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The Best African Art In 2014

Okayafrica looks back at the best African art in 2014, featuring work by Wangechi Mutu, Emeka Ogboh, Omar Victor Diop and more.


NOT x Chris Saunders, Jenny Lai & Chris Saunders (USA / South Africa)

Macdonald Mfolo. Dennis Chuene. NOT X Chris Saunders, 2014.

In January of 2014, New York-based designer Jenny Lai traveled to Johannesburg to team up with South African photographer and filmmaker Chris Saunders, the same director behind Nozinja's "Tsekeleke," which we recently crowned one of our Top Videos of 2014. Lai is the founder of NOT, an experimental womenswear brand  that defines itself by its own definition of the word "not." According to the label, "not" is "the space around the solid and tangible, the hidden spaces within the folds of the clothing, and the open spaces where you reveal yourself surprisingly. It negates the solid and tangible in favor of space, imagination, and movement."

Together Lai and Saunders set out to showcase "cultural reinvention" through a fashion-meets-photography experiment entitled NOT x Chris Saunders. Moving across Joburg, Orange Farm, Soweto and Cape Town, the collaborators linked with four South African hyper-creatives to creatively interpret Lai's NOT garments. The group included accessories designer Dennis Chuene (who founded Vernac Bags), vintage clothier Dr. Pachanga, menswear designer Floyd Avenue (from the Smarteez in Soweto), and Pantsula dance costumer/puppeteer Macdonald Mfolo. Their work, displayed as a selection of re-interpreted NOT garments along with Saunders' images and final cuts documenting the collaboration, debuted back in September at NYC's "global art campaign space" Wallplay. Visit Another Africa for their exceptional coverage of the project, including interviews with Lai and Saunders, Floyd Avenue, Macdonald Mafolo, Manthe Ribane, Dennis Chuene, and Dr. Pachanga.

>>>More Photos: Wallplay Presents NOT x Chris Saunders In NYC

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Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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