Find Us on the Map

March 17th-April 8th, 2016
Curated by Azu Nwagbogu
Rush Arts Gallery
526 W 26th St # 311
New York, NY 10001
Hours: Wed - Sat 12-6 pm
(212) 691-9552
Gallery Map
  • Jenevieve Aken, Nigeria
  • Andile Buka, South Africa
  • Joana Choumali, Ivory Coast
  • Cyrus Kabiru, Kenya
  • Ima Mfon, Nigeria
  • Nobukho Nqaba, South Africa
  • Logo Oluwamuyiwa Adeyemi, Nigeria
  • Colin Delfosse, Belgium
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Find Us on the Map! is an exploration of recurring themes in contemporary visual culture in Africa. Through people, places, and plural identities, the artists capture and create narratives that are factual, fictional, and occasionally hyper surreal, and leave the audience room to investigate them. The works of the featured artists encourage, and even demand, the audience to Find Us on the Map!, in accordance with the title of the exhibition. Whilst there is now a widespread awareness that Africa is not a country, are we better informed about this vast geographical entity? We may be able to name a few countries within Africa but can we find them on a map?

As the art historian, artists and curator Chika Okeke-Agulu said just last year: Folks can’t seem to come to terms with the fact that African artists have now taken and secured their seat at the dinner table, invited or not! With works of art from Africa receiving long deserved acclaim from museums, curators, and collectors, finding these places on the map becomes a prerequisite for us to be allowed to sit at the table with them. As we begin to develop our understanding of art created on the continent beyond the antiquated, overarching, and superficial title of “African art”, we seek additional information that gives us clues about society, economy, religion, and love in African countries. The exhibition includes a map that graphs “the most Googled for object” in each country and whilst Nigeria’s most Googled term is “weddings”, we see very different results in North, East, and South Africa. This is just a small piece of information that informs the practice of artists in these countries.

These artists and their stories inform and illuminate our understanding. Works by Jenevieve Aken, Joana Choumali, Colin Delfosse , Logo Olumuyiwa and Nobukho Nqaba, exemplify the intimate and synchronized dance of the factual and fictional in contemporary African photography. As we create a story and plotline for Aken’s haunting albeit glamorous character, a creation myth for Choumali’s Awoulaba mannequins, an arena for Delfosse’s wrestlers to rumble in , an audience for Olumiyiwa’s Lagos aesthetes, and a consumer base for Nqaba’s newest all-purpose textile, the exhibition allows room for playfulness but also deeper contemplation of the role of photography and the access provided through the lens and in turn through the photographs.

The show additionally features work from Cyrus Kabiru, Ima Mfon, and Andile Buka. Kabiru’s production of futuristic spectacles wrought from day to day materials has been a staple of the artist’s body of work and continues to serve as a commentary on Afrofuturism and design. Mfon’s Nigerian Identity series tackles the ever-false stereotype of a homogenized blackness while Buka takes a more comical approach to identity in Satirist Sports.

These works collectively repudiate preconceived notions of an Africa with a single story.  Simply knowing that a work was created in Africa is no longer enough, and the curated selection is evidence as to why that is.

Taking a more historical approach, photography was initially used in Africa to engage audiences with a place that at the time was a complete fantasy. African art, objects, dress, people and lifestyles were photographed as a means to inform us of the otherness of Africa. These fantasies of Africa, based on very real objects, artworks, and peoples in the past, were the foundational introduction to a continent of 54 independent countries and more than 3,000 ethnic groups. Today, the concept of fantasy is reclaimed and repurposed to narrate stories and engage viewers in innovative ways. Can you find us on the map?

About LagosPhoto: Launched in 2010, LagosPhoto is the first and only international arts festival of photography in Nigeria. In a month long festival, events include exhibitions, workshops, artist presentations, discussions, screenings, and large scale outdoor prints displayed throughout the city with the aim of reclaiming public spaces and the general public with multifaceted stories of Africa. LagosPhoto presents a contemporary and historical visual essay of the continent to both a local and global audience.

LagosPhoto has established a community for contemporary photography, which unites local and international artists through images that encapsulate individual experiences and identities from across all of Africa. LagosPhoto presents and educates about photography as it is embodied in photojournalism, the exploration of historical and contemporary social issues, the sharing of cultural practices, and the promotion of social programs.

About African Art Foundation: LagosPhoto is organized by the African Artists’ Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and development of contemporary African art. Established in 2007 in Lagos, Nigeria, African Artists’ Foundation aims to encourage the highest standard of art in Africa. African Artists’ Foundation serves a significant role in art and academic communities through organizing art exhibitions, festivals, competitions, residencies, and workshops with the aim of unearthing and developing talent, creating societal awareness, and providing a platform to express creativity. By providing assistance to professional and emerging artists in Africa and support to international exhibitions and community outreach programs, African Artists’ Foundation views the contribution to a strong cultural landscape in Africa as a transformative element in driving social change.

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