Back to Back Issues Page
Newsletter #023... Finding optimism and hope while learning to co-exist with Covid-19
June 05, 2020

Newsletter #023... Finding optimism and hope while learning to co-exist with Covid-19

‘Ghetto Villain’


Gallery ArtYLI

In late February/early March depending on where you were on the globe, Covid-19 rose up and struck our sheltered worlds with force. Everything turned upside down in a matter of weeks and the majority of people on the planet were, and still are, continuing to be deeply affected in one way or another.

Artists scrambled for art supplies, galleries and art fairs quickly developed their virtual platforms, art auction houses either postponed forthcoming auctions or took the plunge to continue sales online with their already existing catalogues.

Now that we have learnt to co-exist with this virus we are busy redefining everything about the way we work. The challenge for contemporary African art on and off the continent is how to continue the impetus of its growing popularity, its rising prices for artwork and investors’ faith in the growing strength and value of the market.

Underneath it all and of deep concern is… how will Africa’s artists survive?

Optimism and hope are 2 very strong characteristics of the human race and since we are consistently faced with tests and trials in our daily lives, resilience and ingenuity are 2 traits that are never far behind. Solutions to the challenges must constantly be looked for and each part of the art world must endeavor to assist the other in making sure ART survives.

While researching for this issue of CAA’s newsletter, I experienced unexpected abundance and delighted in what was coming through on the internet.

Most galleries and art fairs are already projecting their way forwards with their planned exhibits and shows, (either online or in strict new ways of physically engaging), as well as energetically trying to source new work from artists who have chosen to use the opportunity of lockdown to break out, try something new in terms of materials and subject matter, get in touch with their emotions, extend boundaries and generally... excel!


• The 14th Edition of Dak’Art, one of Africa’s major events for contemporary African art has been postponed with new dates still to be announced.

• Art Basel has scrapped its 1st June deadline for exhibitors but is still committed to its proposed dates of 17-20 Sept, 2020.

• 5th Edition, Art X Lagos is currently proposed to be physically held from the 6th – 8th of November, 2020 but this, of course, could change given the status of the Corona Virus in Nigeria in the next coming months.

• LagosPhotoFestival 2020 is still hoping to proceed with their dates of 24th Oct to 19th Dec 2020.

• The Venice Biennale has announced that the 17th Venice Biennale Architettura, 2020 titled “How Will We Live Together?” is now scheduled to open from May 22nd to November 21st, 2021 and the 59th Venice Biennale International Arte, curated by Cecilia Alemani has been moved to run from April 23rd to November 27th, 2022.


• ARCO LISBOA 2020 ONLINE EDITION runs from May 20th until 14th June.

This fair has a special curated section focusing on art from Africa with galleries from Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

See below for a few examples of some of the talented artists featured this year.


JOHN BAPTIST SEKUBULWA b 1990 in Kampala, Uganda

Titled ‘Ready to go’ 2020

The brain is a recurring motif in Sekubulwa's work… it is central to the choices and decisions communities (and individuals) make in their lives that ultimately affect them and portray them as victims or villains.

'Wagon of Disunited Unity'

"Sekubulwa is a humanist who is concerned with bringing order to systems that have been decimated by greedy and selfish characters."




From the ongoing series 'The Archaeology of Love'


GUNS AND RAIN, Johannesburg

CATALOGUE – 4 artists including Ann Gollifer

ANN GOLLIFER b 1960 Guyana, has lived in Botswana since 1985. Her art draws on her South American, British and African heritage, and their shared histories of conquest and colonialism.She says - “If we understand where we come from, who we are, and what we must become, we might have a chance of survival in a simpler future. It is strange to think that perhaps nothing will be left of us in a few hundred years.”

• 1:54 NEW YORK teamed up with Artsy to hold their May NY Fair in an Online Edition with 25 galleries showing their artists’ work in virtual spaces.

Given the circumstances, this was a very successful exercise and galleries were happy with the outcomes for themselves and their artists.

Some of the artists' work I admired included:

PRINCE GYASI, b 1997, Accra Ghana where he lives and works represented by NIL GALLERY, PARIS

SUNGI MLENGEYA b 1991 Kampala, Uganda

Sungi’s paintings consist of dark figures in minimal shades of black and browns formed against perfectly white backgrounds. Working primarily in acrylic on canvas her use of her negative spaces are intriguing and add a special dimension to her work.

'Four friends' detail



1:54 and Artsy team up for an online art fair

‘CAMEL HEART’ from the series “Some things mysterious boys do”



Nana Yaw Oduro, b 1994 Ghana, lives and works in Accra.

New at his game, Oduro is inspired by his local environment and his own emotions using his model to embody his own thoughts and feelings.

Inspired by history, the photographer explores topics like masculinity, boyhood and self-acceptance.

Touria El Glaoui of 1:54 Art Fair held webinar discussions with other notable art figures during the course of the fair.

I managed to catch a conversation between herself and 3 other art fair directors, namely Victoria Mann (AKAA), Tokini Peterside (ArtXLagos) and Mandla Sibeko (FNB Art Joburg), on ‘The Future of Contemporary African Art Fairs’ in the Covid-19 world.

This was a fascinating dialog which highlighted how there is no global consensus on life ahead: each part of the world is at a different stage of the pandemic and experiencing their own set of difficulties and challenges. It does appear Africa will be called upon to stand on its own two feet to drive itself forward.

-Could this pandemic be the one thing that drives locality in reshaping and rethinking fairs?

-Will Africa come full circle without the international big-gun galleries showing at art fairs?

-Will Africans invest in their own artists work?

-Is there a desire for art in Africa, by Africans? Watch the full dialog of the 1:54 webinar here

Awards, Prizes and Initiatives

LagosPhotoFestival has a new initiative called LagosPhoto20:Home Museum and is currently inviting entries until the cut-off date of July the 31st, 2020.

AWARD - Nigerian photographer Ayọ̀ Akínwándé from Lagos has been awarded one of 3 6-month work grants from The Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art impressing the judges with his multi-disciplinary work.

‘Ogoni Clean-up’


Recent Acquisitions

Given all that is going down in North America right now included here is a quilt that was recently acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago Institute for their permanent collection.

"The Safety Patrol' 2019by Bisa Butler

Quilted and appliquéd cotton, wool, and chiffon.

Beautifully constructed by artist Bisa Butler using layers of carefully chosen fabric pieces, it invites viewers to deeply consider the lives of her subjects.

Exuberant, colourful and almost photographic in its portrayal of a group of children, their innocence and safety appears to be guarded by the oldest child. Their individual characteristics are easily apparent but as a group they present as a united front and a symbol of strength.

Artist statement… ‘What I believe is the equal value of all humans… I want the viewer to see the subjects as I see them.... I am inviting a reimagining and a contemporary dialogue about age old issues, still problematic in our culture, through the comforting, embracing medium of the quilt."




14 MARCH - 27 JUNE 2020

This is the first solo exhibition of this young Senagelese artist. His powerful work forces us to face head on the aberrations and brutalities of our societies leading us to reflect on where we are headed.

In a converted space at the gallery, aiming at disturbing the visitor’s spatial bearings, Dieye proposes a series of haunting paintings, works on paper, as well as an immersive installation in the continuation of his reflections on the political and social landscape of our contemporary societies.

‘Human Sacrifice’ 2020'


For a captivating insight into how this artist is surviving his lockdown read the following interview.

Art In Quarantine

‘Aphelile IV, Durban’ 2020


“This image was taken on April 11, in South Africa, in response to the emergency and the use of gloves and masks as essentials that are necessary to keep one safe and protected against the pandemic.

I am under lockdown with limited movements and resources to continue production at my usual pace. I have to make use of what is at my disposal’ – Z.M.



Throughout the lockdown in South Africa, Dylan Lewis has been based in his studio and completed a monumental sculptural piece which took him 21 days to complete.

‘CHTHONIOS’ was begun on Friday March 27 and completed on Friday 16 April - “ A man's work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”

Yet to be entirely unveiled, we await the final outcome...


Hundreds of independent art and museum spaces have been forced to close due to the Coronavirus crisis. There are many fantastic artistic events that are right now sitting behind closed doors.

Like this one featured below…

PEREZ ART MUSEUM MIAMI presents a large-scale, newly commissioned work titled ‘Your trip to Africa’.

Created by artist MELEKO MOKGOSI b 1981 in Francistown, Botswana and currently living in New York, the exhibition centres around the 1966 film "Unsere Afrikareise" (Our Trip to Africa) by Austrian filmmaker Peter Kubelka.

Created for the museum’s distinctive 30-foot double-height project gallery, Mokgosi combines a high degree of traditional painting mastery with contemporary story-telling in this large-scale, hyperrealistic, political critique relating to the postcolonial condition.

MALANGATANA: Mozambique Modern at Chicago Institute for the Arts

Titled - ‘YOU MUST LOVE WHAT WE DO.’ Check with Institute for opening dates

Malangatana Valente Ngwenya (1936–2011) chose to be known by his first name. The Chicago exhibition will present him as he wished to position himself, as a Mozambican/southern African artist with “things to say in the world”.

The 40 pieces concentrate on his work from 1959 to 1975.

The upcoming exhibition will shine a light on the development of the Mozambican painter, poet, and revered national hero, who worked to break down Western stereotypes of the African population.

To find out more about this hugely important contemporary African artist -

NEON PARADISE – LIZAMORE Gallery, Johannesburg

This vibrant and boldly colourful show is a collaboration between painter Zolile Phetsane and sculptor Anton Burger with Burger interpreting Phetshane’s work through his three-dimensional signature, beaded antelope skull work.

Meanwhile Zolile Phetshane explores the concept of time drawing influence from the city (Johannesburg) around him.

The show is available to view digitally on Lizamore’s website.

The full catalogue can be viewed at

The exhibition is also available to view by appointment but all health and safety precautions must be adhered to.

Contact or to book.



With galleries in London, Berlin and Norway, KH has an exciting programme of upcoming artists. KH exhibitions overview


Currently running is a mixed-media show from Nigerian artist Gerald Chukwuma titled “Ikwokirikwo: Dance of the Spirits”.

The show captures and represents mediations of the Ikwokirikwo dance, an ancient and almost forgotten tradition of the Igbo people in Nigeria.

It runs until the 13th of June 2020.



Titled “1001 Afternoons”

Open for viewing in Melior Place until 4th July, 2020

For his first solo exhibition with the gallery, Mundopa, a Zimbabwe-based artist has presented a powerful new series of work which continue his explorations of the complexities of female existence in relation to his role as an artist and narrator.

He offers a poignant insight into Zimbabwe’s contemporary society.

The artist comments “Afternoons are a place of waiting, possibility, opportunity, dreaming or vacant despair. All are equal and present in this time frame.”


Upcoming Auction


Online auction 'Modern & Contemporary African Art'

24 June 2020

Auction Results

Featuring artist AMOAKO BOAFO

On the 20th May in London, Phillips Auctions achieved a remarkable result for young Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo.

His 2019, oil on paper, art piece titled ‘Sleepy Lady’ estimated to sell at 1500 – 20 000 British Pounds eventually sold for a staggering 106 250 British pounds.

Even more recently, in April 2020, Boafo donated a painting, 'Aurore Iradukunda'(2020), to an online benefit auction supporting the Museum of the African Diaspora during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This painting sold in early May for $190,000, nearly six times its $35,000 estimate.


Currently living in his hometown of Accra, Ghana, Boafo has been busy in the studio preparing a new body of work for his first solo exhibition with Mariane Ibrahim Gallery.

Scheduled to open in June it has been postponed to September due to COVID-19. The show will debut his fresh new approach to portraying members of the African diaspora, this time employing photo transfer to apply European wallpaper patterns to his subjects’ clothing.

Boafo recently told Artsy Editorial. “Most people know my work to be this expressive face or figure with complementing flat colors, I wanted to do something different.”

Articles to read

Five African artists demonstrate creative resilience in challenging times…

“Africa’s artists, like the rest of the art world under lockdown, are now working in quieter, more somnolent spaces. The work of Zohra Opoku, Joana Choumali, Amoako Boafo, Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi and Tariku Shiferaw, made during these seemingly endless days of social distancing offers glimmers of hope and inspiration for our present-day tribulations.” 5 African artists working in isolation

Book to order


Pre-order from Motto Books this very important, bi-lingual book put together by RAW Material Company in Senegal.

Titled ‘Condition Report: On Art History in Africa / États des lieux : De l’histoire de l’art en Afrique’, it is an astounding collection of essays, transcribed conversations and research papers, it exists to challenge gaps in knowledge around the history of African art.



Curators reflect on the lives of Aurlus Mabele, (Congo-Brazzaville), Manu Dibango, (Cameroon) and Tony Allen (Nigeria) with playlists of their music and the songs they inspired.

All 3 of the musicians died in France, 2 of them succumbing to the Corona virus. REMEMBERING THREE TOWERING AFRICAN MUSICIANS

Thank you for your attention and for spending the time to read this extended 23rd edition of CAA newsletter. I do hope you have enjoyed it as much as I did spending the long hours researching for it!

Until next time... stay safe, stay well.

Back to Back Issues Page