This Week in African Art and Culture (July 31 – August 6, 2022)

Above: Cecilia Lamptey-Botchway | Movement of Meditation | oil, acrylic, wool on canvas | 2022 

This week in African art and culture, we bring happenings from literature and contemporary art. A U.K.-based Nigerian author is set to release a new book, and a Somalian writer has won a U.K. national prize in the fiction category. On winning in contemporary art, a Namibian artist receives a prize for her featured work in a triennial. And in Accra, Ghana, an exciting exhibition on dance depicted and explored through painting is on view …


Above: Bolu Babalola | photo by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Bolu Babalola Announces New Sequel to Her Debut Novel

About a month ago, Bolu Babalola released her debut novel, Honey and Spice. While this news is still fresh and many readers still are planning to get their hands on this work, Babalola has announced a sequel to the work titled Sun Under Skin.

Babalola is a U.K.-based writer of Nigerian descent who focuses on creating stories about dynamic women with distinct voices who love and are loved audaciously. Her first book, Love in Colour, a Sunday Times (U.K.) bestselling short-story collection, reimagines tales about love. 

Honey and Spice, her second book, continues the theme of love. Main character Kiki Banjo is the host of a student radio show, “Brown Sugar,” who finds herself in a messy situation. On the show, she is a relationship guru, making sure “the women of the African-Caribbean Society at Whitewell University do not fall into the mess of ‘situationships,’ players and heartbreak.” 

But when she publicly kisses Malakai Korede, whom she had denounced as “The Wastemen of Whitewell” in front of the entire campus, she soon finds herself in a fake relationship to save her reputation. However, as time goes on, the pair grows closer and closer, leading to a “sexy, messy and wry” story full of ups and downs.

Sun Under Skin follows the lives of Kiki and Malakai a few years into their future. Kiki, now “a rising podcast star who gave up on love to pursue her career ambitions,” has to attend her best friend’s wedding, which brings her back to her old flame Malakai.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Babalola said, “I think second-chance romance is so uniquely beautiful though, because it takes a lot of courage and belief to go back to a place and hope it works out again. It takes immense vulnerability but also faith—that’s at the core of love generally, and I think second chance romance really hones in on that.”

Sun Under Skin will be published in 2024 by William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishing.


Above: Nadifa Mohamed

Somali-British Novelist Nadifa Mohamed Wins 2022 Wales English Book of the Year

The Somali-British author Nadifa Mohamed’s latest novel, The Fortune Men, has won the 2022 Wales Book of the Year in the Fiction, People’s Vote, and Overall English Language categories.

The award, organized by the national organization Literature Wales, annually celebrates outstanding literary talents from Wales, both in English and Welsh. The awards are conferred across four genres: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, and Children and Young People, with one of the winners among the four categories ultimately awarded the Book of the Year. 

The awards come with a collective cash prize of £14,000 (U.S. $16,891). Mohamed will receive the “Wales Book of the Year” trophy and a £4,000 (U.S. $4,826) cash prize.

The Fortune Men is the novelized account of the real-life story of Mahmood Hussein Mattan, the Somali former merchant seaman who was executed after being wrongfully convicted of murder. The novel was published in 2021 by Viking Press, U.K., receiving wide acclaim and positive reviews and was shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize.

The 2022 judging panel includes poet Krystal Lowe, journalist Andy Welch, presenter Matt Brown, and poet Taylor Edmonds. The winners were announced live on the Radio Wales Arts Show (BBC Radio Wales). Mohamed, who was on-air as they announced her major win, noted she was sitting in a car park in London and was “probably the happiest person sitting in a car park right now.” She said of her personal connection to the story that the man the story is based on was from her hometown and known by her father, which is why and how important it was for her to tell it.


Above: Stéphané Edith Conradie | photo by Strauss Louw

Namibian Artist Stéphané Edith Conradie Receives Triennial Young Artists Award

The prizes for Triennial Young Artist have been announced. They were chosen by the Board of Trustees of the Triennial Kleinplastik Fellbach, Germany. This year, for the first time, the prize has been awarded to two female artists: Monira Al Qadiri from Kuwait and Stéphané Edith Conradie from Namibia. Conradie has been given this prize for her ornate sculptures and prints, and she also will receive a cash endowment of 2500€ (U.S. $2,547).

The prizes will be awarded on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, during the closing ceremony of the exhibition in the Alte Kelter in Fellbach by Mayor Gabriele Zull. The curator of the 15th Triennial Small Sculpture, Fellbach Elke aus dem Moore, will give the laudation.

The Triennial Young Artists Award honors young artists at the beginning of their careers. Presented for the first time this year, Stéphané Edith Conradie, an artist born in Namibia in 1990 who lives and works in Cape Town.

The sculpture works she won the prize for are Sleepwa I and Sleepwa II (ox cart). With great intensity, the assemblages thematize intra-African migrations. The sculptures are touching in the poetic arrangement of the individual objects, which tell of the experience of flight and the desire to settle on a piece of land to call one’s own.

Cecilia Lamptey-Botchway Explores Dance in a Solo Exhibition at Nubuke Foundation, Accra

Currently showing at Nubuke Foundation, Accra, Ghana, is a solo exhibition by Cecilia Lamptey-Botchway titled Make We Dance. The exhibition explores and expands on the idea of dance as a form of movement. In the show, various figures strike poses, swirling and dancing.

The painting is the artist’s attempt to capture meditations through dancing. The dancers are performing a routine of meditations and contemplation. The dancer’s concentration and movements capture a series of meditations frozen in time and space. For most people, meditation and contemplative prayer is important in strengthening faith. This painting, Movement of Meditation, inspired by an image from Okobe Photography, invites the viewer to see the strength and power of concentration through meditation.

The elements in these paintings bring together the artist’s different artistic strands. Trained at the Yaba College of Technology School of Art, Design and Printing in Lagos, Nigeria, the flowery background gestures towards the abstraction of Lamptey-Botchway’s textile practice. 

The cloth stamping and batik tradition motifs previously have appeared in the backgrounds of her earlier body of work. They were layered on the canvas as they would be on fabric and are freed from the constraints of the textile layout. 

The motifs interact with the figures. In the best parts, the motifs float behind and in front of the figures, complicating the background-foreground dichotomy. The figures themselves are adorned with mopping wool. Taking an anthropological, onsite, nonparticipant approach, Lamptey-Botchway observed her subjects in markets, churches, and dance classes, studying their movements and rendering them on canvas.

An excerpt of an essay by Kwabena Agyare Yeboah on the show reads, “When the artist started using mopping wool, it was because she made a connection among the cleaning object, domesticity and female-based chores. The wool appears in already made strands, which then carefully are glued in the sketch spaces left unoccupied by the application of acrylic and oil. The paintings flatten performances. But the show makes a repossession, where some of the inspirers for the figures are involved in a live performance.”

Make We Dance is on view until Aug. 31, 2022.

Compiled by Roli O’tsemaye

You May Also Like