Africa My Africa – Connecting Boundaries

Gallery of African Art (GAFRA), London, United Kingdom
27 Oct 2016 - 03 Dec 2016

Africa My Africa – Connecting Boundaries

left: Daniel Soresa, Memories, 2015 ; right: Olayanju Dada, Aspirations, 2016 - Courtesy of Gallery of African Art (GAFRA)

Africa My Africa – Connecting Boundaries is the theme of a new joint exhibition curated by the Gallery Of African Art (GAFRA) and Lahd Gallery. Each gallery is represented by two prominent artists, connecting an “invisible pyramid” that unites North, East and West Africa. The four artists featured all possess a unique kinship with Africa’s rich and ever-diversifying culture.

GAFRA present the Ethiopian artist Daniel Soresa and the Nigerian artist, Olayanju Dada. They are exhibited alongside Edward Akrout and Patrick Altes from Lahd Gallery. Altes and Akrout both hold ties to North Africa – Altes having been born in Algeria, of French and Spanish parentage, and Akrout is the son of a Tunisian and Franco-British couple. Although they have very different backgrounds and disciplines, the works of each of the four artists demonstrate uncanny abilities to portray connections with their countries of origin, and respective heritages, societies, and cultures.

Olayanju Dada is currently based in Germany but he has previously lived in Nigeria, the UK and India. His artworks are full of texture and depth, and feature “found materials”. Dada’s narratives are inspired by the poetics of mixing dissimilar elements into what he calls “experimental collages”, in a similar technique to that of fellow exhibitor Patrick Altes. Dada comments: “The focus of my practice is to translate displaced objects into a further state of meaning and symbolic essence, thereby creating a ‘re-entry’ into the flow of cultural transactions and narratives.”

Daniel Soresa complements Dada perfectly. Born in Ethiopia, he moved to Barcelona at an early age before later returning to his country of birth. He then travelled extensively in West Africa, and later relocated to his current home in Norway. As a youngster, he immersed himself in art and became fascinated with colour and light. His works are born of a medley of colours, and are elaborated with pigments and full of texture. As does Dada, Soresa composes abstract pieces that layer colour and media in order to create rich works of art, with a fusion of hues and cultures that bring his works to life. Reflecting his fascination when a youth, he also focuses on the importance of light and how it influences a piece. Soresa describes his works as having, “ a strong influence of African art, but seen with a western perspective.” Soresa’s pieces seem softer and more ethereal -characteristics which define Soresa’s edge as an artist.

In addition to being a visual artist, Edward Akrout is an actor and a film maker. His paintings are easily recognisable through the emotion and character of his subjects and themes. He also employs layers of colour, as well as energetic mark making that he weaves into vibrant tapestries, enabling him to distill the subject into its purest base elements.

The work of Patrick Altes is an ideal juxtaposition to the above, with his bold and constantly varied use of mixed media, again consisting of “found materials” such as wood, cardboard and many other objects. Employing these materials, Altes explores his own sense of identity through abstract, dreamscape-like compositions that raise as many questions as they answer. Edward Akrout provides fluid and stylised characters, while Altes suggests the stories they might tell.

Although all four artists have distinctive backgrounds and styles, each of them tells stories that speak of experience, and of intimate knowledge concerning a place they each owe a great deal to. All of their stories display a clear love of their origin, with a very human undertone of nostalgia and longing. Africa is portrayed as a vibrantly captivating place of diversity and energy, filled with an endless supply of rich stories that are bursting to be told. Their Africa comes to life through the convergence of the vibrancy and colour of the works produced by these four very talented individuals.

Africa My Africa – Connecting Boundaries highlights these perspectives of “home”, reaffirming connections to one’s origin, irrespective of one’s current physical location. We are connecting the boundaries – and becoming united in our distinctiveness.



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