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UAE | Dubai
15.4.2021   |  Art And About Africa

Artist from the Continent at Art Dubai 2021

The 15th edition of the Dubai art fair has been finally held in presence, from the 29th of March to the 3rd of April 2021 at the Dubai International Financial Centre, receiving international acclaims for reaffirming its conviction that art is best enjoyed in person and bringing visitors safely to experience the art.

Art Dubai is a leading international art fair and unique platform for art across the globe, displaying this edition the artworks from 50 galleries and 31 countries.

We went around looking for the booths to find out which artists and galleries currently living and working in Africa are present at the Art Dubai 2021 edition. Below we have summarized who they are and what they do, capturing their faces at the Art Fair:

Circle Art Gallery (Nairobi, Kenya) promotes contemporary art from Eastern Africa, with the intention to create a strong and sustainable art market for East African artists.

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Dana Jaroljmek, director of the Circle Art Agency

The artists Danda selected for Art Dubai 2021 are:
Salah Elmur (Sudan)
whose paintings often emulate formal portrait settings with additional elements that complement but also unsettle the mood in his paintings. Plants and animals share the frame with the human subjects, limbs are shortened and proportions are distorted, altering the relationships between various objects and figures in the frame. All these elements are combined in a somewhat surrealistic swirl of memory, and the resulting paintings are tender, intimate vignettes of human relationships, the rituals and poetry of daily life and folklore.
Souad Abdlrassoul (Egypt)
works between the abstract and figurative manage to connect human and animal figures to the Earth believing we are a part of it. Her metamorphosed figures do not seek to depict physical beauty but attempt to reflect on the connections between the human race and the natural elements of life; earth, metal, animals and plants. Tree-like figures with branching veins and arteries and giant insect-like creatures merge on her canvases to remind the viewer of the vital bond between our internal lives and the exterior world we live in.

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Salah Elmur

COMPTOIR DES MINES GALERIE (Marrakech, Morocco) aspires to work alongside the best artists on the continent, helping them carry out their projects and giving them the greatest possible visibility. Comptoir des Mines is also an innovative art gallery whose short-term ambition is to partake in the largest international events. Rooted in its national territory, it is also the benchmark venue for the new arts scene it promotes.

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Imane, Comptoir des Mines Galerie

The exhibiting artists are:
Mustapha Akrim (Morocco)
His art questions the nature of work and the difference between construction and creating art in light of society’s state of constant change. He is part of a generation of artists that is developing a new language with which to redefine the basis of expression in the visual arts in Morocco (Generation 00). With a nuanced understanding of history and the dynamics of power, this generation searches for a new freedom in its break from the aesthetics developed in the immediate post-colonial period and after.
Mariam Abouzid Souali (Morocco)
She lives and works between Tetouan and Philadelphia. From her earliest childhood, Mariam finds in drawing and painting a means of expression that she likes to explore on a daily basis. She recognizes that this early learning is her true mother tongue.
Mohamed Arejdal (Morocco)
He has developed a multifaceted body of work, which explores the territories of his native southern Morocco, where he now teaches. His horizons also stretch to Senegal and Mauritania, his interest being in the informal, fleeting adventures that arise out of chance encounters, journeys and wanderings are key to his work, which takes in performances, photography, video and installations. The majority of his performances make a direct appeal to the spectator through the artist’s physical involvement in his ability to create something that lies between an initiation rite and a collective examination.
Khalil Nemmaoui Khalil Nemmaoui (Morocco)
After publishing his first images in 1993, he decided to devote himself entirely to photography. He held his first exhibition in 1997. After a short period of classic humanist portraiture, he returned after a time of absence from Morocco to landscape photography with the series ‘La Maison de l’Arbre (The House of the Tree)’. The series was nominated for the Prix Pictet 2010 and won the prize of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie at the 2011 Rencontres de Bamako.
Hassan Bourkia (Morocco)
He is a writer, translator and painter. Since 1982, he published hundreds of articles (philosophical and literary) in various Moroccan and international newspapers and magazines and since 1996 he provides cover for novels, collections of poetry and cultural posters.
Fatiha Zemmouri (Morocco)
Through polymorphic work, Fatiha Zemmouri leads an in-depth reflection around the concepts of construction, deconstruction, regeneration and transformation. It develops an elaborate work where natural phenomena (water, fire, earth) and materials such as wood, coal and earth, hold an essential place. In all her creations, Fatiha uses an abstract vocabulary to simplify the forms of nature, the fragility and thinness of the materials used to give his work a poetic character.


GALLERY 1957 (Accra, Ghana) launched by Marwan Zakhem on Ghana Independence Day, 2016, and has since expanded across two gallery spaces within Accra, dedicating its programme to spearheading international exchanges between contemporary West African art practices and the rest of the world.

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Gallery 1957, Art Dubai

The exhibiting artists are:
Abdoulaye Konaté (Mali)
Konaté studied painting in the Institut National des Arts de Bamako and then at the Instituto Superior de Arte, Havana, Cuba. Konaté worked as a graphic designer at the Musee National in Bamako. In 1998, he was appointed to be the Director of the Palais de la Culture. He now works as the principal of the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers Multimédia Balla Fasseké Kouyaté in Bamako, Mali. He and his work have received several awards, including in 2002 the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mali and Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France.

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Joana Choumali

Joana Choumali (Ivory Coast)
Her style includes conceptual portraiture, mixed media and documentary.
Much of her work focuses on Africa, her assumptions about the diversity of cultures around her, and her expanding conceptions of the world. As a child, Choumali would travel to Adaou, a small town in the southeast, to visit her grandmother, a farmer and trader. She often felt a cultural disconnect as they did not speak the same language or share life experiences. After her grandmother died in 2001, Choumali lamented losing part of her family history and questioned her identity as an African. This experience inspired her 2014 portrait series, “Resilients”, which documents young, professional African women who also struggled with connecting to their family’s traditional past.
The only requirement was that the women had to wear traditional clothing already worn by their grandmother or an older female relative, emphasizing the link between past and present.

ADDIS FINE ART (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) founded in 2016 by Rakeb Sile and Mesai Haileleul, as the very first white cube space and international platform based in Ethiopia. The gallery focuses on highlighting modern and contemporary fine art from the Horn of Africa region and its Diasporas.

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Mesai, Addis Fine Art Gallery Owner

The artists presented by Addis Fine Art are:
Tadesse Mesfin (Ethiopia)
He holds a unique position as both a figurehead of the Ethiopian modernist movement and as a long- time educator through his role as a professor at the influential Alle School of Fine Art and Design in Addis Ababa. His latest body of work is a continuation of his ongoing series celebrating the women who work as small-holder vendors in markets across Ethiopia.
Tsedaye Makonnen (Ethiopia)
A multidisciplinary artist whose practice threads together her identity as a daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, a Black American woman, doula and a mother. She is concerned with the transhistorical forced migration of Black communities across the globe and Feminism, a narrative that she explores primarily through her Astral Sea series, an installation and textile work activated through performance.
Addis Gezehagn (Ethiopia)
His dreamlike collage works are a documentation of the increasingly changing urban landscape of Addis Ababa, made by layering magazine cut outs with acrylic paint. By examining the personal and public spaces in these areas, his works archive walls and towers destined to crumble, tracing a pattern of classism and social injustice and offering a commentary on the socio-economic context of urban life.
Tizta Berhanu (Ethiopia)
Previously part of Art Dubai’s residency program in 2020, she recently made her solo debut at Addis Fine Art’s Addis Ababa gallery in December 2020. The exhibition titled Heber, was a continuation of her artistic investigation into human emotions through her preferred medium, figurative painting.

GALLERY MISR (Egypt) opened to the public in June 2011 and managed to quickly become one of Cairo’s most popular galleries for modern contemporary art. Dedicated to exhibiting works by Egyptian artists, the gallery hosts solo and group exhibitions for paintings, sculpture, drawings, audio & video installations, and photography.

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Gallery Misr, Art Dubai

The artists from Gallery Misr exhibiting at Art Dubai 2021 are:
Adel El Siwi (Egypt)
Self-taught, painter, he experiments with virtual work projects on buildings and art direction on films. He had his first major show at Cairo Atelier in 1985 and after that some solo exhibitions in Egypt, Germany, Lebanon and Italy. His group exhibitions include Venice Biennale (1997).
Islam Zaher (Egypt)
He studied painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo, graduating in 1994. He received the Grant of Devotion from the Ministry of Culture in 1996 and has been awarded several prizes including the Grand Jury Prize at the 9th and 10th editions of the Youth Salon (1997-98). Since then he has exhibited in various group and solo exhibitions.
Essam Marouf (Egypt)
In his painting work he focuses on women and their expression, fully charged with emotions and intimacy,
with special attention given to their faces and the many shades of expression they bring.
Amr El-Kafrawy (Egypt)
He is constantly working with different mediums such as drawing, painting, illustration and graphic design and printing.
He achieved many prizes in the Egyptian youth Salon also he granted many artist residency programs in Poland, Spain, Morocco and Switzerland.

ELMARSA GALLERY (Tunisia) was established in 1994 with the mission to generate interest in Arab art, inspire dialogue between cultural, social and artistic leaders, and develop international relationships. One of the gallery’s hallmarks is its role as an informal meeting place for an international crowd of intellectual, business, and social actors. Since its founding, the gallery has committed to providing support to the immense amount of artistic talent and potential in Tunisia and the larger Middle East.

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The selected artists from Elmarsa are:
Rachid Koraïchi (Algeria) | also exhibited by Aicon Art
His work is influenced by a heritage in intellectual Sufism and early schooling as Quraishite (transcriber of Quranic texts) in the Aurés region in Algeria. Drawing on Arabic semiotics and dwelling on calligraphy as a means of interpretive transcendence, Koraïchi’s work utilizes letters and signage to evoke figurative imagery and enumerate universal messages to a global audience. The reworked Sufi verses evoke arcane talismanic characters and numbers that, in accordance with Sufi philosophy, negotiate an aesthetical quality with revelation, divination and physical manifestation of intangible ideas such as the quest for grace. His ideas are realized through a variety of media including ornately painted ceramics, textiles, bold metal sculptures of literary characters, and silkscreens that negotiate imagery with typology.
Atef Maatallah (Tunisia)
His work revisits the codes of narrative figuration through a rigorous illustration of everyday images and characters whose haunting glances evoke an air of transience. Through this sensitive rendering, Maatallah’s paintings and drawings evoke the precarious existence lived by people he encounters in his daily life. The figures are accompanied by objects, which through their ephemeral appearance, hint at the tenuousness of their social conditions.
Khaled Ben Slimane (Tunisia)
His multi-disciplinary practise includes paintings on paper, canvas and wood as well as ceramic and bronze sculptures. A synthesis of East and West, his work invokes Sufism through graphic repetition of words and phrases in a distinctive style, which is partly inspired by the masters he once met or worked with such as Miro and Tapies.
Nja Mahdaoui (Tunisia)
Is a visual artist, an explorer of signs. He has been portrayed as a “choreographer of letters”. His work, inspired by Arab calligraphy, is remarkably innovative as the aesthetic dimension of letters brings forth a sense of the poetic – highly rhythmic– arresting us with its rich abstract compositions. Thus, his creative approach is conveyed through the choice of material and medium. He has illustrated legendary or sacred myths, tales or manuscripts, reminding us how the influence of Arab literature and culture on our world is immense.
Gouider Triki (Tunisia) is a painter and engraver whose work creates a new language of abstraction based on mystical symbols and decorative signs from Islamic and Berber traditions. Grounded in his upbringing as a farmer, Triki explores representations of cultural idioms and mythological representations. Highly influenced by the work of Paul Klee, Triki created a new language of abstraction based on symbols from nature, and human figures in dreamlike, imaginary landscapes, which portray organized chaos.

Ali Tnani (Tunisia) | Part of Art Dubai Video Programme
Title of artwork: Even The Sun Has Rumors, 2017 Duration of video: 18’04’’

Trace, space, data, etc, are some of the keywords that gravitate around his artistic practice. While Tnani has an affinity with the visual medium, his practice extends to sound works, computer programming and theoretical research. In recent years, he has developed an experimental way of practising drawing (using tools such as the modified vacuum cleaner, converging with computer code and inventing fictions), a conceptual way where the presentation of these drawings is often associated with networked, sculptural or photographic installations. There was a time in his artistic practice when he turned to the documentary approach. This new direction has adopted different media ranging from photography, documentary drawing, network installation and finally the documentary film.
Fakhri El Ghezal (Tunisia) | Part of Art Dubai Video Programme
Title of artwork: Héni éltéli / I’m at the back, 2014/2017 Duration of video: 9’46’’
Trained in engraving, photography, and videography, his work shapes the body’s various resonances by incessantly moving back and forth between the memory of the flesh and those of images. Revolving obsessively around faces, images, bodies, and photographic objects, El Ghezal mines gestures with patience that resembles a farmer waiting for the slow emergence of fruit for harvest.


In addition to the six galleries based on the continent, more artists who currently live in Africa has been selected to exhibit at Art Dubai 2021:

Omar Ba (Senegal) | Templon
His paintings, produced using a variety of techniques and materials, represent political and social motifs open to multiple interpretations. His artistic vocabulary raises historical and timeless questions while formulating a wholly contemporary artistic message. Omar Ba’s iconography features personal metaphors, ancestral references and hybrid figures. This combination of heterogeneous elements illustrates his desire to abolish boundaries and categories. His work, with its enigmatic nature and poetic intensity, rejects all forms of didactic narrative, seeking instead to express his subconscious and his symbolic interpretation of the real.

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Omar Ba, Genesis 1:26-27, 2021, acrylic, pencil, oil, Indian ink and Bic pen on canvas, 200 x 150 cm, unique piece

Babajide Olatunji (Nigeria) | TAFETA
Originally trained as a botanist, he is a self-taught artist who spent considerable personal time researching art historical movements and modes of production. Recent projects draw from extensive research into age-old cultural practices of his indigenous Yoruba culture resulting in the critically well-received series of drawings and paintings – Tribal Marks Series I, II and III. Newer projects have included the monumental paintings of “The History of the Yorubas” and intimate drawings of cryptic Yoruba messages called “Aroko”.

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Niyi Olagunju

Niyi Olagunju (Nigeria) | TAFETA
He holds a BA Fine Arts (Hons) degree from the University of Oxford, and a MA in Fine Arts, with a specialisation in sculpture from Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas. Before his degree at Oxford, Olagunju served with the British Army from 2002 through to 2006. Work from Olagunju’s Baga Nimba series was shown as part of Get Up, Stand Up Now, a major exhibition celebrating the past 50 years of Black creativity in Britain and beyond, at the Somerset House, London. Another museum showing in 2019 was at the Vestfossen Kunstlabratorium, Oslo, Norway.
Tchalé Figueira (Cape Verde) | Perve Galeria
Figueira is a multidisciplinary artist who expresses himself through painting and drawing, and also through music, writing and poetry. His creations, characterized by bright colors and distorted shapes are the result of a skillful mixture of the real world and a dream world, between observation and imagination. With a certain irony, his work is inspired by the burlesque scenes of local life and the aberrations of the human condition, as he denounces political and societal flaws.

Reinata Sadimba (Mozambique) | Perve Galeria
She received the traditional education of the Maconde ethnicity, which included the manufacture of utilitarian objects in clay (plates, pitchers, etc.). Being a very original and independent woman in a small village caused her many misunderstandings and difficulties. In the traditional familiar. activities’ division, the potter’s work belongs exclusively to women, but Reinata gradually transforms the pots into anthropomorphic figures, changing the role of the potter into that of an artist and invading a space, reserved until then, to men.

Lizette Chirrime (Mozambique) | Perve Galeria
Creates artworks using paint and sewing and this has always been an important pastime for her since she never received a formal arts education. In 2004 she was invited to participate in her first solo exhibition in Mozambique and in 2005 she accepted a three-month residency at Greatmore Studios in Cape Town, South Africa.
The interplay between textiles, abstraction, and art as a therapeutic and spiritual tool, make Chirrime’s art unique and distinctively African.
She grew up under very harsh conditions, angry and afraid of life and with no self-esteem. She was a wounded person than she started gardening and drawing and this became her therapy. As a young adult, she found herself on an island off the coast of Nyambane in Mozambique where she lived on her own for months. Here she started facing nature and understanding that she is part of nature and that she could conquer her fears feeding off the strength of this very nature she is part of. She kept herself busy during the days creating artworks out of founding materials. This is where the healing process started.

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Lizette Chirrime

Goncalo Mabunda (Mozambique) | AKKA Project
He’s interested in the collective memory of his country which has only recently emerged from a long and terrible civil war and he works with arms, recovered in 1992, at the end of the sixteen-year conflict that divided the region.
Gonçalo gives anthropomorphic forms to AK47s, rocket launchers, pistols, and other objects of destruction. His work takes on a striking Modernist edge akin to imagery by Braque and Picasso. The deactivated weapons carry strong political connotations and convey a positive reflection on the transformative power of art and the resilience and creativity of African civilian societies.
Mabunda is most well known for his thrones that, according to him, function as attributes of power, tribal symbols, and traditional pieces of ethnic African art. They are an ironic way of commenting on his childhood experience of violence and the civil war that isolated his country for a long period.

Filipe Branquinho (Mozambique) | AKKA Project
Also part of Art Dubai Video Programme

Title of artwork: LIPIKO
Branquinho is a multi-talented artist, he studied architecture and follows a dual career as a photographer and illustrator.
He’s currently working on a series entitled “Lipiko” in which he uses Mapiko masks from the Maconde tradition and then associates drawing and photography with a strong sense of satire to propose a reflection on aspects and values of contemporary national affairs.
Branquinho’s works have been selected for a number of group and solo exhibitions in Mozambique, Brazil, Portugal, and South Africa. Filipe was one of the selected artists to represent Mozambique at La Biennale di Venezia 2019.

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Filipe Branquinho

Kelechi Nwaneri (Nigeria) | AKKA Project
Kelechi’s style stands between Photorealism, Surrealism, and Postmodernism but perfectly fits into what he defined Contemporary Surrealism. Inspired by events happening in his daily environment, he creates art with surrealistic imagery. A major characteristic of his work is the use of West-African Iconography, mystical, metaphysical, allegorical concepts, and the Black Hybrid Figure, inspired by the idea of scars and African Tribal Marks.
As he says “A major feature of my work is the “Hybrid (Black) Figure inspired by the idea of scars and tribal marks. These figures are usually embedded with symbols (including mainly Adinkra, Uli, Nsibidi symbols), Automatic Lines, and Adire patterns using primarily Pencils and Charcoal sticks.”

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Kelechi Nwaneri

Ibrahim El Dessouki (Egypt) | Hafez Gallery
Is a painter of a highly condensed style in portraiture as well as in still life painting and landscape.
Is the architect of the dualism of shadow and light, and he is one of the few Egyptian painters who fully employed his academic artistic experience in conveying reality calmly away from fantasy but in a way that gives it an unmistakable sense of nature, and whether it is works of nature or portraiture, the centrality of Egyptian culture that captures his distinctive and attractive look to the spirit of his native country.

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Ibrahim El-Dessouki


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