African art stars you don't want to miss at Venice Biennale 2022
As the 59th international contemporary art fair kicks off in the city of canals, Sub-Saharan Africa will be well-represented with eight pavilions that showcase thought-provoking art from the region.
Cameroon: Angele Etoundi Essamba
African artists have long lacked representation at the Venice Biennale; the 2007 fair had only one African pavilion. Fifteen years later there are eight, including the Cameroon pavilion, which features work by photographer Angele Etoundi Essamba, among others. Her mission to "portray womankind" is reflected in her images of women who radiate strength and independence.
Uganda: Collin Sekajugo
Along with Cameroon and Namibia, Uganda is participating at Venice for the first time. Multimedia artist Collin Sekajugo presents "Radiance: They Dream in Time," which explores the theme of identity through collage images. Sekajugo is often the central figure in works that reflect on his multi-ethnic background — his mother is from Rwanda, his father from Uganda.
Controversy has surrounded the entry from Namibia. Local artists have petitioned against the work by "RENN," a 64-year-old white artist, arguing it presents racist and colonial views of Indigenous peoples. The main sponsors of the event subsequently withdrew, the project "The Lone Stone Men of the Desert" was cancelled.
In 2019, Ghana made its acclaimed debut at the Venice Biennale. In 2022, Nana Oforiatta Ayim is once again curating Ghana's pavilion, which presents a group show entitled "Black Star: The Museum as Freedom." Afroscope, one of the displaying artists, presents "Ashe," a work exploring the confluence of spirit, technology and elements such as water to depict dreamlike alternative realities.
Ivory Coast: Laetitia Ky
Artist and feminist Laetitia Ky has a devoted Instagram following due in part to the art she creates with her hair, which she shapes into diverse symbols and figures. Her art seeks to draw attention to colonial structures that continue to prevail on the African continent. These include the predominance of Western beauty ideals among women, especially in terms of their hair styling.
Kenya: Kaloki Nyamai
For the Kenyan pavilion, Kaloki Nyamai contributes works that explore, among other things, the history of the Kamba communities, an ethnic group in eastern Kenya. In doing so, he engages with the orally transmitted histories and stories of his community and his own fragmented cultural memory. His work shifts between the figurative and the abstract.
South Africa: Lebohang Kganye
Representing South Africa at the Biennale alongside two other artists, Lebohang Kganye is an emerging young artist who works primarily with photography, though she also creates sculptures, performances and installations. Kganye creates imagined scenarios in her photographs by incorporating archival elements and figures from family histories but also theater and literature.
Zimbabwe: Terrence Musekiwa
Sculpture surrounded Terrence Musekiwa from a very young age; at five he was already helping his father with traditional stone carving. His visual language wrestles with conventions: He wants to simultaneously challenge Zimbabwean tradition and pay homage to it. His anthropomorphic sculptures are on show at the Zimbabwean pavilion at the Venice Biennale, which runs from April 23 to November 27.