Events

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.
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Still from "Kasala!"

Meet The Nigerian New Wave Director Behind the Film 'Kasala!'

One of Naija cinema's new wave, Ema Edosio talks about what it took to film her exciting new film in the streets of Lagos.

Ema Edosio is the director of "Kasala", a comedy set in present day Lagos and centers on the lives of four young men who go on a joyride to a party in a Honda Accord one of them has taken from his boss Taju without permission. Their evening is ruined when one of them crashes Taju's Honda breaking the windscreen and denting the car's body. With just four hours before Taju returns home, all four boys hustle around Lagos to raise money for the car repair.

Taju, who is a struggling butcher, is faced with a big problem of his own: his debtor has just given him an ultimatum to pay back money he's long owed. Bitter and frustrated, Taju's retribution will be double-fold, if he returns home to find his Honda is damaged. The four friends do not need more another reason to expect the worse from Taju if they're not able to fix his Honda before gets home in the next four hours.

"Kasala" is a vivid portrayal of contemporary Lagos and a riotous combination of physical comedy, inventive turns of phrases combined with fluid camera work and committed performances from some of the young and bright African acting talents.

Written by Temi Sodipo and directed by Ema Edosio—who is also the cinematographer and editor—"Kasala" was chosen for the closing gala of the 2018 edition of Film Africa in London this November, out of a total of 39 films from 15 countries.

Edosio flew into London for the film's UK premier at the Rich Mix cinema to a largely pan-African crowd who lapped up the rollicking comedy. Ahead of her trip to the UK, Okay Africa spoke to Edosio about her debut feature, the joys and challenges of shooting on location in Lagos and the rise of Nigeria's so called "Naija New Wave" cinema.

Photo courtesy of Ema Edosio


The fast pace and energy in Kasala is constant all through the film. Was this a deliberate injection or did it come as a result of the writing?

I worked as a video journalist for the BBC and I would go into the streets of Lagos to film, and I would see everything that made Lagos what it is: the traffic, the smell, the dirt, the vibe, the energy, the people. And I wanted to make a story that is authentic and that is the reason why I decided to make Kasala this way.

All the four friends and main characters jell naturally it would seem. How did you get them to work well together?

When I conceived of the film, I knew that I didn't want to work with any "known" faces. I knew that I wanted unknown actors. So I put out an audition call and these boys worked into the room and I told them to read together. And immediately it was like magic.

Why do you think they're largely unknown to the majority of Nigerian movie watching audience?

I think one of the reasons is there's not a lot of movies written about young people. Most of the scripts are for a certain kind of male character: the superhero who goes to save the damsel in distress, and the hunk and a lot of roles are not written for these amazing actors and that's why they're largely unknown.

Tomiwa Tegbe who plays "Effiong" is a good comic actor and has been in "On The Real (Ebony Life TV)" and "Shuga (MTV)". What does Kasala bring out in Tomiwa Tegbe that these other directors and film material that do not?

The thing that made Tomiwa Tegbe and the rest stand out in Kasala is that I gave them freedom to act and I wasn't micromanaging them. They became very comfortable in order to do their best to the film.

The cast as a whole is largely new and young with Jide Kosoko easily the most experienced. Why did you cast him for the role and not yet another "unknown" face?

The reason is I couldn't afford to hire known faces to work in the film and I honestly didn't have the budget. I [also] wanted to bring in a sense of familiarity and that is why I got Jide Kosoko. Even though they're guys are unknown, and they're are fantastic "here is someone you know who is in this movie playing with these amazing actors" which is why I worked with Jide Kosoko.

The different locations in the film are those of back corners, mechanic garages, meat market, communal flats most of which have the red and brown of rust and decay gives the cinematography a visual harmony. How much attention did you give to finding the right locations?

I think I made Kasala with a vengeance. I've had the privilege to work with Ebonylife tv which was beautiful but Kasala kept pulling me in: the people I met in the streets, the things I'd done on the streets of Lagos, the visual aesthetic kept pulling and I decided to make that. I wanted to see Lagos, I wanted to see barbwires. I wanted to see gutters, I wanted to see the people. I knew that the location was a character on its own. And I wanted to be able to find the right location that would be able to represent that boys and the lives they live in Lagos. I'm forever grateful for the people there who let us film there.

Your camera adopts the often frenetic pace of the film and is rarely still for long. Why this visual approach?

I'm very influenced by Guy Ritchie, Edgar Wright, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese. And I would always say to myself that "these characters in their films can be Nigerians". I think that the camera should be fluid, breathe, move with the audience showing us "oh yeah this is a wide, oh yeah this is a close up". My influence by these directors was what I put into Kasala. And this is what made the film dynamic.

Are there any interesting, unplanned events during shooting which you could share with our readers?

Shooting in Lagos is one of the hardest thing to do. You have these agberos [louts] who come to you and literally want to take your equipment. I went with a very small crew and I'm very petite and they would see me and say "who is this small girl? She doesn't have money. Leave her alone, let her shoot". I started bringing them into the film to act and it was very beautiful seeing them react to it. One of the most interesting things is the children in the estates [on location] who act in the film, the joy and the playfulness. In some ways we brought back some joy and some fun into the neighbourhood.


Still from "Kasala!"

Did you worry much about what may be lost to foreign audiences who may not be clued up the pidgin English and "Nigerianisms" used in the film?

You can't come to Lagos and make a film about the slum in English. I felt like the pidgin English was as important as the location. My mind was not about where the foreign audience would accept it or whatever. My mind was "how do I make a film that is authentic to Nigeria? How do I make a film that would show of Lagos?" It would do no justice to use English.

Who are the other key players in Nigeria's "nu wave" film and tv you would like to highlight?

When you talk about new wave key players you're talking about Abba Makama whose film "Green White Green" inspired me to make "Kasala". CJ SeriObasi, ImoEmoren, Jade Sholat Siberi, Kemi Adetiba. So many new directors are springing out nollywood. And they're new directors making amazing stuff. I'm really really excited about the future.

How did you raise the funding needed to make "Kasala"?

When I wanted to make Kasala, it was not the kind of story people would fund. I decided in order to bring this story to live, to use the skills I'd gained over the years—to produce, direct, shoot and edit. Not because I wanted to be in control, because I didn't have the budget. That is the sport of new director coming in now. We're fighting against all odds and it is now beginning to be clear that it's way beyond nollywood. Kasala has been to over 20 international festivals and counting. And there an audience for our films, there's an audience for our voices.

What are you expectations for it at the festival?

I really don't know what to expect. I just hope that they love the film. For the Nigerians in the diaspora,I hope that it brings back memories of Lagos. For black people I hope it gives them a sense of how we are back home to help them connect with us as Africans. For the foreign audience I hope that they see a Nigeria of passion, of community, of tenacity, of brotherhood of love.

"Kasala" will be released worldwide on December 7th

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Indomie: Unpacking a Nigerian Tradition

What does Nigeria's way of preparing this beloved brand of instant noodles say about the country as a whole?

Before I came to Lagos in September to begin a collaborative performance project, I imagined all the ways the place would challenge all I had read and heard about it, and all the ways it might remind me of my home, Trinidad and Tobago. Of all the kernels of similarities I've encountered so far, Indomie is perhaps the most intriguing.

Indomie, a brand of instant noodles originating in Indonesia, has become the household name for all instant ramen noodles in Nigeria.

As a child, I would make Top Ramen, but ours was far less intentionally adorned. I had never seen anyone add anything but Golden Ray. I would try to be fancy with my own and add eggs, but they never quite attained Naruto ramen standards.

Indomie was my first meal in Nigeria. I had arrived in Lagos about two hours earlier. In those two hours I had seen something of the character of the city. In the midst of the clouds of dust and engine exhaust fumes I saw a woman almost fall out the car she was getting into, I saw men sitting atop a truck, like wrinkles in the night sky fabric, I saw selling, so much selling and buying and haggling. It seemed to me that everything was happening here.

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Fela Kuti's 'Zombie' Is Coming Out On Limited Edition 8-Track

"Zombie" and "Mr. Follow Follow" are available in the nostalgic 8-track cartridge.

"Zombie," Fela Kuti's 1976 protest anthem and scathing attack on the Nigerian military, is getting an 8-track re-release.

Knitting Factory Records, Kalakuta Sunrise and Partisan Records have made 300 limited editions copies of Zombie/Mr. Follow Follow which you can pre-order now ahead of its December 7 release.

Fela Kuti's classic song uses zombies as a metaphor for soldiers mindlessly following orders. The song is thought to have triggered the Nigerian government's horrific assault on the Kalakuta Republic, in which the compound burned to the ground, Fela was brutally beaten and his mother, Nigerian feminist icon Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, was murdered.

You can pre-order Zombie/Mister Follow Follow on 8-track now and read more about each song from Mabinuori Kayode Idowu's text accompanying the release below.

Purchase Fela Kuti's Zombie/Mr Follow Follow on 8-Track

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