Art
Keturah Benson

8 Black Art Moments You Can't Miss During Art Basel Miami 2018

Our guide to Blackness at this year's fair.

It's that time of year again. Art Basel is bringing its magic back to Miami. The annual art fair that showcases modern and contemporary art, is set to have more than 4,000 artists displaying work across all mediums. The Miami iteration of the week-long fair has become a space for artists, galleries, collectors and countless art lovers to connect, be inspired and party for the last 16 years.

Here are some Black art must-sees during Art Basel:


Art Africa Miami Arts Fair presents "Black Art Matters"

This year, the Art Africa Miami Arts Fair turns eight years-old and the theme is "Black Art Matters: It's Not A Choice." The fair will explore the role Black art has played in being an "intellectual, political and artistic rereading, trying to think of the contemporary condition of peoples that have been involved in struggles to stay human." There will be the "Art + Film" event featuring a screening of Through The Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People and " Art + Fashion" a dance party where attendees are the art. Art Africa Miami Arts Fair was founded by visionary and architect, Neil Hall, with not only the intention of showcasing Black art but to celebrate the community that birthed the festival, Overtown. The community that was once called "Colored Town" during the Jim Crow era also became a cultural hub in Miami. The fair has also been credited with amplifying Black Art in Overtown during Art Basel Week.

Zina Saro-Wiwa—Table Manners

Nigeria-born and Brooklyn based artist, Zina Saro-Wiwa, created the video series "Table Manners" that explores the " performative practices of food consumption as indispensable to the imagination of belonging in West Africa." It features Ogoni people eating Nigerian dishes like Roasted Ice Fish and Mu , Sorgor Salad with Palm Wine or Garden Egg and Groundnut Butter. Each video is minimal but colorful, creating an intimacy between the eater and the viewer. Saro-Wiwa said, "A powerful exchange takes place when one not only eats a meal but watches a meal being consumed. One is filled up with an unexplainable and potent metaphysical energy that we normally pay no attention to." The work is a highlights the eating practices with cultural specificity and what it says about self.


PRIZM Art Fair 2018

PRIZM Art Fair, has become one of the leading showcases of international artists from across the African Diaspora and emerging markets at Art Basel. This year, programming comprises of events like PRIZM Film which includes screening of Life is Fare a film that explores three different perspectives of Eritrea and PRIZM Panels that will tackle everything from redlining to the meaning of art. They will also be presenting two exhibitions curated by PRIZM Founder and Director, Mikhaile Solomon and artist William Cordova that are steeped in futurism. Cordova's exhibit will explore the connections between futurism, ritual and the folkloric.Solomon's will focus on re-appropriation, reclamation and creating an inclusive future. Read: 5 Black Artists You Can't Miss at PRIZM


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PUSH

Liberian-American and Philadelphia based artist, Keturah Benson, will be presenting PUSH, a live interactive experience she said,"tears the veil between the artist and the audience." Instead of showing the glamorous finished product of a piece, Benson wants to showcase the often uncomfortable and grueling creative process. After attending Art Basel last year, she immediately began prepping and creating for this one. Whether it was leaving a 9-5 job, scrapping ideas or losing a venue for an exhibit, Benson captured it all. She will be showcasing three works: "The Self-Love Project", "The Quiet Place" and "I Create The Filter." Benson said, "The key is to remember you are not alone in this process, we spend a lot of time on social media comparing ourselves and this whole show is based around transparency.The goal is to motivate artists to push through."

"AfriCOBRA: Messages to the People" Opening Celebration

"AfriCOBRA: Messages to the People" is an exhibition presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (MOCA) to celebrate of America's longest running artist collectives. AfriCOBRA is a black artist collective that began in 1968 in Chicago. They looked to explore the Black aesthetic and defined it during The Black Arts Movement. This year, the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the collective. There will be a meet and greet with Curator Jeffreen M. Hayes and the founding members of AfriCOBRA. Artists like Napolean Jones- Henderson, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Carolyn Mims Lawrence and more. They will be discussing their work with AfriCobra as well as their current works.


Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi

South African photographer and visual activist, Zanele Muholi, has spent more than a decade documenting the lives of the LGBTQIA community in South Africa. She will be exhibiting some of her works that span from black and white portraits to colorful displays of individuality.Read an interview with Zanele Muholi

Allison Janae Hamilton's PULSE Miami Special Project: Sweet milk in the badlands.

Allison Janae Hamilton is a multi-disciplinary visual artist. Her work comprises of photography, video, sculpture, installation and even taxidermy. The Kentucky-born and Florida raised artist will be presenting Sweet milk in the badlands. at PULSE. The photo series explores landscape and its role in our understanding of the past and the present. It is described as a look "toward ritual, storytelling, and trance in search of the connections between landscape and selfhood, place and disturbance. It invites an uncanny cast of haints to lead the viewer through the beginnings of an epic tale that animates the land as a guide and witness."


Serge Attukwei Clottey at UNTITLED Miami

Based in Accra, Ghana, Serge Attukwei Clottey is a Ghanaian artist with a broad discipline in sculpture, drawing, performance and video.

His work showcases and explores the power and presence in everyday objects. Clottey is known as the creator of "Afrogallonism"—a creative practice that sits at the intersection of environmental and social justice. He took the highly prevalent yellow gallon containers in Ghana and turned it into art that not only is a critique on overconsumption and an exploration of restoration. Catch Clottey showing work with Ghana's Gallery 1957 in Booth C7 at UNTITLEDMiami.

Culture
Photo by O'kiins Howara

Spotlight: O'kiins Howara Creates Technicolor Images of His Surroundings With a Smartphone

Get familiar with the work of the Ivorian photographer and visual artist O'kiins Howara.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists and more who are producing vibrant, original work. In our latest piece, we spotlight Ouattara Moussa Idriss Mahamanalso known asO'kiins Howara, a self-taught Ivorian photographer and visual artist who works exclusively with his smartphone to bring bright, fashion-forward depictions of Africans to life. Read more about the inspirations behind his work below, and check out some of his stunning images underneath. Be sure to keep up with the artist on Instagram and Twitter.

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"Zion 9, 2018" (inkjet on Hahnemuhle photo rag)" by Mohau Modisakeng. Photo courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery.

South African Artist Mohau Modisakeng Makes Solo NYC Debut With 'A Promised Land'

The artist will present the video installation 'ZION' and other works centering on the "global history of displacement of Black communities" at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery in Brooklyn.

Renowned South African visual artist Mohau Modisakeng presents APromised Land, his latest solo exhibition, openingat Brooklyn's Jenkins Johnson Gallery this month. This marks the New York debut of Modisakeng's ZION video installation, based on the artists's 2017 performance art series by the same name. It originally debuted at the Performa Biennial.

"In ZION the artist deals with the relationship between body, place and the global history of displacement of Black communities," reads a press release. "There is an idea that all people are meant to belong somewhere, yet in reality there are millions of people who are unsettled, in search of refuge, migrating across borders and landscapes for various reasons."

In addition to the video, the show also features seven large-scale photographs that communicate themes of Black displacement. From 19th century Black settlements in New York City, which as the press release notes, were eradicated to clear space for the development of Central Park, to the scores of Africans who have faced conflict that has led them to life as refugees in foreign lands.

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Photo Credit: Mous Lamrabat

Mous Lamrabat’s New Exhibition Captures the Necessity Of Peace, Women’s Rights and Humor

The Moroccan-Belgian photographer uses his new exhibition to express thoughts he has always wanted to express

Belgian-Moroccan photographer Mous Lamrabat is a world builder. In his new exhibition, Lamrabat found solace in a perfect place in his head where he calls his very own “Mousganistan,”

The exhibit, titled “Blessing from Mousganistan”, opened in the Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam (Foam) in June and will run until October 16. The exhibit expresses contrasting vibrant color, obscure symbols and bold utopia. For Lamrabat, aligning creativity with his identity has always been his greatest signature. And not because he’s keen on highlighting the innermost Moroccan part of himself, which can be viewed from a myopic lens. But he’s more than just Moroccan, African and Muslim. In the last couple of years, Lamrabat has been one of the prominent photographers bringing his culture to the forefront of fashion editorials including Vogue, GQ and Fucking Young. His ideas are simply refreshing, new and audacious.

In this new exhibition, Lamrabat reels people into his world and past experiences — both stereotypes he has always wanted to deconstruct and stories he has always wanted to share. Lamrabat invites viewers into past experiences of growing up in Belgium and watching the reactions of people towards his mother and sisters because they wore hijabs. He also captures that melancholic pain but from a triumphant narrative.

OkayAfrica had a phone call with the photographer and he spoke about the exhibition, what it meant to him, working in the fashion industry and building an audience.

Mous Lamrabat headshot

Photo Credit: Dimitri Bekaert

You are one of the prominent photographers from Northern Africa, how did your journey as a visual artist emerge?

I feel my journey as an artist is still starting. I studied interior design at the KASK & Conservatorium / School of Arts Gent, Belgium. My father was a creative person and that's why I wanted to enter the academy and do something creative but when I arrived at the academy, I realized that I wasn’t actually as creative as the other kids who grew up having their parents take them to the museum and who were in touch with their innate creativity at an early age. I didn’t have that kind of opportunity because my parents were first generation immigrants. They didn’t go to museums or even know what art actually was.

When I went to school there, I felt at home because there were kids in the hallway painting. There were some people playing music and I really felt like I belonged there and I really wanted to prove that I belonged there. I learnt very fast how to be creative and how to become the expectation of my teachers. It felt like I was infected with the creative virus, I wanted it to be so good. When I finished my study, I was asked by an architectural company to come join their team, but I didn’t do that because I wanted to be creative every day. Architecture is a little bit of creativity and the rest is technical and I didn’t want that for myself. So I declined all the job offers and I went to assist a local photographer as an assistant

Your work revolves around stories of identity, especially life as a Moroccan. Can you say more?

Growing up Moroccan, African, and muslim in Belgium, I wanted to belong and be part of a group. Every person in the Western world has this crisis with sticking to their roots or joining mass of people, that feeling of leaving behind heritage. For me , I didn’t have to choose between these things because it’s like society tells us the truth but we basically don’t have to choose. That’s why I started doing my own thing within photography, showing who I am as a person, what my interests are, and how I grew up. I mean I am African, I am Moroccan, I am Muslim but I also grew up in a world where I use to love playing basket ball, listening to hip-hop — all these things made me who I am and the total of it made me strong. Inside the house, we were Moroccan, we took off our shoes, the house looked Moroccan but outside was Belgium.

Mous Lamrabat

Photo Credit: Mous Lamrabat

What was the inspiration behind “Blessings from Mousganistan”?

"Mousganitan" started off as a bit of a joke. I always felt like if you wanted to do something different from everybody else and not be judged, then you don’t necessarily need to share that idea because we all do have ideas. For me, when you tell people your ideas, people always have an opinion and you tend to adapt to what they say which affects your creativity. I feel like every creative person needs to have a made up place where they create raw ideas of what they want to do without being affected by the outside place. So my Mousganistan is a place I go to become creative because there are no opinions from people.

Mous Lamrabat photo durags

Photo Credit: Mous Lamrabat

In one of the portraits, a star sign can be seen on the muses’s head. Is there a meaning to this?

Everything I do is always personal and it also revolves around things happening in the world that bothers me and have an effect on me and my creative process. When there was a lot of unrest in the Middle East between Pakistan and Israel, it was really something that tore us apart. Jewish and Islamic people have always been brothers biblically because we are children of the book. This is why sometimes I put together things to have that message out. For me that photography was putting Judaism and Islam in one image to bring it back together and have conversations about it. I wanted people to see the unison between both religions and understand that photographic intent of promoting peace.

Was the series a means to emphasize on women’s rights?

When I talk about women’s rights, I mostly speak about my own experience. Experiences about my mother in the supermarket because my mother wears a hijab and how the people react to her is uncomfortable. It hurts me to see that people treat and see them as less and this is something I will always contribute my work to, to give people like my mother and sister a representation.

There is a portrait in this exhibition of two boys catching a grip of flowers. Was that your attempt to speak about masculinity and what it looks like in Morocco?

It’s not exactly like masculinity because the series was inspired by old paintings and I was looking through the inspiration of my past work and it gave me the aura of trying something new from the old. I never explain my work in exhibitions. Most of the time I hear a lot of people talk about my work and their interpretations, and I learn so much from them because I realize there is more to my work than I expect it to be. So that’s why I love that you interpreted the photo to be a view on masculinity. Maybe it resonates with you as a person or maybe it makes you think about masculinity.

Mous Lamrabat clown

Photo Credit: Mous Lamrabat

The collection had a portraiture of clowns, was this an inclination to capture humor.

I was always intrigued by clowns because I love emotions. Clowns have always been an inspiration because they exude happiness and joy. But I always found clowns sad sometimes but that’s not what they are invented for. I love playing with clown photos because there are so much emotions there. I always try to put humor in them because if you make someone feel something when they look at your photo, they would remember it because of the emotions in the photos. And my favorite one is humor because laughter is important, and I want to put messages inside my photos but I always try to do it on a positive note.

Mous Lamrabat mother

Photo Credit: Mous Lamrabat

Have you ever had to compromise or wrestle with toning down your Arabic imagery in your photography to please certain eyeballs?

I would be lying if I said no. I never took the audience as an issue. If I ever had a reaction, it has only been on social media because whenever I do exhibitions, the people that come have a certain intelligence to understand the scenery of my exhibition. It’s not just one photo that they see in an exhibition, it consists of the total. But on social media, when I post a photo, people always have something to say about my work or share their opinion. I didn’t compromise that much honestly because I felt my work was growing quite fast. I don’t want to compromise but if I don’t, I get these reactions that don't sit well with me because I’m kind of a soft person. When a person talks bad about my work, it feels like they talk bad about my children. I’m very passionate about what I do. I feel like I would compromise more but I hope I won’t.

Would you say the creative world has been more accepting of photographers like yourself or do you face certain barriers?

I think so, yes. The creative world is in need of inspiration and when you do something refreshing and new, people get attracted to it. If I see some people’s art which sometimes I love and sometimes I don’t but if it’s something super refreshing, I automatically respect it whether I like it or not. That’s also the part of the respect I get from the creative world because my work was something people never saw before and that’s why they respect me and want to exhibit me.


Interview

Interview: Ajebo Hustlers Are Port Harcourt’s Latest Cherished Export

We talk to the rising duo about breaking into the Nigerian mainstream with hit tracks like "Symbiosis," "Barawo," and "Loyalty," and their upcoming project, Bad Boy Etiquette 101.

It’s easy to forget the dark realities that still plague most African countries when looking through the lens of their rising global stars. The fame of artists like Wizkid, Kizz Daniel, and Olamide, is also said to cloud the economic, social, religious, and civil problems that affect everyday citizens and their harsh realities.

Artists emerging from these harsh realities bring a different essence to how they create, crafting their stories with vivid detail, eager to share with the world what they’ve been through and why they should be heard. Their talent is being fueled by a rage to escape what they’ve seen. Coming from a nation that produced one of the most radical speakers of his time, Fela Kuti, it's not hard to understand why music as a form of protest easily runs in the blood of the country’s music veins.

This is why when an artist breaks out from this system, much is to be celebrated especially when you come from heavily exploited regions like Port Harcourt. Indigenes of Nigeria’s infamous home of crude oil often rue the mineral’s presence because of its impact on their land and people. Thick black smoke billows into the sky on a daily basis, polluting the entire ecosystem, and making the Port Harcourt dream to rise above these fumes.

Like phoenixes rising from the ashes, the duo of Piego and Knowledge, known as Ajebo Hustlers, represent hope for a generation of creators from this region. Making music that seeks to probe your awareness of their realities, accompanied with the right rhythms to beckon listeners to move their bodies. They found their sound and stuck to it, following the footsteps of other Port Harcourt stars like Timaya and Burna Boy, who have similar approaches, and have ascended to the famed halls of Nigerian music stardom.

We spoke to Ajebo Hustlers about their come-up, how growing up in Port Harcourt shaped their lives and music, breaking into mainstream Nigeria with hit tracks like "Symbiosis," "Barawo," "Loyalty," and their upcoming project.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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