A continent to watch for contemporary art is Africa. Earlier this month, the colour, vibrancy and political commentary of South African art was on show against the richly-coloured walls at Bonham’s auction house for the latest sale of South African art on the 21st of March, with many of the artists now becoming known internationally while, a short distance away, the Gallery of African Art is showing the work of two female artists, Ethiopian-born Etiye Dimma Poulsen and the Nigerian Stacey Ejiroghene Okparavero in ‘AWAKENING AND POWER: Artistic Expressions Transcending Time’, both artists building on the artistic cultures of their own countries but reinterpreting them in different contemporary ways.
Poulsen creates animated, expressive men and women derived from the tradition of tribal sticks, while Okpararvero exhorts Africans to find their future identity in the culture of the old, with a call, not of arms, but to art and culture: ‘We are king’s of future’s past awaken each day, in spite of the burial. They tried, they tried to bury us but they did not know that we will rise and take back our thrones. We will rock the cradle of civilisation. The awakening has begun, the time is yesterday, today we rise.’ Art gives great opportunities in particular for women to become economically active, with artists such as Chief (Mrs) Nike Okundaye organising art courses for women in her own country. What it needs is more support from the politicians.