East Africa Focus: What we’re looking forward to at this year’s FNB JoburgArtFair

Africa’s leading art fair is back for its ninth year of showcasing contemporary art from the continent and the diaspora. Taking place at The Sandton Convention Centre from 9 – 11 September this year, the FNB Joburg-Art-Fair looks set to play host to some of the finest works from a far-reaching group of galleries, publications and independent artists.

This year sees emphasis on galleries and artists from East Africa. Aimed at highlighting a transformational moment in East Africa’s art scene, the East Africa Focus will span the works of the greater horn of Africa and great lakes regions from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, to Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan.

We’ve taken a look at the works showcased through the East Africa Focus and highlighted a few of the works we’re most looking forward to at this year’s fair.

Solo artists and collectives

The Nest Collective – Kenya

A Nairobi-based group of artists, the Nest Collective create collaborative works using film, visual art, music and fashion in order to “dissect and subvert the layers of how Africans are seen and unseen, what Africans can and cannot do, where Africans can and cannot go, and what Africans can and cannot say.”

For the upcoming art fair, the collective will be presenting Black Fantasia, a multidisciplinary work that marries film, installation and photography to present various imagined narratives of blackness. In addition to this, The Net Collective will be launching their latest fashion book Not African Enough as well as presenting an anthology of photo-comic vignettes set in an imagined future Nairobi, entitled They Sent You

The Nest Collective | Tuko Macho, 2016
The Nest Collective | Still from the web series Tuko Macho, 2016

Jim Chuchu – Kenya

Another Nairobi-based artist, Jim Chuchu’s work includes films, photography and music. He’s a co-founder and member of The Nest Collective, but his solo works position him as a striking solo artist at this year’s art fair. Presented by Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, his photographic series Pagans will be on exhibit this year. Aimed at envisioning a reconstruction of future-past anonymous African deities, the series attempts to reconstruct pre-colonial religious practices in Africa. The series is an arresting and affecting photographic narrative that showcases itself in striking black and grey imagery. Pagans is also Jim’s first solo exhibition. 

Jim Chuchu | Pagans XIV, 2014
Jim Chuchu | Pagans XIV, 2014

Sanaa Gateja – Uganda   

Widely known as ‘The Bead King’ of Uganda, Sanaa Gateja is an artist and jeweller who works with beads fashioned from recycled paper. Sanaa’s approach to art is largely spiritual. His environmentally conscious medium of recycled materials is one that connects him to the earth and his themes, he says, are universally human. Anchored in patterning and eye-catching in their use of colour, the artist’s works are intricate and evocative, seemingly unfolding as the eye moves across them. Sanaa’s works will be featured as site-specific installations and will be presented by Afriart Gallery. 

Sanaa Gateja | Beadwork for The Global Africa Project
Sanaa Gateja | Beadwork for The Global Africa Project

Aida Muluneh – Ethiopia

Originally born in Ethiopia, an itinerant childhood between Yemen and England took up much of Aida Muluneh’s childhood years before the artist finally settled in Canada in 1985. After graduating from Howard University, she worked as a photographer for the Washington post and had her photographs published in a number of different publications. It is perhaps this roving lifestyle that influences Aida’s complex and pensive imagery. Titled the world is 9, Aida’s latest series of photographic works stems from a saying of her grandmother’s in which she stated “the world is 9, it is never complete and never perfect.” On show at this year’s art fair, the photo series questions life, love, history and whether one can live in the world with full contentment, through a series of colourful, contrasting and immersive portraiture. Aida is also the founder and director of Addis Foto Fest and FanaWogi which supports contemporary artists in Ethiopia. 

Aida Muluneh | Putting it Together 2016
Aida Muluneh | Putting it Together, 2016

Wangechi Mutu – Kenya 

By now you’ll know that this year’s Featured Artist is the Kenyan-born Wangechi Mutu. As the featured artist, Wangechi’s work will embody the curatorial focus on the contemporary art practices of East Africa and the diaspora. The artist will have two works on show, namely Sleeping Serpent II (2016) a sculpture work which forms part of Wangechi’s broader investigation into contemporary versions of Mythological and imaginary beings while using the ocean as a metaphor for human fear and the subconscious. The second work will be The End of Eating Everything (2013), an allegorical short film set in a post-apocalyptic landscape which deals with the idea of rebirth through implosion. Wangechi’s works will be sponsored by art-focussed spatial development project, Keyes Art Mile.   

Wangechi Mutu | Nguva, 2013 and Sleeping Serpent, 2014.
Wangechi Mutu | Nguva, 2013 and Sleeping Serpent, 2014.

Galleries and platforms

Addis Fine Art – Ethiopia

Founded by Rakeb Sile and Mesai Haileleul in 2013, Addis Fine Art is a gallery that specialises in contemporary African Art, with particular focus on art from Ethiopia and its diaspora. On exhibition will be the select works of their artists which range from oil on canvas works to fine art photography and multi-media works. 

Addis Fine Art | Tamrat Gezahegne's  Indigenous Sky II, 2015
Addis Fine Art | Tamrat Gezahegne’s Indigenous Sky II, 2015

Kuona Trust – Kenya

Kuona Trust, Centre for Visual Art is dedicated to the generation, presentation and promotion of innovative contemporary visual arts practice in Kenya. Since they founded in 1995, Kuona Trust has worked with over 1500 artists giving them skills and opportunities to advance themselves while increasing the profile and role of the visual arts in Kenya. On exhibition at this year’s art fair will be a selection of works from a variety of their artists across a number of artistic mediums. 

Osborne Macharia | Kuana Trust
Kuana Trust | Osborne Macharia’s Kabangu, 2016

Circle Art Agency – Kenya 

Situated in Nairobi, the Circle Art Gallery exhibits carefully curated, challenging and thought-provoking contemporary art, and provides a venue for presentations from local and international artists, curators, art critics, collectors and academics in East Africa. Working with a diverse group of artists across East Africa, Circle Art Agency’s exhibition will showcase a multiplicity of works across mediums of photography, sculpture, painting, and print works.  

Dennis Muraguri | Circle Art Gallery
Circle Art Gallery | Dennis Muraguri’s Matatu, 2015

Addis Foto Fest

Organised biannually, the Addis Foto Fest (AFF) is the first international photography festival in East Africa. Founded in 2010 by Aida Muluneh, the festival features exhibitions, portfolio reviews, conference and awards. It aims to provide a platform for photographers from Africa to develop their craft and gain exposure to international audiences. 

Tahir Karmali
Addis Foto Fest | Tahir Karmali’s Jau Kali, 2016

If you’d like to find out more about the FNB Joburg Art Fair, head over to their website and keep an eye on our site in the days leading up to the event for more.   

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