Interview

Fab 5 Freddy: “The Future Is The Continent Of Africa”

New York hip-hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy talks contemporary African art in an exclusive interview with Okayafrica.

We caught up with Fab 5 Freddy earlier this month at 1:54 NY, the second-ever U.S. edition of Europe’s largest contemporary African art fair. In the conversation below, the New York hip-hop pioneer shares his thoughts on the state of contemporary art on the continent.


Alyssa Klein for Okayafrica: Tell us about your interest in contemporary African art.

Fab 5 Freddy: I mean, I’ve had an interest in all things Africa since I was a wee lad. I’m currently working as a consultant to The Africa Center. We’re going to build a really huge kind of startup cultural organization in New York City. That’s even heightened my interest and awareness.

Two years ago at this time I was in Dakar for their Biennale, where I got to see a lot of this and actually met the people that put this [1:54] together. They were showing there as well. Just basically a broad interest, and I’m very happy that something like this [1:54] is here.

Photo by Ginny Suss.

What are you most excited about in the contemporary African art space?

I mean, there’s no particular thing. Like with any kind of culture, I go back 20, 30, 40, 50 years, and then I’m today, and what’s next week, next month. I’m always just what’s happening... So I’m constantly learning more. I’m not like a scholar in African culture or the culture from the 54 countries in the Diaspora. Which just to remind everyone is why they call this show 1:54, because Africa has 54 countries. It’s just like I’m constantly learning.

But what I see with the contemporary African artists, as a visual artist myself and a multi-disciplinary artist, I see that they’re looking at art, like they’re using their smartphones or whatever devices they have, to really become advanced and educated about the process of art making. So I see a lot of that in the objects, and I enjoy that, because that’s what I do. I make those incredible pictures myself.

Where else have you been on the continent?

I’ve been to South Africa, I’ve been to Nigeria, I’ve been to Morocco, and once again I’ve been to Senegal, for the Dakar Biennale in 2015. And I’ll visit many more countries on the continent. I’ve got trips to Ghana, trips to Ethiopia, a lot of things are in the works.

That’s a big part of what we’re doing with the Africa Center, is having discussions like this with many many more people. Like what Okayafrica does to just hip people to what’s going on on the continent, so they can see how contemporary, how forward, how the future is the continent of Africa. Because don’t forget to remember, no matter who you are, what you look like, what you talk like, what you sound like, all life on this planet begins on the continent of Africa. So that makes us all Africans.

Welcome to the party, I’m out of here. [Walks away]

Keep up with Fab 5 Freddy on Twitter at @FABNEWYORK. Check out his artwork at fab5freddy.com.

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