This Week in African Art and Culture – (August 14 – 21, 2021)

Above: Zana Masombuka | Isizungu (Hlubuka) I | photograph | digital print on archival Tecco BTT270 paper | 2020

This week in African art and culture, an exhibition
of two African artists is on view in Frankfurt featuring video and photography works. In Lagos, Nigeria there’s an exciting exhibition inspired by the aso-oke fabric from the Yoruba speaking people of western Nigeria. With this show, the artist explores, through various media, the culture associated with the age-old tradition of weaving this fabric to life.


One of America’s biggest multinational music labelsfocused on hip-hop, pop and urban music has appointed a new ceo and chairman from Africa.


On the literary scene, one of Africa’s most vocal feminists has been announced to headline this year’s edition of the Africa Writes Literary Festival. The longlist for the 2021 U.K. Diverse Book Award is out,and some of Africa’s favorite authors make the list…


Coming of Age at Sakhile&Me, Frankfurt


Sakhile&Me, a Frankfurt-based gallery focused on showcasing art from Africa and its diaspora has anonline exhibition on view titled Coming of Age. The show features video and photographic works by Zana Ndebele Superhero Masombuka from South Africa and Lloyd Foster of Ghanaian descent.


The exhibition invites an introspective look into the processes of getting to know oneself in relationship to our environment and in relation to others. The phrase “coming of age” itself refers to a transition from childhood to adulthood and conjures up rites of passage, graduating children and teenagers into adulthood. Without limiting the experience of transformation and growth to age and the forward progression of time, Coming of Age offers an exploration of becoming as an ongoing growing into, rather than a move from one fixed phase to another.


Masombuka’s and Foster’s works visualize gradual developments and experiences of transformation that can come about through monumental life-changing events, such as grief after the loss of a loved one, as well as in everyday experiences, such as bonding with peers through learning, exchange and play.


Coming of Age centers on self-actualization and rituals of becoming, including building community and ways of communing with oneself and others. This expansive view evokes various entry points for discussion about what coming of age is and what rituals and forms it can take through solitude and conscious communion with others and our natural environment.


With this exhibition, the practices of both artists involve an intuitive exploration of the way individuals simultaneously grow in solitude and in communion with others.


The exhibition is on view until Aug. 31, 2021.

Above: Installation View: Busayo Lawal | Life in Asymmetry | 2021

Lawal’s Life in Asymmetry at ko Art Space Lagos


For more than two decades, Busayo Lawal has interrogated the conventions of visual vocabulary to challenge notions of the time-space continuum, migration and power. In his first major exhibition in Nigeria, titled Life in Asymmetry, Lawal has created a seminal body of work that is premised on his lifelong obsession with the rich tapestries of aso oke, the ceremonial woven cloth that is unique to the Yoruba people of West Africa and its diaspora. From large scale paintings to drawings on paper, Lawal has repurposed,in new and inventive forms, the motifs and colorschemes that are central to an ageless tradition.

Life in Asymmetry is Lawal’s artistic statement writ large. The intricacies of woven cloth and the beguiling patterns that they form tell the stories of craft and purpose, dedication and cultural histories, fortitude and fate. “What makes the man is the story. What makes the story is the man,” says the artist, a pithy maxim that conceals enormous complexities, as true in life as it is in this new body of work.

Curated by Sabo Kpade, Life in Asymmetry is Lawal’s second solo exhibition since his 2014 show at Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos. Lawal has participated in group projects helmed by the Bruce OnobrakpeyaFoundation and Ford Foundation. His works have featured in numerous group exhibitions in Lagos organized by the National Gallery of Art, Alliance Française, United Nations Information Center, the National Council for Art and Culture and Eko Atlantic. He also has participated in other group shows in Abuja, Nigeria at the Greek and Italian embassies. He lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria.


Life in Asymmetry is on view until Aug. 26, 2021 at ko art space, Lagos.



Above: Tunji Balogun



Universal Music Appoints Tunji Balogun Chairman & CEO of Def Jam Recordings


Universal Music Group (UMG) announced the appointment of Nigerian-born Tunji Balogun as ceo and chairman of Def Jam Recordings. He has been serving as executive vice president of A&R at RCA Records.


Def Jam Recordings has produced music from some of the greatest pop artists including Kanye West, Jay Z, Rihanna, Big Sean, Justin Bieber and many more.


“I grew up on Def Jam’s musiccollecting, listening to and studying their albums and singlesthose early moments as a young fan have had a lasting influence on who I am today,” Tunji said. “Def Jam remains one of music’s most iconic brands and has always represented forward-thinking artists and partners that continue to shift ideas and impact culture around the world. I’m honored to lead Def Jam into its next chapter...”


Tunji started his career as a marketing intern at Warner Brothers Records, where he was later hired as an assistant. He then became an A&R (artists and repertoire talent attraction and development) at Interscope before moving on to RCA as executive vice president in 2015.


Throughout that time, Tunji has worked with the likes of Wizkid, Bryson Tiller, H.E.R., Childish Gambino, Goldlink, Khalid, Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and many more. In 2018, he launched the record label Keep Cool, which features artists including Normani, Lucky Daye, VanJess and Freddie Gibbs & Madlib on their roster.


“Tunji is part of a new wave of dynamic executives who view today’s artists and music through a unique creative lens,” says UMG chairman & ceo Sir Lucian Grainge. “Not only does he bring a deep understanding and respect for the cultural significance of what Def Jam has created over the past four decades, but he also sees the boundless potential of what Def Jam can be to a new generation of artists and fans.”


Tunji will be taking over at Def Jam from interim chief Jeff Harleston and past CEO Paul Rosenberg beginningJan. 1, 2022.




Eltahawy to Headline U.K.’s Africa Writes 2021 Festival


This week, it was announced that popular Egyptian feminist and activist Mona Eltahawy will headline for the literary festival Africa Writes 2021.

The Africa Writes literary festival, launched in 2021, is an initiative of the U.K.s Royal African Society. Since then, it has grown to be one of the most awaited for literary events in the African diaspora calendar in the U.K. It has hosted some of the most well-known names in the African literary universe, with headliners such asChimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ama Ata Aidoo, Nawal El Saadawi, Wole Soyinka, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ, Ben Okri, and Warsan Shire.

In 2021, the festival is set to run a blended program of online and in-person events at the British Library and 180 The Strand starting on Oct. 4. This will mark the return of the festival after it made the move from an annual to a biannual festival starting in 2019.  

Africa Writes Producer Marcelle Mateki Akita said,“We are excited to bring Africa Writes back to audiences and our program reflects a multitude of experiences, interests and aesthetics, with stories from the African continent as well as in its diaspora. This year Africa Writes consists of a two-day, in-person event at the British Library from Oct. 23-24, which audiences also can access online via the British Library Player.”

The festival headliner for 2021 is American-Egyptian journalist, activist and author Mona Eltahawy, whose first book was Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution (2016). In the headline event, Eltahawy will be in conversation with Dr Leyla Hussein on the topic Dismantling the Patriarchy, which will take place at the British Library on Sunday, Oct. 24, and where she will discuss her latest book, The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls (2019)a bold, uncompromising feminist manifesto on how to defy, disrupt and destroy the patriarchy.

This year’s festival, centered around the themes of imagination, pleasure and activism, will run from Oct.4-24, 2021.

African Writers on U.K.’s Diverse Book Awards 2021 Longlist

The longlist for the Diverse Book Awards 2021, dedicated to diversity in U.K. writing has been released,and we are excited to report about the African authors on the list.

The Diverse Book Awards was created by Abiola Bello and Helen Lewis, founders of The Author School to celebrate the diversity of writing in the U.K. in November 2019. This team will look through the texts in the longlists to select the best diverse book in the U.K. in three age groups: children, young adult, and adult.

The judges for this year’s edition are Amy Mae Baxter,the founder and editor-in-chief of Bad Form Review;Cassie Chadderton, the World Book Day ceo; Ama Badu, the FAB website editor and editorial assistant at Faber Children; and Alexia Pepper De Caires, the owner of Back to Books Indie shop. The teen judges are Nandika Paheerathan and Nicky Anderson.

The writers of African descent with books in the running the three categories are:


Baller Boys by Venessa Taylor, illustrated by Kenneth Ghann (Hashtag Press)
Clean Up by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola, Nathan Bryon (Penguin Random House Children’s)
Too Small Tola by Atinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu (Walker Books)
Windrush Child by Benjamin Zephaniah (Scholastic Children’s Books)
Zombierella: Fairy Tales Gone Bad by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Freya Hartas (Walker Books)

Young Adult

And The Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando (Simon & Schuster Children’s Books)
Boy, Everywhere by A. M. Dassu (Old Barn Books)
Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle (Andersen Press)
Crown of Crowns by Clara Loveman (Clara Loveman)
Eight Pieces of Silva by Patrice Lawrence (Hodder Children’s Books)
Hijab and Red Lipstick by Yousra Imran (Hashtag Press)


A More Perfect Union by Tammye Huf (Myriad Editions)
If I Don’t Have You by Sareeta Domingo (Jacaranda)
The First Woman by Jennifer NansubugaMakumbi (Oneworld)
The Street Hawker’s Apprentice by Kabir Kareem-Bello (Jacaranda)
Ugly Dogs Don’t Cry by DD Armstrong (Jacaranda)

The shortlist will be announced on Sept. 20 before the winner is revealed at a ceremony in London in October.


Compiled by Roli O’tsemaye

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