Contemporary art is flourishing all over the African continent. Yet there is a tendency in the West to only focus on ethnographic or traditional African art or artefacts.
Cross Africa is an exhibition, which brings new, dynamic contemporary art to Denmark. The exhibition also brings together artists from across the African continent. For the first time ever, three artists from Uganda and the Sudan in East Africa are exhibiting their work together with four artists from Ghana, Mali and Burkina Faso from West Africa.
The seven artists participating in the exhibition all have very different styles, but common for all these artists is their special relationship to, and portrayal of, their African surroundings and culture. Their personal and artistic consciousness revolves around their fellow human beings and their natural surroundings, often with references to traditions and symbols that are a natural part of the daily discourse, but yet with an inherent knowledge and reworking of western art history and imagery.
Both David Karungi and Ismail Damba from fertile Uganda and Ahmed Abushariaa from Sudan use vibrant and complementary colours. Abushariaa, with his roots in The Khartoum Modern Group, brings Arabic calligraphy, symbols and visual codes into – at times – politically oriented paintings. His choice of colours is similar to that of the two artists from East Africa, while his Arabic elegance is shared with Thierno Diallo from Mali.
The colours used by the West African artists from the Sahel countries are completely different. Christophe Sawadogo and Fernand Sawadogo from Burkina Faso as well as Thierno Diallo from Mali make their own colours from natural pigments. Colours such as ochre, umbra and sienna evoke images of heat and drought. Only Gabriel Eklou from Ghana paints whole canvasses in shades of blue, or brown and gold. His range of colours spans the entire spectrum from Ghana’s lush southern coast to the dry northern regions bordering Burkina Faso and the Sahara.
The paintings take you on a journey, not only through different countries but also through their different histories. French chic is present in Christophe Sawadogo’s elegant watercolours, while Arabic ornamentation and refinement are found as much in Abushariaa’s colourful gouaches as in Diallo’s monochromatic golden paintings.
The exhibition will remain in Portalen till the 20th of May when it will travel to Kunstetagerne in Hobro, Jutland.