Arts + Culture

Six African Artists Disrupt Time In a New Smithsonian Exhibit

At the Smithsonian, six African artists use the body to challenge our understanding of time and whether it must always move forward.

In Senses of Time: Video and Film-Based Works of Africa, a new exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, six artists use the body to challenge our understanding of time and whether it must always move forward.

The exhibit, which first opened in December at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, features artists Yinka Shobinare MBE of Nigeria, Sammy Baloji of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Theo Eshetu of Ethiopia, Berni Searle of South Africa, and Moataz Nasr of Egypt. The Smithsonian edition, which opened May 18, adds Sue Williamson, a South African artist and activist.

Williamson’s There’s Something I Must Tell You pairs apartheid women activists in conversation with their granddaughters, who are of the born-free generation, in effort to “connect, imagine different eras, and contemplate the tensions between personal and political time,” the curators describe. The conversation topics range from remarkable—stories of incarceration and exile, to the lighthearted—a grandmother’s disapproval of blonde hair.

The work is projected across six screens and the women appear in separate screens to underscore the generational divide. In one screen, still-life photographs of the activist appear and disappear as she speaks. Yet, in a different screen video shows the granddaughter with subtle movement—a slight breeze moves her blouse or she gives a hardly-noticeable gesture.

She’s not in full motion, yet. The immobile activist and pensive descendant hint that the newer generation’s narrative is still being written. It hints also at the readiness of the next generation to take on from the past.

Given South Africa’s recent uprisings, this point is especially relevant.

At the artist talk, Williamson commented that at the time she created this artwork, the born-free women had a hopeful outlook of South Africa. But she now wonders whether, in the aftermath of movements like #FeesMustFall and #RhodesMustFall, their patriotism has dulled. This recycling of generational activism is the main theme of the exhibit: that time is nonlinear and relapses.

In one exchange the elder says, “[The] future belongs to the youth, to which her young counterpart responds, “I agree.”

Nasr looks at how identities are shaped by the forces of political time, and in the case of his artwork, the government of Hosni Mubarak. In another example of time relapse, the artist was unable to attend the artist talk due to a revoked passport, a resurfaced restriction even in the aftermath of Mubarak regime.

Senses also features more dynamic bodies, seen in the choreographed works by Shobinare MBE and Baloji.

Eshetu also explores relationship, but of the digital kind between ritual and technology.

Searle examines her ancestry and displacement in two works about the slippage of time.

Senses of Time runs through March 26, 2017 at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC.

Artwork: Barthélémy Toguo Lockdown Selfportrait 10, 2020. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Goes to Paris in 2021

The longstanding celebration of African art will be hosted by Parisian hot spot Christie's for the first time ever.

In admittedly unideal circumstances, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be touching French soil in 2021. The internationally celebrated art fair devoted to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora will be hosted in Paris, France from January 20 - 23. With COVID-19 still having its way around the globe, finding new ways to connect is what it's all about and 1-54 is certainly taking the innovative steps to keep African art alive and well.
In partnership with Christie's, the in-person exhibits will take place at the auction house's city HQ at Avenue Matignon, while 20 international exhibitors will be featured online at And the fun doesn't stop there as the collaboration has brought in new ways to admire the talent from participating galleries from across Africa and Europe. The fair's multi-disciplinary program of talks, screenings, performances, workshops, and readings are set to excite and entice revelers.

Artwork: Delphine Desane Deep Sorrow, 2020. Courtesy Luce Gallery

The tech dependant program, curated by Le 18, a multi-disciplinary art space in Marrakech medina, will see events take place during the Parisian run fair, followed by more throughout February.
This year's 1-54 online will be accessible to global visitors virtually, following the success of the 2019's fair in New York City and London in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19 related regulations and public guidelines, 1-54 in collaboration with Christie's Paris is in compliance with all national regulations, strict sanitary measures, and security.

Artwork: Cristiano Mongovo Murmurantes Acrilico Sobre Tela 190x200cm 2019

1-54 founding director Touria El Glaoui commented, "Whilst we're sad not to be able to go ahead with the fourth edition of 1-54 Marrakech in February as hoped, we are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be in Paris this January with our first-ever fair on French soil thanks to our dedicated partners Christie's. 1-54's vision has always been to promote vibrant and dynamic contemporary art from a diverse set of African perspectives and bring it to new audiences, and what better way of doing so than to launch an edition somewhere completely new. Thanks to the special Season of African Culture in France, 2021 is already set to be a great year for African art in the country so we are excited to be playing our part and look forward, all being well, to welcoming our French friends to Christie's and many more from around the world to our online fair in January."

Julien Pradels, General Director of Christie's France, said, "Christie's is delighted to announce our second collaboration with 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, following a successful edition in London this October. Paris, with its strong links to the continent, is a perfect place for such a project and the additional context of the delayed Saison Africa 2020 makes this partnership all the more special. We hope this collaboration will prove a meaningful platform for the vibrant African art scene and we are confident that collectors will be as enthusiastic to see the works presented, as we are."

Artwork: Kwesi Botchway Metamorphose in July, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957

Here's a list of participating galleries to be on the lookout for:


31 PROJECT (Paris, France)
50 Golborne (London, United Kingdom)
Dominique Fiat (Paris, France)
Galerie 127 (Marrakech, Morocco)
Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris, France)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire/ Dakar, Senegal)
Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris, France)
Galerie Lelong & Co. (Paris, France / New York, USA)
Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)
Galleria Continua (Beijing, China / Havana, Cuba / Les Moulins, France / San Gimignano, Italy / Rome, Italy)
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana / London, United Kingdom)
Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca, Morocco)

Luce Gallery (Turin, Italy)
MAGNIN-A (Paris, France)
Nil Gallery (Paris, France)
POLARTICS (Lagos, Nigeria)
SEPTIEME Gallery (Paris, France)
This is Not a White Cube (Luanda, Angola) THK Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa) Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland)

For more info visit 1-54

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