Curating

‘Urban Africans: Taboo-breaking Artists’ exhibition took place at the Residency of the Dutch Ambassador in Dakar, Senegal. Featuring Kine Aw (Senegal), John Kamicha (Kenya), Ephrem Solomon (Ethiopia). The exhibition was opened by Mr. T. Peters, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands on May 4th 2016. The exhibition formed part of the OFF program of the biennial Dak’Art 2016. With thanks to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their support.

EXPO Urban Africans Dak'Art 2016
EXPO Urban Africans Dak’Art 2016
Dak'Art 2016
Dak’Art 2016

Exhibition: ‘Urban Africans: Taboo-breaking Artists’ 

This exhibition showed works and short documentaries by taboo-breaking African artists who are not afraid to challenge the status quo. The works offer a glimpse into the diversity of everyday city life in Dakar, Nairobi and Addis Ababa through their eyes.

African artists do not always enjoy freedom of expression. Nonetheless these engaged artists address topics such as women’s rights, corruption, religion, sexual identity and the functioning of the state in African countries. By confronting stereotypes they aim to create awareness and provoke a dialogue on human rights.

Rosalie (curator), Theo Peters (Dutch Ambassador), Kine Aw (artist) at the opening
Rosalie (curator), Theo Peters (Dutch Ambassador), Kine Aw (artist) at the opening
Visitor Urban Africans Exhibition
Visitor Urban Africans Exhibition
Visitors Urban Africans Exhibition
Visitors Urban Africans Exhibition
DAK'Art 2016 OFF @ Residency of the Dutch Ambassador in Dakar, Senegal
DAK’Art 2016 OFF @ Residency of the Dutch Ambassador in Dakar, Senegal
Opening exhibition 'Urban Africans Taboo-breaking artists'
Opening exhibition ‘Urban Africans Taboo-breaking artists’
Opening exhibition ‘Urban Africans Taboo-breaking artists’
Opening exhibition ‘Urban Africans Taboo-breaking artists’
Opening exhibition ‘Urban Africans Taboo-breaking artists’
Opening exhibition ‘Urban Africans Taboo-breaking artists’
Kine Aw (left) at the opening exhibition ‘Urban Africans Taboo-breaking artists’
Kine Aw (left) at the opening exhibition ‘Urban Africans Taboo-breaking artists’
Art academy students from Dakar visit the exhibition: dialogue and discussions!
Art academy students from Dakar visit the exhibition: dialogue and discussions!
Art academy students from Dakar visit the exhibition: dialogue and discussions!
Art academy students from Dakar visit the exhibition: dialogue and discussions!
Art academy students from Dakar visit the exhibition: watching Urban Africans documentaries
Art academy students from Dakar visit the exhibition: watching Urban Africans documentaries
Hand-outs & Guest Book - Exhibition: 'Urban Africans: Les Artistes briseurs de tabous'.
Hand-outs & Guest Book – Exhibition: ‘Urban Africans: Les Artistes briseurs de tabous’.
Le Soleil Senegal about Exhibition 'Urban Africans'
Le Soleil Senegal about Exhibition ‘Urban Africans’

Exhibition ‘Urban Africans’ on Senegalese TV :

KINE AW:

 Kine Aw ‘Woman’s Rights’ acrylic on canvas 2014
Kine Aw ‘Woman’s Rights’ acrylic on canvas 2014

Kine Aw (1977) – Lives and works in Dakar, Senegal
Aw works with paint on large canvases to create her vision, which revolves around the universe of women in the Sahel: round shapes, beauty, tradition versus modernity and themes inspired by her own life as a woman. As a critical voice Aw encourages people, especially women, to reflect on their lives.

She sees Senegal as a modern, yet still very traditional society in which women have a pre-defined place. Many women conform to social expectations and choose the professions they think will be seen as respectable and dignified and are afraid to make unusual choices. There is always a danger of being judged as different. Being a female artist in Senegal is even harder.

Aw explains: ‘It’s a taboo for a woman to move out of the mainstream and become a painter. Yet women should not cultivate the prejudice that visual art is only for men.’ Aw sees herself as a counsellor and cultural ambassador and feels a responsibility to raise an awareness of women’s lives through her paintings.

English subtitles available, click on the cc-button in the video.

JOHN KAMICHA:

John Kamicha ‘Last Supper’ collage 2014
John Kamicha ‘Last Supper’ collage 2014

John Kamicha (1976) – Lives and works in Nairobi, Kenya
Questioning societal assumptions is an important drive in Kamicha’s art. He observes human behaviour and focuses on taboos such as sexual identity, prostitution and Christianity. Kamicha started to think about Jesus as a human being and the life he had lived. For example, he explores people’s tendency worshipping images and uses Leonardo da Vinci’s painting ‘The Last Supper’ as a basis for a collage.

Kamicha: ‘Nobody questions the image itself! I played with it and not that I am trying to tell the truth, but people should be open and discuss, instead of believing Leonardo’s version is what Jesus really looked like!’ In his collages he uses explicit sexual connotations and unambiguous titles.

Kamicha explains: ‘I want to research what happens in Kenyan society. That’s what art is about for me: questioning things, not about adopting a style. I want to wake people up. Why keep quiet and pretend ignorance?‘

English subtitles available, click on the cc-button in the video.

EPHREM SOLOMON:

Ephrem Solomon ‘Untitled’ Life versus Time Series, woodcut and mixed media 2015
Ephrem Solomon ‘Untitled’ Life versus Time Series, Detail, woodcut and mixed media 2015

Ephrem Solomon (1983) – Lives and works in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Solomon addresses human identity and that of Africans in particular, but also of Africa as a continent. What do people want to relate to in local, national and international contexts? What is the role of the population and their leaders in society? These are all questions that inform and inspire him. Symbolism plays a key role in his socio-political work. The chair stands for past, present and future authority and fragments of newspaper articles in Amharic, the language of Ethiopia, show the spirit of a particular period of history.

His main source of inspiration is the city and people around him. He explains: ‘I make faces; sad and neutral faces, distorted faces, because in the real world there is no perfection either.’ Those portrayed bear the burdens and uncertainties of modern life. In his series ‘Life versus Time’ Solomon explores how we occupy the space around us. Ethnicity, class, culture and religion are pre-determined but dynamic factors in our lives, which alter over time and space.