art me africa

Design that Fela: Ghariokwu Lemi

Posted in Uncategorized by artmeafrica on December 24, 2008

Yellow Fever, 1976In 1976 the Black President of psychedelic Afrobeat sex, Fela Anikulapo Kuti churned out over half a dozen albums, and his Kalakutu Republic compatriot, Ghariokwu Lemi designed nearly all of them. For the two artists, 1976 marked a year of collaboration and medley of design possibility. In his only minimalist album cover for Fela, Zombie, Lemi matched Tunde Kuboye‘s photograph of painted boys into plastic toy nightmares to Fela’s siren to sing, make love ‘n art, and smoke against Nigeria’s corrupt government’s brutality. The cover marks a departure from the visual vocabulary of buxom lady(ies) of Yellow Fever and several of Fela’s pre-76 covers, Zombie acts like a serum to commence peaceful, yet confrontational protest. But the trajectory and use of photography didn’t last long. Lemi’s other ’76 works, Upside Down, Ikoyi Blindness, No Bread, and Before I jump like a monkey give me some banana, are collage, comic book-esque illustrations defined by anxious colors and protest scenarios that report atrocity with the most casual glance. Though the duo’s cover theme contrasts are subtle, the jump from ladies to calm protest to political comics signifies shifts in Nigeria’s political landscape, and a definative artistic response. But don’t think Lemi’s work stops at Fela’s albums. Beside other covers (including some with darlings in aviators) his recent illustrations like Anoda Sistem (2002) continue to portray Nigeria’s political landscape with wit and humanity. For more check out Lemi’s myspace, it’s worth the trip.

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Montage Me Congo Mr. Baloji

Posted in africa, photography by artmeafrica on December 10, 2008

Gégamines, 2006

A Lubumbashi gent born and raised, Sammy Baloji is the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s mix-master of subversive photo montages. Circumventing the impulse to snap easy pix of rundown landscapes and rust or depressing images of peeps amid war ‘n economic depression, Baloji’s 2006 series “Mémoire is an aesthetic contortion of Dada meets nouveau photoshop geek with more than a dollop of regional history smeared ontop. Digging into the archive, Baloji extracts b&w images of migrant mine workers from the early 20th Century and superimposes them over contemporary shots of the now abandoned industrial landscape. The mines, established by sadistic Belgians ‘n Congolese in 1908 for the Congo Free State colonial enterprise, fell into disrepair once ole Mobutu (think leopard patterned hat) caught hold of ’em in ’66, and have since become a Bermuda Triangle for power games. Yet despite the bloody history packed into the series, Baloji’s work possesses an air of dignity, as if his photographic cut outs, once victimized by colonial contests, have returned to lay claim to their labor.

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Sammy’s Spectacular Closet

Posted in africa, art, photography by artmeafrica on December 7, 2008

You’ve seen his work and it sort of reminded you of Cindy Sherman meets Malik Sidibé so you already love him, but you can’t remember his name— he’s Samuel Fosso, the damn fine lookin’ gent who transformed traditional West African studio photography from family photos+fabrics to a gender bending, power transgressing tableaux. Shuttering himself into the handsomest Samuel he can be since the mid-1970s, first in black and white and later in color, the roster of role-portrait Samuels range from tribal salesman (see Le Chef) to liberated 70s disco cowstress to his grandfather’s dream. Born in Cameroon, raised in Nigeria, residing in Central African Republic, rumor has it Fosso began churnin’ out the auto-portraits at breakneck awesomeness to send home to Mom in Nigeria. But canards or grapevines aside, since entering the international stage as the star of Okwui Enwezor’s mega show In/sight: African Photographers 1940 to the Present, Fosso’s gender, power, and expectation bending photos have been everywhere. So if you don’t know him, get to it, cause he’s one sassy lens daddy.