Africa has a fast-growing number of professional painters. Some of these artists use their work to interpret African traditions, political life, diverse African beauty, and socio-economic aspects. African paintings are an extremely diverse creativity that started from ancient days and has continued to evolve since. These works are not only appreciated in Africa but also across the world.
Today I invite you to discover 9 famous artists from Africa we like. There is no order, none better than the others. They’re all very creative, all different with their own universe.
Tracey Rose is a South African painter born in Durban in 1974. She now resides in Johannesburg where she develops multimedia. Tracey is well known for her outstanding works in performances, photography and videos. She skillfully utilizes South Africa’srich culture with sociology notions to illustrate different social-economic and political landscapes in her country. Her body is the center of her artistic works and most of them have a close relationship with Cindy Sherman’s, both in content and format. Tracey uses black paintings and photographies of her body to express certain universal emotions. The creative integration of her body in her work creates an intimacy with her audience. She is not an artist who jumps at every chance to show her work to the world. For her it is an insult when one does not understand what they are working with. Her work revolves around her upbringing, gender and identity but recently she is doing more abstract works.
Meschac Gaba was born in Benin in 1961. The popular artist is known for the Museum of Contemporary African Art which was a travelling exhibition launched in 1967. This exhibition was initiated in different European art institutions for over a period of five years. His museum covered various subjects ranging from fashion to food. He employed craftsmanship, and his works include paintings and ceramics. This was achieved by use of materials such as paint, plywood, plaster and stones. A visit to the museum reveals that Gaba has very bold political statements to make, but he does its in such beauty that one might even forget that statement. For example clay chicken legs and bread rolls painted in gold depict the image of lack of food between third world and Western countries.
Kudzanai Chiurai from Zimbabwe was born in 1981 but was exiled from the country after he designed an inflammatory portrait of the infamous President Robert Mugabe. Chiurai has continued his work in South Africa where he makes use of dramatic multimedia approach to address the most pressing issues affecting the citizens. The issues range from corruption, conflicts and violence. Apart from paintings, he also uses digital photography, editing and printing, and even films to expose ill acts of the African governments. He first started with landscapes, but he has now grown to a full-fledged activist. He even uses spray paint to pass-on his messages.
Nástio Mosquito is from Angola and was born in the year 1981. He started his career in Angola and easily gained popularity. His work is very informative and also makes use of multimedia such as music, videos, acapella, digital art, performance, and installations. Mosquito’s first solo exhibition was launched at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, UK. He has gained worldwide potential since he presented his works in various parts of the world. Most of the time, he is the main figure of his works; he also loves to bring an African stereotype into a westernised context. His work has been said to be the original story-telling of today.
Julie Mehretu was born in 1970 and has enjoyed great international exposure in her career. Her large paintings represent urban populated city environments and the 21st Century social networks. Her design process starts with the addition of thin acrylic paint layers on canvas. Superimposed marks are then added to the design using pencils, pen, ink, and paint streams. The final design gives a clear description of time, space and historical significance. She focuses on abstract art which is inspired by the world around her.
El Anatsui was born in Ghana in the year 1944. The famous artist uses metallic fabrics, clay and wood to create an expression of socio-political and historical concerns. He later advanced to installation art and sewing. He transforms materials into impressive shimmering forms by assembling them into vibrant patterns that provides a unique visual effect. El Alnatsui also makes use of acrylic paint and stainless steel to design interesting paintings whose meanings are easily interpreted by the viewer. He also uses simple tools such as bottle-tops, iron nails, cassava graters, driftwood and welding torches to make a variety of sculptural forms.
Sokari Douglas Camp
Sokari Douglas Camp is from Nigeria and was born in 1958. Her creative work has gained global art market attention. She portrays African culture and traditions in her designs. She employs sculptural methods with the use of steel to create large, figurative works that reflects Nigerian culture. Some of the materials that Sokari Douglas Camp makes use of are steel, Perspex, oil barrel, acrylic paint, metal drawings, stainless steel, car paint, gold leaf and nickel-coated steel to develop paintings and sculptures with a rich message integrated in them.
Maria Naita is one of the most famous African artists and a great painter. She took part in the KANN artist projects such as the “Chogm monument” in Uganda. She utilizes sculpturing and watercolor painting in her work to reflect the immediate environmental elements. The sculpture’s skeleton is made of bee wax and metal before achieving the real idea for the sculpture. Then the idea is developed from the sample skeleton into amazing work. She creatively makes use of water-based solutions with suspended pigments in her artwork. These solutions are then used to paint and trace artistic designs that depict intended messages based on society.
Chéri Samba from the Democratic Republic of Congo, born in 1956, is a leading African painter. He reveals his perception of various daily life facets of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Having started his career as a billboard painter, he later advanced to paintings on sacking fabrics as regular fabric was very expensive. He also developed an innovative thought-provoking commentary. This technique was referred to as the ‘Samba signature’ and is a type of captivating paintings that encourages people to take more time to understand the meaning of the paintings.
References of the article:
Kramer, K. (2015). The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists. Afterimage, 43(3), 34.
Moore, A. (2016). The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists. Critical Interventions, 10(1), 81-97.