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Connecting Africa: A creative rivalry among African artists at Alexis Galleries

Connecting Africa: A creative rivalry among African artists at Alexis Galleries

As Lagos enters its highly anticipated art season this last quarter, Alexis Galleries is rising to the occasion, once again.

This time, the Victoria Island Lagos-based contemporary art gallery is taking its offerings a notch higher with a continent-wide exhibition.

Tagged ‘Connecting Africa’, the exhibition features 10 promising visual artists across the continent; from Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Togo, Benin Republic and Ghana.

The artists include; Kansiime Brian Lister (Uganda), Luke Osaro (Nigeria), Moussa Issarou (Cameroun), Dominique Zinkpe (Benin), Blaise Vernyuy(Cameroun), Nathanaël Vodouhè (Benin), Samuel Tete-Katchan (Ghana), Itchike Bidias Donald Romaric (Cameroun), King Ereso (Nigeria) and Orlu Prince Ozangeobuoma (Nigeria).

They are presenting at least two works each, which are crafted across several media of expression at the group show, which opens on October 15, 2022, and ends on October 24, 2022 at the gallery.

Expressing his enthusiasm at participating in the exhibition during a pre-exhibition media parley at the gallery on Thursday, Samuel Tete-Katchan, who is featuring two works, said that he considers football as a connecting factor across Africa, hence he is connecting Africa with a work on football as the World Cup approaches and also with another work he titled ‘Barbers Shop’, which tells that as one presents his hair, that is how the barber will cut the hair.

King Ereso, Orlu Prince Ozangeobuoma and Luke Osaro, who were also present at the media parley, highlighted their works, their relevance to the title, and why the public must see the group show.

King Ereso is presenting works from his Finding Peace series, which reflect his journey, need for focusing on positives things, self confidence among other virtues.

Speaking on the group exhibition, Mathew Oyedele, curator, Alexis Galleries, explained that the show explores layers of issues, conversations, social banter and observations through works of the artists from different parts of Africa.

The themes, according to him, include consumerism, peace-within, inclusion, social commentary, connectivity and relationship as the growing youthful population demands. “It is in dialogue with contemporary demand and agitations across the continent where the youth are finally finding their voice,” Oyedele said.

Explaining the rationale for the exhibition in her gallery statement, Patty Chidiac Mastrogiannis, founder, Alexis Galleries, said the role of the gallery is to position itself through platforms that shape and initiate conversation on happenings in the immediate, and by extension, distant environment, and that for her is the crucible where the exhibition is formed.

“Our aim, through this exhibition, is to instigate an epiphany for the need to chart a new path and direction for the African continent. Hence, the title ‘Connecting Africa’,” she said.

The artists include:

Moussa Issarou

Moussa Issarou is a Cameroonian painter who grew up watching and observing elders who sewed and made shoes in his community. Seeing his interest in this direction, his father thereafter pushed him to artistic creations such as drawing, screen printing and calligraphy and promised to enroll him in an art school, which did not exist in his city.

After his secondary school, he enrolled in French Modern Letters and then, Plastic Arts.

Moussa has showcased his works on platforms like the Yelwata Maroua Festival, 2017, the 2020 Cultural Return, and also the International Visual Art Colloquium “Arts and Emergence in Africa” where he was awarded the first position. He was awarded the regional winner of the Young Hopes Competition organized by Doual’Art in June 2021.

Blaise Afrique

Born in the North West Grass Field area of Cameroon in the village of Kumbo in 1993, drawing and creating toys would become the favourite activities of the young Blaise. He would continue drawing and experimenting with colours throughout primary, secondary and university education.

His high school education was science inclined. After high school he became a mathematics teacher and simultaneously did a four years study in the arts (2012-2015) under Brazilian arts professor Paulo Lemos who doubled as a missionary and was stationed in Cameroon for six years. After this four year study he went ahead to get a Bachelor’s Degree in visual Arts /Arts History (2017-2020) graduating as the best student in his University.

After his University studies he focused on his creative career by creating works in a studio he had started while under diploma studies in his home town Bamenda. He moved to the southwest coastal area of Limbe and set up a studio in 2021. His medium of expression is acrylic on canvas in which he employs masks, symbolic elements from African culture, geometric patterns, figurines, lines, colours and sometimes textures in the synthesis of images that he describes as “Afro Abstract Figurative paintings”.

Kansiime Brian Lister

Kansiime Brian Lister (Born September, 1995) is a Ugandan based award winning contemporary artist with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business at Makerere University.

His strength lies in figurative painting alongside visual art using his exceptional penmanship with Oil paint, acrylic paint and a ball point pen to depict the rawest most unfiltered human emotions in his artwork, earning him recognition as the ‘African Bic Art Master’ in the People’s Choice Awards (2019-2020) and the Bic brand ambassador, where his theme was centered around “Life Talking about the everyday girl child happiness” nominating him as one of the best artists on the continent.

With an artistic backbone and veins filled with paint and ink, Lister’s work has featured in Gumbo art gallery, at St Harvey, Illinois and Wonder Art Gallery, LA Bic collection gallery Nairobi, sons of art gallery, in Kampala, and currently working with Alexis galleries in Lagos and UAE.

Read also: Nigerians lead $13bn African art market, says Patrons

Dominique Zinkpè

Zinkpè was born in 1969 in Cotonou, Benin. He honed his craft by participating in numerous workshops and residencies in Africa and Europe. Very quickly, he made his name known with the Young African Talent Prize which he received during Grapholie in Abidjan. Present at major events on the international art scene, the Dakar Biennale awarded him the Uemoa Prize in 2002.

Zinkpè’s approach is complex and diverse. Far from confining himself to plastic writing, he appropriates all kinds of media, insofar as they allow him to express himself; installation, drawing, painting, sculpture, video. When we go through his work, it seems obvious that he does not want to lock himself into a creative process. On the contrary, he never ceases to question himself. His art often challenges, sometimes points the finger, also denounces.

Zinkpè’s works refer to his environment and the context in which he finds himself. Known to the general public for his famous Taxis-Zinkpè, inspired by the mores and customs of means of transport familiar to the African continent, he is interested in these vehicles imported from the West and their adaptation to the economic system of the continent.

Samuel Tete- Katchan

Samuel Tete- Katchan was born in 1975 in Togo and currently resides in Accra. After his secondary school in 1997, he worked at the art studio of Mr. Joseph Amedokpo, studying and developing his own style from the ‘Oshogbo Art’ from the South West of Nigeria. One year later, he started exhibiting his paintings. He attended the instituto Rural de Arte Hosz del Jucar (Albacete in Spain) in 2007.

Samuel Tete-Katchan, cultural agent, graphic designer and painter by profession has had on numerous occasions the opportunity to use Art as a medium for social development by working on various art projects having a direct impact on communities. He carried out several assignments on Public Art Projects in Cape Coast (Ghana) in collaboration with ICOMOS International and students of University of Virginia (USA)

He is the director and co-founder of Accra Center for Contemporary Art (ACCArt), a non-profitable organisation. Moreover, he has been representing ACCArt at various ART TALK programs and has made presentations on various topics such as ‘African Traditional Art’, ‘Naïve Art’, and ‘The Influence of Traditional Art in African Contemporary Art,’‘ African Contemporary Art and Recycling Art. As consultant, he advises artists and a number of cultural institutes in Ghana and Togo. He is on the Board of Culture and Member of the Committee of French Cultural Center Alliance Française of Accra. Samuel Tete- Katchan exhibited his paintings in Africa, Europe and USA. And, his works had been sold at several auctions.

Luke Osaro

Luke Osaro is a graduate of Fine Art from Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria who has practiced as a full-time studio artist since 2004. He has participated in several art exhibitions locally and internationally and is a member of Society of Nigerian Artists as well as the famous Artzero. Luke Osaro lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria.

Nathanaël Vodouhè

Nathanaël Vodouhè devoted himself to drawing at a very young age in an attempt to find the features of a loved one who left far too soon. Since then, he has grown to become an artist who approaches his work with a fine mind and a steady hand without detour or concession. His paintings, sculptures, as well as his installations and performances, are an invitation to dialogue on his perception of the world, on social facts or mechanisms of enslavement.

As a self-taught artist, he chose to rub shoulders with his elders – Zinkpè, Vistchois Mwilambwe Bondo, Aimé Mpané, Freddy Tsimba or Barthélemy Toguo, and was able to find through his experiments, a singular writing. Irrespective of the medium, Nathanaël Vodouhè unveils works that reveal a pronounced interiority and a barely whispered spirituality.

Itchie Bidias Romaric

Romaric Bidias was born in 1995 in Kumba, Cameroon, as the last born of a family of four. He discovered his art talent at a very young age having worked and been mentored by artists such as Max Iyonga. He thereafter went through an arts training program organised by a local brewery company for six years. He began his professional art career after high school and had his first exhibition in 2013.