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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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.

InReview: Grace Ndiritu and Poetics of the Cloth African Textiles/Recent Art

Posted in africa, art by artmeafrica on November 23, 2008

On exhibit at NYU’s Gray Gallery Poetics of the Cloth African Textiles/Recent Art is an awkward shot-gun marriage between shiny trash turned fine art and yet another conservative, banal stab at curating African work. There is El Anatsui, the renowned Ghanian bad ass of scrap metal and and golden bottle tops; Sokari Douglass Camp, a Nigerian politial practitioner of recast scrap metal; and other textile imaginators who weave ‘n torque patterns out of anything but their grandparent’s sewing kits. Standing outside the cloth-metal crowd is Grace Ndiritu, a video cloth temptress extraordinaire hailing from the U.K. and immigrant parents. Whether training her lens on women’s blue scarfed heads in slowmo that make lonely planet traveler home videos look like a sham or recording herself defiantly wrapping and unwrapping herself into a temptpress in the Nightingale (2003), Ndiritu becons our voyeuristic desire to glaze over and gaze.

Sadly, the wall scribblers tacked up the interesting details in a small font, letting the oversize letters discourse like its 1999 all over again: really, how many more times does a university gallery need to reiterate that art is everywhere in baby-step language? While wall text shouldn’t leave the art impaired shipwrecked in jargon, the show’s curators over did it. And to make matters worse, The New York Times‘s Karen Rosenberg butchered it further. Opening her review with “to the casual Western eye “African art” equals “African sculpture” [and as this] exhibition makes clear, this picture is laughably outdated,” Rosenberg ironically opted not to mention that minus the wall hangings and a tv, the exhibit is sculptures. And as if Rosenberg hadn’t already sewn herself into a rhetorical quagmire, she later laid the misinformation down by penning “One of the show’s discoveries, Grace Ndiritu…” as if Ndiritu work hadn’t been reviewed in Frieze in 2007 or  given a shout out in Holland Cotter’s (i.e. NYTimes ole man of art reviewing) April ’08 review of Flow, which showed at the Studio Museum of Harlem. Apparently writing for The New York Times doesn’t necessitate reading it anymore.

But trash talk aside, catch the show: it‘s on view ’til December 6th.