8 African Art Events You Need To See In NYC This May

Okayafrica's May 2016 guide to art in New York City.

Photography by Atong Atem on view at Nataal’s New African Photography exhibition at Red Hook Labs

Frieze New York, the city’s second big week of art fairs, is officially underway, and with it a wave of phenomenal satellite offerings. Most notably is the return of 1:54 NY, the U.S. edition of Europe’s largest contemporary African art fair. Below, we round up eight must-see African-related visual art events and exhibitions to check out this month in New York City.

1:54 NY // Pioneer Works

'Sockhna #3 (2015).' Vincent Michéa. Courtesy of Galerie Cecile Fakhoury.

Europe’s largest fair of contemporary African art returns to New York City for the second time ever in conjunction with Frieze New York. Opening today at Pioneer Works in Red Hook, the 2016 edition of 1:54 NY is showcasing 17 galleries from nine countries and features work by over 60 African and diaspora artists, including Derrick Adams, ruby oyinyechi amanze, Sammy Baloji, Phoebe Boswell, Jim Chuchu, Em’Kal Eyongakpa, Aida Muluneh and Athi-Patra Ruga.

Koyo Kouoh, Artistic Director of the Dakar-based RAW Material Company, has once again curated a series of lectures and panel discussions as part of 1:54’s Forum program.

Okayafrica’s own Ginny Suss and Antoinette Isama actually just spoke on the "Media Platforms for the Promotion of the Arts, Visual Cultures, and Social Experiences of and about Africa and the Diaspora" panel earlier today alongside TRUEAfrica's Claude Grunitzky and the panel's host, Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi.

1:54 NY runs Friday May 6 through Sunday May 8 at Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Nataal: New African Photography // Red Hook Labs

Owise Abuzaid

Nataal and Red Hook Labs are teaming up this month to spotlight the work of six emerging and internationally recognized photographers from throughout Africa and the Diaspora: Atong Atem, Delphine Diaw Diallo, Kristin-Lee Moolman, Lakin Ogunbanwo, Namsa Leuba and Owise Abuzaid. The exhibition, which includes documentary, fashion and portrait photography, explores “multiple themes that challenge accepted notions of belonging and identity; the everyday and the fantastical; the past and the future; the public and the private.”

Nataal: New African Photography runs May 7 through May 15 at Red Hook Labs in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Disguise: Masks and Global African Art // Brooklyn Museum

Zina Saro-Wiwa (British/Nigerian, born 1976). The Invisible Man, 2015. Pigmented inkjet print, 28 ¾ x 44 in. (73 x 111.8 cm). Seattle Art Museum, Commission, 2015. Courtesy of the artist. © Zina Saro-Wiwa

Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, which first ran last summer at the Seattle Art Museum, connects the work of 25 artists from across Africa and the Diaspora who have reinterpreted the notion of traditional disguise. Together, their art explores themes of “race, women’s agency, queerness, the exoticization and eroticization of the ‘other,’ governmental corruption and the limits of empathetic understanding.”

Among the artists featured in Disguise are Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou (Benin), Nick Cave (U.S.), Edson Chagas (Angola), Steven Cohen (South Africa/France), Willie Cole (U.S.), Jakob Dwight (U.S.), Hasan and Husain Essop (South Africa), Brendan Fernandes (Kenya/Canada/U.S.), Alejandro Guzman (Puerto Rico), Gerald Machona (Zimbabwe), Nandipha Mntambo (South Africa), Jean-Claude Moschetti (France/Benin), Toyin Ojih Odutola (U.S.), Emeka Ogboh (Nigeria), Wura-Natasha Ogunji (U.S./Nigeria), Walter Oltmann (South Africa), Sondra R. Perry (U.S.), Zina Saro-Wiwa (U.S./U.K./Nigeria), Jacolby Satterwhite (U.S.), Paul Anthony Smith (Jamaica/U.S.), Adejoke Tugbiyele (U.S./Nigeria), Iké Udé (Nigeria), Sam Vernon (U.S.), William Villalongo (U.S.), Saya Woolfalk (U.S.).

Disguise: Masks and Global African Art is on view April 29 through September 18 at the Brooklyn Museum.

Laolu Senbanjo’s Sacred Art of the Ori // MoCADA

Photo: Suzanne E. Abramson. Courtesy of Laolu Senbanjo.

Brooklyn-based, Nigerian-born visual artist and musician Laolu Senbanjo is having a breakout year. In March he was selected as one of Nike’s 2016 Masters of Air, and more recently he received the holy grail of co-signs from Queen B herself.

On Monday Senbanjo will appear at Brooklyn’s MoCADA for a special evening dedicated to his Sacred Art of the Ori. The event includes a Q&A in which the artist will discuss his artwork and working with Beyoncé on her recent Lemonade visual album.

Join Laolu Senbanjo at MoCADA for a conversation about the Sacred Art of the Ori

and his role in Beyoncé's Lemonade on Monday, May 9, 7-9PM at MoCADA.

Africa: In Fashion & Fabric // The Bronx River Art Center

AFRI-NA-LADI by Sarah Waiswa

The Bronx River Art Center (BRAC) is hosting the second in a two-part series presented in association with The Bronx Council on the Arts' Bronx: Africa programming. Africa: In Fashion & Fabric, curated by Christie Gonzalez and Gail Nathan, shines a spotlight on fashion design and fashion photography from the continent, presenting the work of several contemporary African fashion designers and artists, including Jojo Abot and her AFRI-NA-LADI collective, Archel Bernard & The Bombchel Factory and Victoria Udondian.

Africa: In Fashion & Fabric is on view at the Bronx River Art Center May 6 through June 4. 

Black Magic: AfroPasts/AfroFutures // Corridor Gallery

Charles Jean-Pierre, Liberte Egalite Fraternite II

The multi-disciplinary group show, a curatorial debut for Brooklyn-based curator and anthropologist Niama Safia Sandy, features photography, video installations, paintings and collages that explore “magical blackness” through the past and future of the Black Diaspora.

“The show looks at this idea of magical realism as well as afrofuturism combined across the Black diaspora,” Sandy previously told Okayafrica. “What are the things that connect us? What is the iconography that connects us? And how does that look visually? What does that sound like? What does that feel like?”

The exhibition also marks a debut for our own Okayafrica family, Underdog. Also taking part in the show is Atlanta-based painter and photographer Arnold Butler, Brooklyn-based photographer Delphine Fawundu, Haitian-American painter Charles Jean-Pierre, poet and performance artist Roger Bonair-Agard, Haitian-born mixed media artist Soraya Jean Louis-McElroy and ODDKinCREATE.

Black Magic: AfroPasts/AfroFutures is on view at Brooklyn's Corridor Gallery now through May 22.

Outside The Box – The Nigerian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale – An Axcerpt // Fisher Landau Center for Art

The artwork featured in Outside The Box in Long Island City was originally intended to appear in the first-ever Nigerian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. The “Box” in this case represents “multiple forces and pressures that restrict the creativity of many Nigerian artists today; elements such as the nation, identity, traditional canons, artistic conventions and the shadow of Africanness.” The exhibition, curated by art historian, artist and critic Aguelike Huckoka, brings together the work of four Nigerian visual artists whose approach to art making “intentionally questions and critiques the meanings and forms behind these often-oppressive forces.”

Outside The Box runs April 24 through May 16 at Fisher Landau Center for Art in Long Island City.

Tahir Karmali, Value // The Brooklyn College Library

Kenyan visual artist Tahir Karmali follows up his breathtaking Jua Kali exhibition with a new solo show at the Brooklyn College Library. Value presents a series of portraits of Nairobi’s Male Sex Workers (MSW) with their most valuable possessions.

“What the exhibit looks to do is question your perceptions of value and perceptions of this idea of being a sex worker,” Karmali previously told Okayafrica. “What does it mean to be a sex worker and more so this idea of men being sex workers and the African perception or the Kenyan perception of what men should be doing, what [they] should not be doing. Should they be sexualized, should they not be sexualized and so on. It also has these undercurrents of questioning homosexuality. And also having people relate to them by seeing what their most valuable possession is. What do they value the most and how is that different from what you value? How is that different from anybody else in the world really?”

Value is on view April 30 through September 2016 at the Brooklyn College Library.

The Ethiopian Government Has Asked Olympic Runner In Exile, Feyisa Lilesa, to Return Home

After two years in exile, the Olympic athlete will return home and receive a "hero's welcome."

Feyisa Lilesa, the Ethiopian runner who went into exile in 2016 after bravely protesting the Ethiopian government's brutal treatment of its Oromo population at the Rio Olympics, has been invited to return to home.

After living in self-imposed exile United States for two years the marathoner, who demonstrated by crossing his fists as he reached the finish line and claimed the silver medal, has been extended an offer to return to his homeland and compete for his country once again by the Ethiopian Athletics Federation and the country's Olympic committee. According to VOA News, the runner will return home in the coming weeks with his wife and children.

"Athlete Feyisa Lilesa has scored great results at the Rio Olympics and other athletics competitions enabling Ethiopia's flag to be hoisted to great heights," read a joint letter from the two athletics organizations.

"We want Lilesa to return to his home country to resume his athletics competition and upon his return we are prepared to give him a hero's welcome."

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Image via GovernmentZA's Flickr.

Could Justice Finally Be on the Horizon for Marikana Massacre Families?

New evidence suggests that the police intended to kill all along.

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the Marikana Massacre, when 34 mine-workers were gunned down by police after several days of wage disputes at Lonmin Mine in Rustenburg, North West province. New information was recently uncovered that undermines the police's longstanding claim that they acted in self-defence. If anything, it is a glimmer of hope for the families of the victims that remain left behind in the aftermath of that tragedy.

It was the worst mass civilian killing since the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, where South African protesters were killed for opposing the Apartheid regime. The Marikana Massacre, in contrast, was the tragic consequence of week-long wage disputes and clashes between miners and the South African police.

While media footage appears to show the miners as the victims, police have always argued that they were acting in self defence. Consequently no officers involved have been charged. Instead, the surviving mineworkers face murder charges under the doctrine of common purpose. But unnerving facts have come to light that seem to make the police argument even less likely. This includes the ordering of 4000 rounds of live ammunition and several vans from the mortuary the day before the massacre.

I cannot even begin to unpack my anger and frustration at this terrible irony.

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Remembering Aretha Franklin and Her Heartfelt Connection With Nelson Mandela

In honor of the Queen of Soul's immeasurable impact, we revisit her passionate support of Nelson Mandela, and the anti-apartheid movement, through her musical tributes.

Iconic singer, Aretha Franklin, the "Queen of Soul" passed away on Thursday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 76.

Franklin was considered by many to be the greatest singer of all time. Her influence on popular music cannot be overstated. The legendary artist sold 75 million records and earned 18 Grammys in a career spanning six decades and she was influential in many global social movements as well.

Having been a widely-embraced public figure for so long, Franklin was present for some of the biggest events of the 20th century, including the funeral of Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990.

Upon Mandela's release, the singer played a unique role in welcoming him to the States by performing at a freedom rally in his honor in Detroit. Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson and Stevie Wonder were also in attendance for the historic night. During the celebration, Franklin called the anti-apartheid leader on stage, where he spoke about listening to and appreciating "the Detroit, Motown Sound" while he was in prison.

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