled We Face Forward, which is a sub-event of the yearly London Festival. Among the musicians are Femi Kuti and Angelique Kidjo.
Started over a week ago and running till September 16, 2012, according to reports, the show features painting, photography, textiles, sculpture, video and audio installation of 32 artists as well as fashion and music from top artistes of West African descent. One of about six Nigerian artists participating in the show, Victoria Udondian presents a new textile work at Whitworth Art Gallery’s textile collection.
Master of found objects, Ghanaian-Nigerian, El-Anatsui presents In the World But Don’t Know the World?
Udondian’s work is about “combining materials and narratives from Lagos and Manchester, weaving myths and histories into her own textiles, hybrids and questioning how stories become histories.”
The artist says there exists some consequences on the perception of one’s identity when the language of the fabrics one wears is changed fundamentally.
Photographer, George Osodi, who presents one of his Paradise Lost series on Niger Delta, declares that “people are of great value to me, especially what I call the real people. They are a source of joy and inspiration to me. In recent times, the impact of oil in the lives of most oil-producing regions has been highly paradoxical… I want to put a human face on this paradise lost.”
Duro Olowu, a U.K.-based Nigerian designer, said his work is “like my eye, certainly international in its aesthetic, offbeat yet focused. As such, I am always open to the surprise of the new, the technique and skill of the past and the ability of fashion and art to challenge preconceived ideas of taste and culture.”
A U.S.-based Nigerian, Nnenna Okore presents an installation titled When the Heavens Meet the Earth. The work is described as “seemingly floating somewhere in front of the wall; it is partly fixed to the wall and suspended from the ceiling, emerging in relief.”
Benin Republic artist, Georges Adéagbo, whose work is presented at the Whitworth Art Gallery “incorporates archival and found material from the immediate surroundings, illuminating and tracing relationships between Manchester and Cotonou, via the wider context of the UK, France, America and Africa.”
Taking the opportunity of the Olympic Summer, the organisers said, “We are celebrating the global and the local, exploring the links between Manchester and West Africa as part of the London 2012 cultural festival.”
Exhibiting artists are Georges Hélène Amazou (Togo / Belgium), Lucy Azubuike (Nigeria), Mohamed Camara (Mali / France), Cheick Diallo (Mali / France), Aida Duplessis (Mali), Em’kal Eyongakpa (Cameroon), Aboubakar Fofana (Mali / France), Meschac Gaba (Benin/ Netherlands), Francois-Xavier Gbré ( Ivory Coast / France), Romuald Hazoumè (Benin), Abdoulaye Armin Kane (Senegal), Abdoulaye Konaté (Mali) and Soungalo Malé (Mali).
Others are Hamidou Maiga (Burkina Faso), Nii Obodai (Ghana), Emeka Ogboh (Nigeria), Abraham Oghobase, Amarachi Okafor (Nigeria / UK), Charles Okereke (Nigeria), Nnenna Okore (Nigeria / USA), Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso), Ibrahima Niang AKA Piniang (Senegal), Nyani Quarmyne (Ghana), Abderramane Sakaly (Senegal / Mali), Amadou Sanogo (Mali), Malick Sidibé (Mali), Pascale Marthine Tayou (Cameroon / Belgium), Barthélémy Toguo (Cameroon / France), Séraphin Zounyekpe (Benin).
According to the curator, Natasha Howes, the gathering asks the rest of the world to take another look at influence of Africa on globalisation within the context of commerce and environmental challenges, maintaining, “Major new sculptural installations, painting, drawing, photography, textiles, video, sound and fashion ask us to consider global questions of trade and commerce, cultural influence, environmental destruction and identity. Challenging and humorous, curious, noisy, elegiac and eclectic – this is the dynamism of West African cultures today.”
The art and fashion shows hold at Manchester Art Gallery, Whitworth Art Gallery and the Gallery of Costume (Platt Hall).
The music programme, which is being curated by Band On The Wall and The Manchester Museum, also features Diabel Cissohko and Kanda Bongo Man. Others are Eliades Ochoa of Buena Vista Social Club and Toumani Diabaté (Cuba / Mali), Diabel Cissokho (Senegal), Angelique Kidjo with Manchester World Voices Choir (Benin / UK) ; Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra (Nigeria / UK); Endless Journey – featuring members of Mamane Barka and Etran Finatawa (Niger); Kanda Bongo Man (Congo / UK); Jaliba Kuyateh & The Kumareh Band (Gambia); Seckou Keita Band (Senegal / UK). City-wide exhibition of leading contemporary artists from West Africa
Other highlights include new installations commissioned for galleries and parks, concerts with many world-renowned musicians, including AfroCubism, exhibitions of fashion, photography, football and storytelling.
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