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Modern African Art : A Basic Reading List

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Fillitz, Thomas. Zeitgenössische Kunst aus Afrika: 14 Gegenwartskünstler aus Côte d’Ivoire und Bénin. Vienna: Böhlau, 2002. 408pp. color plates, bibliog. (pages 319-333). N7399.I8F55 2002 AFA. OCLC 50190181.

This is a study of West African artists from Côte d’Ivoire and Bénin within the context of globalization of art practices and processes. Based on fieldwork in these two countries in 1997, Fillitz concentrates on fourteen artists. In Côte d’Ivoire: Youssouf Bath, Théodore Koudougnon, Kra N’Guessan, Yacouba Touré, Ibrahima Keï, Mathilde Moro, Issa Kouyaté, and Ludovic Fadairo. In Bénin: Romuald Hazoumé, Georges Adéagbo, Calixte Dakpogan, Théeodore Dakpogan, Dominique Zinkpè, and Tchif.

Kennedy, Jean. "New dynamics: the West African coast," pp. 87-94. In: New currents, ancient rivers: contemporary African artists in a generation of change. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992. illus., bibl. refs. (page 189). N7391.65.K46 1992X AFA. OCLC 22389510.

In the West African countries of Togo, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia and Gambia no prominent art movements or schools emerged in the early decades of the modern art era, but several individual artists can be cited as "artists of accomplishment." Kennedy singles out for discussion in this chapter El Loko (1950- ) of Togo; Oku Ampofo (1908- ), Vincent Akwete Kofi (1923-1974), and Nii Ahene Mettle-Nunoo, of Ghana; Christian Lattier (1925-1977) of Côte d'Ivoire; Omar Al Shabu of Liberia; and Momodou Ceesay (1944- ) of Gambia.

Lerat, Jean-Marie. Chez bonne idée: images du petit commerce en Afrique de l'Ouest. Paris: Alternatives, 1986. 139pp. illus. (color). ND2867.L47 1986X AFA. OCLC 16472834.

French photographer Lerat documents the sign paintings on commercial establishments in West Africa, which constitute lively and original visual and social commentary on contemporary life. There are the familiar barbershop signs and bar/restaurant advertising along with a host of others. Most examples illustrated are from Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali, Bénin, and Ghana. Two essays discuss this phenomenon of murals and sign paintings: "L'Afrique en ville et sur les murs," by Jean-Marie Gibbal; and "Images composites et peinture fraîche," by Denys Riout. See also Set Setal below in the Senegalese section.

Ruprecht, Ronald. "Vom Lehm zum Zement: Grossskulpturen in Westafrika," pp. 8-23. In: Zementskulpturen aus Nigeria: Sunday Jack Akpan, Aniedi Okon Akpan; [exhibition, IFA Galerie, sponsored by Iwalewa-Haus, Bayreuth]. Stuttgart: Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, 1988. illus., notes, bibliog. NB1099.N5Z53 1988 AFA. OCLC 20218034.

Cement sculpture in West Africa is a twentieth-century art form and often appears quite modern, but wherever it occurs, invariably it springs from earlier traditions: Igbo mbari shrines, Asafo monuments, Akan or Ibibio tomb sculptures. The continuities, however, are not hard to discern. The medium of cement offers a durability and permanence that mud or terracotta lacks and is seen as appropriate for works usually associated with or made to be placed in funerary or commemorative contexts.

The bulk of this volume deals with the sculptors Sunday Jack Akpan and Aniedi Okon Akpan, whose life-sized painted cement sculptures have a startling realism and dramatic impact, which is magnified and intensified when one visits the artists' workshop in southeastern Nigeria and sees dozens of these animated human and animal figures assembled in the yard. The originality and inventiveness of their work is apparent, but it did not spring from nothing. The forms and images may be new, but Ibibio funerary and commemorative sculpture has a long history. The Akpans have merely expanded the repertoire with their unique contributions. The skilled craftsmanship with which they translate a two-dimensional photograph or portrait (from which they often work) into a three-dimensional work is itself a remarkable artistic achievement.

There are numerous photographs of the Akpans' sculptures and their workshop, plus thirty-three color plates, reproduced in the book. Two essays on the work of the Akpans by Thomas Deecke and Ronald Ruprecht comprise the main text.

We face forward: art from West Africa today / Maria Balshaw, Natasha Howes, Alan Rice, Christine Eyene, Koyo Kouoh, Lubaina Himid. Manchester: Manchester City Galleries: Whitworth Art Gallery, [2012]. 128pp. illus. (some color), portraits, bibl. refs. N7398.W4 2012 AFA. OCLC 802330516.

The summer of 2012 saw a grand celebration of West African art in Manchester, England, otherwise known as Cottonopolis, harking back to its textile industrial base. Thirty-three artists participated along with musicians and other actors. The exhibition was held at the Manchester City Galleries, the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Gallery of Costume, Manchester, England, June 2-September 16, 2012.