This Week in African Art and Culture (March 17 – 23, 2024)

Dear Friends, 

This week, I am quite pleased with our compilation as it brings highlights that continue to reflect our growth across the various cultural spaces in Africa. I am drawn particularly to the news of a 31-year-old artist smashing records in the auctions who consistently has been a trailblazer for sevenyears now. Speaking of consistency, there is also a Congolese author who seemingly and effortlessly keeps racking these prizes. I use the word effortless because it is easy to enjoy his writing—particularly in his novel—Tram 83.

As always, I hope that this week’s short series of stories will lead you to encounter a new artist, writer, book or artwork that takes you down a fun rabbit hole of discovery in the African art and culture scene …

The Toledo Museum of Art Announces Ethiopia at the Crossroads

The Toledo Museum in Ohio has eagerly announced an exciting forthcoming exhibition that I believe anyone with a keen interest in African cultural history should anticipate and attend. Titled Ethiopia at the Crossroads, the exhibition willexplore history and contemporary Black art, celebrating its worldwide influence, not only on art, but on faith and culture.

Presenting art with influence from ancient times through today, this exhibition will situate artistic expression, practice and creation within the nation’s significant role in the growth and spread of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

For the exhibition, the Toledo Museum of Art will displayover 200 historical and contemporary works spanning a millennium of devotional painted icons, manuscripts, coins, textiles, metalwork and carved wood crosses, along with contemporary works that reflect the evolution of Ethiopian artistry. This exhibition will allow anyone to learn extensively about the cultural evolution of the Ethiopian people. 

Although still far off and slated to open in the summer, I encourage you to save the date, as Ethiopia at the Crossroads will run from Aug. 17-Nov. 10, 2024.

Jadé Fadojutimi Smashes Auction Record at Christie’s London

Jadé Fadojutimi

If you have ever attended an auction, you would agree that one of the kicks and excitement of it is watching the bidding, especially when it gets really competitive. For those who were not present, one only can imagine the thrill that was experienced when British Nigerian artist Jadé Fadojutimi led a new record at Christie’s 20th/21st century London evening sales earlier this month. 

The work that stole the show is a 2021 grandiose masterpiecetitled The Woven Warped Garden of Ponder, selling for£1,552,500 (U.S. $1,956,305) in just six minutes of bidding.

This piece by Fadojutimi is an acrylic and oil on canvas previously exhibited at her solo museum debut at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Miami in 2021. At the time, it was estimated at £400,000-£600,000 (U.S. $504,040-$756,060). 

The young artist is certainly reflecting, in a grand way, what it means to be acclaimed, respected for one’s profession. A trailblazer for the past seven years, in 2021, she became the youngest artist to be included in the Tate’s collection and debuted at the Venice Biennale the following year.

African Authors on 2024 Jhalak Prize Longlist

The 2024 Jhalak Prize longlist is out, and five African authors are on it. They are Sudanese author Leila Aboulela, BritishGhanaian authors Caleb Azumah Nelson, Nii Ayikwei Parkesand Yepoka Yeebo, and British Kenyan author Elizabeth-Jane Burnett.

First awarded in March 2017, the Jhalak Prize and its associated award, the Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize, founded in 2020, were conceived to celebrate books by British/British resident BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) writers. 

The Jhalak Prize awards £1000 (U.S. $1,260) to each winner,along with a unique work of art created by artists chosen for the annual Jhalak Art Residency. All shortlisted authors receive a one-year complimentary membership at The London Library, while winners receive a two-year complimentary membership.

Panelists in this year’s jury include Anni Domingo, Stella Oniand Denise Saul.

The five African books on the longlist of 12 include:

• River Spirit by Leila Aboulela (Saqi Books)

• Azucar by Nii Ayikwei Parkes (Peepal Tree Press)

• Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Penguin)

• Anansi’s Gold: The Man Who Swindled The World by Yepoka Yeebo (Bloomsbury)

• Twelve Words for Moss by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett (Penguin)

The shortlist will be announced next month on April 18, andthe winners will be announced on May 30.

Leon Diop and Yomi Adegoke Shortlisted for 2024 British Book Award 

Yes, we are still on the British literary scene for its prizes, and this time, we highlight the shortlist for the 2024 British Book Awards. Included are Senegalese Irish writer Leon Diop and Nigerian British writer Yomi Adegoke for Black & Irish: Legends, Trailblazers & Everyday Heroes and The List,respectively. 

Yomi Adegoke’s The List was shortlisted for Book of The Year in the categories of Audiobook Fiction and Debut Fiction. Senegalese Irish writer Leon Diop’s Black & Irish: Legends, Trailblazers & Everyday Heroes was shortlisted for Book of the Year in the category of Children’s Nonfiction.

Yomi Adegoke is an award-winning Nigerian journalist and author. She has co-written The Offline Diaries (2022), Loud Black Girls (2020), and Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible (2018). She was named one of the Forbes 30 under 30 in 2021 and is a recipient of the Groucho Maverick award and a Marie Clare Future Shaper award.

Leon Diop is from Dublin, born to an Irish mother and a Senegalese father. He studied psychology at Maynooth University, where he served for two years as its Students’ Union president. He is the founder of Black and Irish, an organization striving to transform Ireland into a global leader in equality and inclusion. He is also a host of The Black and Irish Podcast with Irish national broadcaster RTÉ.

Other authors on the shortlist include Prince Harry, Alice Oseman, Colleen Hoover, Steven Bartlett and Rebecca Yarros. Winners will be announced at an in-person ceremony on May 13, 2024.

Congolese Author Fiston Mwanza Mujila Wins 2024 Literaturpreis der Literaturhäuser!

Fiston Mwanza Mujila

Congolese author Fiston Mwanza Mujila has been awarded the 2024 Literature House Prize, with a cash prize of EUR 20,000 (U.S. $21,725). This was announced by the network of literary houses comprising distinguished establishments across several cities, such as Basel, Switzerland, Frankfurtand Hamburg, Germany, and Vienna, along with esteemed institutions like the Berlin Literary Colloquium and the Göttingen Literary Center.

Established in 2003, the Literature Houses Prize has previously recognized notable individuals such as Marlene Streeruwitz (2020), Ingo Schulze (2021) and Sasha Marianna Salzmann (2022).

Fiston Mwanza Mujila is being celebrated for his adeptness in poetry, prose and theatrical works, alongside his role as a literature instructor focusing on African literature at the University of Graz. His debut novel, Tram 83, received widespread acclaim, earning him numerous accolades, including the International Literature Prize—House of World Cultures. Among his recent publications are Tanz der Teufeland the poetry collection Kasala for my Kaku & other poems.

The award ceremony honoring Fiston Mwanza Mujila was held on March 22, coinciding with an event at the Leipzig Book Fair. Mujila also will participate in various literary engagements, including an appearance at the Literaturhaus Vienna on April 22, 2024.

+234ArtFair Premieres Inaugural Edition in Lagos

There is a figurative new kid on the block in Lagos, Nigeria—the +234ArtFair. Ecobank Nigeria, one of the renowned commercial banks in Nigeria, has collaborated with Soto Gallery to launch the +234Art Fair, which kicked off on March 22.

For 10 days, the fair will celebrate Nigerian art and artists, giving them the spotlight they deserve. The idea is to boost the local art scene, support emerging talent and put Nigerian creativity on the global map. 

In a comment about the objectives of the fair, Bolaji Lawal,managing director/regional executive of Ecobank Nigeria, said, “We’re all about championing creativity,” while Tola Akerele, founder of Soto Gallery in Lagos, said of the theme, A New Heritage, as showcasing innovation from all corners of society.

Accompanied by a robust program, the fair also features workshops, discussions, and opportunities for emerging talent to shine, with over 100 artists displaying works across sculptures, paintings and installations. 

The +234ArtFair will run from March 22–31, 2024.

Where TGo, What TDo & What TSee

Sutha Ke Fete: The Art of the Basotho Blanket | Sanlam Art Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa | March 20–June 14, 2024

+234 Art Fair | Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria | March 22–31, 2024 

Whitney Biennial | New York | March 20–Aug. 11, 2024

Venice Biennale | Italy | Opens April 17, 2024

Trinidad and Tobago’s NGC Bocas Lit Fest 2024 | Port of Spain, Trinidad | April 25–28, 2024

Compiled by Roli O’tesmaye

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