Arts + Culture

15 African Artists To Follow On Instagram Now

A list of 15 African artists who are captivating us with their gallery-worthy Instagram feeds.

Gone are the days when you had to visit a gallery or museum—where works by black artists are usually underrepresented—to see the latest in fine art. Some of the most striking visual art is literally at our fingertips—a well curated Instagram feed can be a pathway to some of the best in what the contemporary art world has to offer. The social media site has made various forms of global art much more accessible.


Some of our favorite artists share their work via Instagram on a regular basis—bringing thoughtfulness and color to our timelines on the daily. Scrolling through their feeds certainly beats looking at random selfies of people we haven't talked to in over 5 years.

Check below for our list of 15 African contemporary artists to follow on Instagram.

Lina Iris Viktor 

With her selective color palette of blue, black, white and gold, the Liberian artists, transfixes black woman in multilayered universes. Her eye-catching work draws inspiration from her travels in Mali, South Africa and Egypt. We featured the artist in OkayAfrica's 100 Women.

Laolu Senbanjo 

His unmatched black-and-white line work, "The Sacred Art of the Ori," was featured in Beyoncé's Lemonade, and draws heavily on themes of Yoruba culture and spirituality. You can find the Nigerian-born artist's work on a range of canvases: paper, clothing, sneakers,  bodies and—most commonly—faces.

Toyin Ojih Odutola 

The Nigerian artist's drawings often portray black subjects with a textured overlay on their skin, giving her work a multidimensional radiance. Aside from sharing her own original paintings on her page, she also posts works that she's come across through personal research, which makes her feed a rich source for modern black art.

Wangechi Mutu

The Kenyan artists latest collection, "Ndoro Na Miti" saw her departing from her signature aesthetic of intricate collage work, to create an assemblage of glossy sculptures that portray mythical "guardians of female identity," as OkayAfrica contributor, Nadia Sesay, describes them.

WaterWoman and others have arrived. We did it! Ndoro na Miti 'Mud and Trees'

A post shared by Wangechi Mutu Studio (@mutustudio) on

Ndidi Emefiele

The mixed media artist—who hails from northern Nigeria—posses a singular style that celebrates the feminine form with animated paintings of youthful black women, often rocking quirky frames and Ankara-print clothing.

We got a chance to speak with her last year about her collection, "The Rainbow Series," which the artist describes as "a reaction to the anomalies in society particularly focusing on the female."

Taxi#bouttotakeoff #ndidiemefiele

A post shared by Ndidi Emefiele (@ndidi_emefiele) on

Neequaye Dreph Dsane

Born in Nottingham, England the skillful muralist's work "presents an alternative black British narrative," often featuring friends and people he's met during his travels, like in his latest series "You Are Enough." His stylized portraits have been featured in public spaces across Africa, Central and South America, Europe, and the UAE.

The 4th Subject from my ‘You Are Enough’ series is Mimi Fresh @FireMoonFresh. Mimi is my GF’s BFF (and my dance partner 😂). Mimi Is actually the first person I approached for this series and one of the last I am painting; this should tell you something about her complex character. She is an influencer who is reputed for turning heads and rocking the ‘@Afropunk’ style before it became popular. When I first met Mimi, what struck me was her youthful energy, free spirit and outlandish style. She is a rolling stone that has worn many hats including, styling, dj’ing, dancing, jewelry design and holistic therapy. Today Mimi works as a holistic health consultant whist studying psychosocial studies and vibrational medicine at Goldsmiths with the view to becoming a counsellor. She also works as Erykah Badu’s European PA and will be on the road with her this summer.... Wall provision @ldn_calling_blog for #sprayexhibition20 #penge  #gyanmudra #spirituality #awakening #meditation #healing #portraiture #portrait #art #melanin #painting #blackgirlmagic #naturalhair #yoga #handyoga #streetphotography #afropunk #afropunklondon #portraitpainting #youarenough #rememberhome @darkskinwomen @biggerthanus_

A post shared by Neequaye Dreph Dsane 🇬🇧 🇬🇭 (@dreph_) on

Babajide B Olatunji

The self-taught painter's latest collection "Tribal Marks," features a collection of photo-realistic drawings that examine the practice of scarification. Olatunji lives and operates out of Ife, Nigeria. The artist produces visually striking work, and seems to have a blast while doing so. This video of him dancing to Fela while painting a portrait of Fela is an instant mood-lifter.

Ben Biayenda

Born in Nambia to Congolese and French parents, the 19-year-old art student aims to help fill the void of black representation that he noticed in his art books growing up. "I see so much beauty in my African heritage. Africa is so rich and I felt the need to claim it in my art," he told Konbini.

Many of his drawings seamlessly depict the subtleties of black womanhood by showing subjects doing one another's hair or simply enjoying each other's company. His chic personal style also makes him worth the follow.

el Seed 

The French-Tunisian street artist uses his large-scale installations—which fuse Arabic calligraphy with elements of graffiti—to spread poetic messages of unity, strength and hope in some of the world's largest metropolises. His work has appeared on public buildings in cities like New York, Cape Town, Cairo, Rio di Janeiro and more.

#aquarelseed

A post shared by eL Seed (@elseed) on

Gelila Lila Mesfin

Ethiopian-born artist, also known as Thick East African Girl, transforms photos of black women into digitally painted masterpieces. Her attention to detail and rich color palette, make ordinary pictures of some of your favorite celebs—Erykah Badu, Ava Duvernay, and Janelle Monáe to name a few—dazzle with new brilliance. Her artwork, featuring a portrait of Michelle Obama as an Egyptian queen, recently made headlines, after it was featured on a mural by Chicago-based artist Chris Devins, without her permission. Try as he may, but there's no stealing Mesfin's shine, her work literally brightens our timeline!

Kehinde Wiley

You've probably seen the New-York-based, Nigerian painter's work before—the renowned artist is known for his portraits of stoic black subjects, regally painted over ornate backgrounds. Wiley's acclaimed paintings offer a refreshingly powerful alternative to the usually trite depictions of black males in urban settings.

Ethiopian Jews in Tel Aviv. Alios Itzhak, 2011 Oil and gold enamel on canvas 96 x 72 in @thejewishmuseum

A post shared by Kehinde Wiley (@kehindewiley) on

Lady Skollie

Born Laura Windvogel, the South African artist and activist's provocative work—done in crayon, water color and ink—tackles themes of gender, sexuality, and consent in her home country. "The sexual and sensual are by turns celebrated and the assumptions around it investigated including taboos, consent, gender expectations amongst other weighty concerns," wrote OkayAfrica contributor Sabo Kpade, when describing her latest exhibition "Lust Politics."

Arinze Stanley

The Nigerian surrealist painter is a go-to if you're a fan of unbelievably hyper-realistic art. The artists meticulously drawn black and white pieces look more like photographs than illustrations, and he often gives a behind-the-scenes look at his tedious creative process. We featured the artist, in our list of "10 Nigerian Hyper-Realistic Artists That Will Trick Your Eyes."

Loyiso Mkize

When he's not producing the South African comic book series, Kwezi, the painter and illustrator is creating ethereal oil paintings that portray the grandeur of their black subjects. "The works are the collective result of my years of creating artworks with a specific narrative, that of African aesthetics and identity. It has been a preoccupation of mine for most of my career to navigate the African experience and extract core truths with which to envisage a future. My love for the continent and its people has guided my palette to telling the best of who and what we are," said Mkize when describing  his 2015 collection "Reflections."

Remember your power. #BLACKMAGIC

A post shared by Loyiso Mkize (@loyisomkize) on

Wole Lagunju 

The Oshogbo-born painter's multicolored renderings offer a reinterpretation of traditional Yoruba cultural art forms. He describes himself as a "Painter and installation artist interested in challenging and critiquing notions of imperialistic cultural idioms."

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This Afro-Feminist Marching Band Is Challenging Negative Stereotypes of Black Women In Paris

30 Nuances de Noires is fighting the erasure of black women in public spaces one march at a time.

If you stroll through the streets of Paris and its suburbs and stumble across a parade of black women wearing shiny outfits, singing and dancing, consider yourself lucky: you've just come across the Afro-feminist marching band '30 Nuances de Noires' (30 Shades of Black).

The band was created by dancer and choreographer Sandra Rose Fanchine. Tired of the erasure of black women in the public space and of the negative stereotypes associated with them, Fanchine has brought women (and a few men) together in this project. Professional and amateur singers, dancers and musicians, they have all accepted to embark on this journey and use their talents to launch this much-needed conversation in France.

Sandra Rose FanchinePhoto by SEKA photography

The band's musical coordinator, Célia Wa, is a flautist, singer and composer. When Fanchine invited her to take part in the project, she was very enthusiastic to have the opportunity to play alongside other black female musicians and take part in something that portrays black women in a positive light and in a flamboyant way. She was also keen to play alongside other black female musicians and coordinate them, outside, in the public space, where music is accessible to everyone. But it wasn't easy going. "It's hard to find women who play wind instruments" she explains. "But especially black women. So, we decided to incorporate a few black men musicians—men who understand the meaning of the project and support us. They don't try to dominate the space, they wear dresses and headwraps, they really blend into the group."

Célia WaPhoto by SEKA photography

Wa hopes the project will encourage many young girls to become professional musicians by showing them that being a fulfilled woman, having a music career and a family life, is possible.

Awori is the singer of the band Kamiawori, and a singer and dancer in the parade. She accepted Fanchine's invitation to join the band because she realized a brass band made of women—especially black women—was something unique that she wanted to be part of. "Throughout history, women had been forbidden to play wind instruments because blowing into those instruments was assimilated to a sexual act", says Kamiawori. "As a result, nowadays, the majority of people playing these instruments are men, so the fact that Sandra was looking for black women only was really appealing to me".

Earlier this year the band had the chance to travel to French Guiana to do a performance with black Guyanese women. This is the kind of future she wants for the project. "I want us to go to places in France where there aren't many black people, as well as to the former French colonies and the French overseas territories," she says. She hopes the project will start conversations everywhere, and empower black women to talk about their issues in their own words and organize their own emancipation.

AworiPhoto by SEKA photography

***

Read on for our conversation with Sandra Rose Fanchine. This interview has been edited for length and clarity

Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

I'm 51 years old, I was born in Martinique and grew up in Côte d'Ivoire. I'm a hip-hop dancer and choreographer. I first came to France 22 years ago to study graphic design but along the way, I found hip hop and started dancing out of passion. With my background in graphic design, I knew I was going to be a choreographer eventually, I was convinced I could use hip hop beyond its performance aspect, bringing my visual artist's knowledge to it and using it to promote a narrative. So, when the age of maturity came, I became a choreographer. My first work considered the social construction of femininity, and I then created a piece which dealt with the memory of the black body. 30 Nuances de Noires is my third choreographic work.

Where did the idea of "30 Nuances de Noires" come from?

It came from my professional frustration as a black woman. When I was looking for a job after my studies, my graphic design work was very culturally influenced by my life in Martinique and Côte d'Ivoire. I was proud to show the aesthetics and the colors, to me it was beautiful but it wasn't seen as such, it was seen as something unworthy and my work was always devalued.

I also had to face that devaluation in my personal life. I wanted to partner up with a black man, but I could see that black men didn't value me, didn't give me space and in general chose to have solid relationships with white women. I am light-skinned so I used to pass black men's colorist filters, but this privilege stopped as soon as commitment was mentioned. I looked around me and saw a pattern in the way black men treated black women, in the way people in general treated black women, how we were looked down upon. I wanted to create something about that topic.

Photo by SEKA Photography

Why did you choose that name?

I chose that name to criticize the movie 50 shades of Grey, which from a feminist point of view is a sexist and misogynist movie, that glamorizes violence against women. Moreover, black women, in the global conception related to sexuality and sentiments, are continually eroticized in a very specific way: animalization, exotification and fetishization. I chose to reclaim these stigmas, just as Audre Lorde writes about in the chapter of her book Sister Outsider named "the use of eroticism, and the use of anger: the response of women to racism."

How did the people around you react to this project?

At first, I wanted to do a piece about sexuality, love and the neocolonial aspects of interracial unions but I faced a backlash from people in the cultural institutions and people in the hip hop industry. Whenever I talked about my project I was completely shut down and called a racist.

After all that rejection and denigration, I went back to university and studied gender studies for two years, and around the same time I became an Afro-feminist activist. In the meantime, the project evolved. I used to work at festivals where there were many brass brands and I already wanted to create a marching band with hip hop dancers so I just mixed the two ideas: highlighting black women's issues and creating a marching band.

After equipping myself with the relevant intellectual tools, surrounding myself with other black women and realizing we were all going through the same things, I was capable of demonstrating the systemic nature of what I was talking about and the barriers fell. I was finally in the right place at the right time. I found the artists very easily, the first musicians I met brought other musicians, the first dancers brought other dancers, it all happened very organically.

Photo by SEKA Photography

What type of women were you looking for?

I was looking for women who were strong enough to embody and address those issues unapologetically. They had to be capable of dancing on the streets with an attitude that says "I am standing up straight, I am black, I am glowing, I am shining and you will look at me and ask yourself how you really see me because I am not all those stereotypes you believe I am." Naturally, it first attracted feminists, women who were already aware of those issues. The women who later joined us and weren't aware of those issues are now more conscious and politicized.

What are the musical and aesthetic inspirations behind the project?

I really wanted visuals inspired by the aesthetics of the 70s and 80s because the dances present in the parade—locking and waacking—emerged at that time. For the musical aspect, I looked for songs that talked about black women and their issues: sorority, colorism, equality and resilience.

Photo by SEKA Photography

How do you see the project evolving in the future?

I want to do a world tour, I want us to dance with Beyoncé and Solange, I want to take this message of empowerment everywhere there are black women who need to exist, shine, go outside and assert their presence in the public space. Because of harassment, sexism and prejudice, it's still pretty complicated for women to simply exist. I consider myself lucky because I can see that the band does what I wanted it to do: it really empowers black women and seeing that happening gives me a lot of strength to take it further.

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Seyi Shay. Image provided by the artist.

Seyi Shay's 'Electric Package' EP Is All About Love & Positive Vibes

We talk to Seyi Shay about her new EP, an intimate mix of different afrobeats blends topped off by Gqom.

Talented Nigerian singer and songwriter Seyi Shay recently dropped her brand new music project, the Electric Package EP Vol. 1.

It's her first project in three years, since the release of her debut album, Seyi or Shay, in 2015. The EP, an intimate mix of different blends of afrobeats, contains six tracks, topped off at the end by the Gqom brand of South African house music.

The project features artists from different corners of Africa, including rising singer King Promise from Ghana, Afropop songstress Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania, and rapper and producer Anatii from South Africa, giving it a pan-African outlook.

However, she didn't forget her fellow Nigerian acts, as seasoned highlife singer Flavour, young Afropop superstar Kiss Daniel, and fresh act Slimcase are also on the bill.

Several DJs were also involved in the project, hosting different songs in mixtape fashion; DJ Spinall, DJ Consequence, DJ Neptune, and DJ Cuppy from Nigeria, Vision DJ from Ghana, and DJ Tira from South Africa. The songs were produced by Killertunes, DJ Coublon, Krizz Beat, Lush Beat, Anatii, and Chopstix.

We caught up with the singer to discuss Electric Package. Read our conversation below.

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Photo courtesy of Nike.

OkayAfrica & Nike Present: Naija Worldwide

We're linking up with Nike to celebrate Nike's fire Nigeria kits and to send Team Nigeria off to the 2018 World Cup with style.

Partner content from Nike

We've teamed up with Nike to bring the Naija spirit to the world with "Naija Worldwide," an epic bash to celebrate Nike's triumphant Nigeria kits as we send Team Nigeria off to the 2018 World Cup with style!

Join us on Saturday, June 2, from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at The Well in Brooklyn as we mark the occasion with music by DJ Tunez, DJ Moma and DJ Moniki. The vibe also includes art by Laolu Senbanjo, Nigerian cuisine, and a surprise performance by one of Afrobeats' finest.

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