The Originality of the African Artist

Africa is a diverse continent of many cultures, but the one experience shared by the vast majority of its people is life under unstable political and economic systems. Most African Artists derive inspirations from these situations which they express through Art. It is then safe to conclude that African Art is a derivative of a thought process unfamiliar to the Western world. Most of these works reflect real issues experienced on the continent such as environmental disasters, terrorism and political violence, corrupt governments, religious differences, just to mention a few. Based on these on-goings, African Artists voice their unapologetic and honest concerns through Art. It is assumed to be one of the main reasons this Art form has surged in recent times.

Another unique quality to note about African Artists is their ability to create Art using a vast variety of materials. Wood was one of the most frequently used materials back in the day. However, as the style evolved, so did the materials used to create Art. The vastness of the African continent also influences the originality and diversity of Artworks from the continent; with most Artists using materials readily available to them.

Take Abdoulaye Konaté; When paint and canvas was unavailable to him, he began using materials native to Mali, specifically raw and dyed woven Malian cloth in creating distinctive Artworks that merges political and social issues and traditional craftsmanship.

Les Marcheurs (The Walkers) 2006 | Konaté uses textiles in creating this masterpiece. The composition is made up of a grid of intersecting vertical and horizontal lines. He uses mainly large scale colored textile with graphic symbols on it. For him, color is a potent conveyor of meaning, whatever the medium.

In the case of El Anatsui, similar transformation is seen in the aesthetics and understanding of sculpting. He is famous for using materials such as bottle tops, railways sleepers and driftwood in creating some of his best works influencing an overwhelming number of new talents coming up in the African Art scene.

El Anatsui crafts bottle caps, reused aluminum commercial packaging, copper wire, and other materials into giant shimmering sheets of what he calls “cloths.” These metallic cloths are pliable and change according to how they are displayed in a gallery.

These traits are peculiar to African Artists — commenting on events most people will shy away from and using unorthodox media to create intricate Art. They are a part of the reason why these approaches have grown immensely in recent times.

These variations has surged the value of African Art internationally thereby increasing the number of local players. The growth and development of this industry is expected to be exponential.

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