Alun [BE] is a photographer whose images distinguish themselves through profound expression in high contrast. Alun has carved a creative niche for himself suspended between his upbringing in France, the United States, and his birthplace of Senegal in West Africa. His art is constantly evolving through personal projects focused on the human condition in public spaces – a focus area sparked by his time spent in San Francisco where he received his M.A. in Architecture.
In Hong Kong, Alun will be exhibiting a series entitled “Edification”, which is an exploration of the impact of technology on society and culture. The intention of this exhibit is to provide a visual narrative of faith in a digital future in which humanity teeters on the cusp of fully merging with technology. Through his photographs, Alun extends an invitation to an open discourse on the fate of humankind.
While the subjects photographed are specific to the African continent, the nine themes explored can be understood as universal rites of passage. From the first image of enlightened play to the final image, the realization of our fullest personhood in the state of absolution; Alun’s photographs build upon themselves and crescendo in a thought provoking anachronism. The result is a series of ethereal images which possess a painterly quality that places them between still life and eschatological prophecies.
Beautiful is different, and different is beautiful. This is one of the philosophies with which Rwandan fashion brand Angaza is built. Just how different? Angaza upcycles non-biodegradable waste, such as vinyl advertising banners and jute rice bags into once-off fashion accessories. Each of their products is then lined with a fabric called Kitenge in East Africa or Ankarain in West Africa. Because of the nature of the upcycled materials used, no two of Angaza’s products are exactly the same.
Angaza – which means “to illuminate” in Swahili, is based in Kigali, Rwanda. It was founded in 2012 by Maria Mayanja and Monica Umwari after spending time with school pupils making upcycled art for World Environment Day. Today, with a growing team, Angaza continues to workshop environmental consciousness and upcycling in schools around Rwanda.
It was that experience that catalysed the idea for the two Environmental Engineering graduates of a social enterprise that combines green jobs with colour and creativity.
Angaza designs – from raw material to end product – reveal how a “slight shift of perspective can bring about the most unexpected results.” Their products are made “for people who see things in a different light: the bold lovers of colour who want to make the world a better place, and those who feel that convention is boring.”
With an online store and appearances at major international events such as the 84th INTERPOL General Assembly (2015), Angaza is certainly on the path towards bringing recycled high-end retail to global markets.
Michele Weni Ologoudou
African history, documented much like histories from elsewhere around the world, is often overshadowed by tales of brave men fighting for their kings and countries, with the role of women frequently confined to marriage, motherhood and victimhood. For Beninese fashion designer Michele Weni Ologodou, this narrative will not hold.
Paying homage to the Agoodjie women warriors, or Amazons of Dahomey (present-day Benin), Ologodou created a contemporary cloth collection that teleports three significant moments in the Agoodjies’ history: war, victory and peace. More than historical figures of anti-colonial struggle, the Agoodjie women are symbols of feminine power, protection and loyalty.
What would these warrior women of the 1800s be wearing today, in 2017? This is the question Ologoudou answers through costume and accessorization. In the spirit of learning and filling history’s gender gaps, the fashion show is complemented by a masterclass focusing on the history and culture of the Agoodjie women.
An ESMOD Paris graduate and designer for international fashion houses such as Naf Naf-Chevignon and Sonia Rykiel, Ologodou created her own brand, Weni, in 2008. Four years later, the synthesis of Ologodou’s craft, her experiences in Africa, as well as her love and dreams for African art and textiles resulted in the formation of the collective and festival Mode Is Art (MIA Collective). The collective operates between Benin and France and includes artists Yao Metsoko and Jean-Claude N’Doumbé.
All three artists from MIA will be exhibiting at the World Cultures Festival in Hong Kong under the Full Circle Art Africa programme.
Senegalese artist and product designer Ousmane Mbaye is in constant conversation with his surroundings. His art is as much his assemblages of found, recycled objects and new materials moulded into colourful, functional objects as it is his process of interrogating and preserving the sense of wholeness of the materials he uses. “(I) try to see (my material) as a living substance that I can enhance with colour and use different techniques with,” he explains.
Although inspired and propelled by all art forms – from poetry to pottery – to create, Mbaye’s spirtual connection exists with metal. Drawing on his inspirations and the collective history of bondage of his African compatriots, Mbaye bends, smelts and twists metals into tables, lamps, chairs and other key objects.
His work is primarily concerned with the search for balance, leading him to seek an aesthetic answer in raw materials. This aesthetic sensitivity to his outer world lead Mbaye to start his own design firm, Ousmane Mbaye Design, producing objects that are sought after and exhibited from Dakar to New York, Johannesburg, Paris and now Hong Kong. Mbaye credits his African consumers for their attention to detail and process that continually holds him accountable to the highest standards of design and tradition.
The artist is currently building a multidisciplinary design school in his home country of Senegal in order to open the doors to the creative industry to more Senegalese who typically do not have access to creative disciplines. “Design plays a role at all levels of our economic and social structures,” he explains. “…That’s my dream and I’m fighting every day for it to become a reality.
Central to Mbaye’s work is sharing the richness and dynamism of African design-thought around the world, and if his increasingly global and meditative career is anything to judge by, he is well on the way to bringing Africa to the world and the world to Africa – on African terms.
Clive Mukucha is a mid-career Zimbabwean artist whose body of art works is illustrative of his resourceful ingenuity. He is an artist who makes use of every object he collects to create art. He is able to turn mundane objects of our consumerist society into compelling works of art – alive to the riches of form, shape and texture in art, in discarded consumer packaging containers and blessed with a hunters-gatherers’ instinct to stumble upon objects.
An object’s physicality contributes greatly to its social meaning and its context. This is an axiom with which Mukucha creates his work. Automotive lubricant containers, discarded typewriters and computer parts are converted into neo-tribal masks or mechanical personages. Mukucha believes that the visual tactile and sensual dimensions of objects are critical to gaining an understanding of them, and thus prefers to assemble them in their form.
“Mukucha was trained at the BAT Workshop School in Mbare. Some of his acrylic on paper works with their characteristic sculptural broad tactile strokes and mixed-media found object sculpture can be found at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and various other art centres in Harare,” writes academic and fellow artist Dr Tony Monda.
He will be exhibiting and participating in workshops alongside fellow Zimbabwean artists from the Zimbabwe Assemblage Collective (ZAC) for the Full Circle Art Africa programme in Hong Kong.
“I believe that man is ambivalent: human and animal at the same time, capable of the worst and greatest achievements,” says Yao Metsoko of the philosophy that informs his series, Duality. It is fitting then, that Metsoko is both painter and sculptor, French and Togolese, fine artist and educator. Duality is both an outlook on human existence and his lived experience.
His work has been described as a union of the invisible, the visible and the secluded – a public interrogation of The Self. The maternal femme is a central figure in both Metsoko’s painting and sculpture – if not through the direct referencing of femme bodies, maternal care and feminine cosmology, then through the interaction of earthen bodies in their environments, the fullness of subjects themselves and their embedded yearnings that evoke a deep acknowledgement of the role of the feminine form in both life, faith and struggle.
How much of this is French and how much of it is Togolese is a question Metsoko might answer with a diplomatic laugh and an invitation to consider the assumptions underlying the question itself. Must one ethnicity supersede the other? Should ethnicity supersede all other identities?
The answers may lie in Metsoko’s words – “by revisiting the history of art in the West with my artistic language, I open gateways of dialogue between cultures” – but they come to life in his art. Drawing on ancestral traditions, childhood symbols and contemporary aesthetics, Metsoko’s sculptures speak to the primal origins of the self whilst his paintings assign codes of trans-continental, trans-era communication with his world.
This dialectic approach has earned Yao Metsoko international recognition. He is the winner of the 2005 Modelling Prize awarded by the inaugural International Biennial of Contemporary Sculpture in Nolay, Burgundy, and has exhibited at numerous festivals worldwide.
Working with mixed media, abstraction and introspection, Zimbabwean-born and based fine artist Grace Nyahangare is tracing a path to her root identity using art. Her works question the erasure and eroding of the Zimbabwean identity, critiquing the loss of self whilst attempting to offer some pathway towards a sense of self.
She conceptualises this tension between loss and longing in terms of “cultural control”, exploring the idea of decolonizing the mind through the creation of new structures and new modes of visual art production. An awardee of a 2017 residency at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, as well as the 2016 Vana Baba Vanhasi Photography Exhibition Award in 2016, Nyahangare’s work is both vulnerable and resonant.
As part of the Full Circle Art Africa programme, Nyahangare will exhibit a series of mixed media works together with fellow Zimbabwean artists as part of ZAC – the Zimbabwe Assemblage Collective.
A calling. Un eveil spirituel. Yobidashi.
To French-Beninese ceramicist King Houndekpinkou, this is clay. This is the stuff of creation, of existence. As Houndekpinkou describes it, clay “absorbs everything and possesses a universal memory infused with all the events that mankind has been through…and is therefore capable of teaching us about the past, the present and the future.”
Along with other materials sourced from Africa, Asia and Europe, clay is the primary medium that has led Houndekpinkou to journey between his birthland of France, to his ancestral land of Benin, to his spiritually connected land of Japan in search of learning and conception. The result: the 2016 BB (Benin-Bizen) Project that resulted in “hybrid works that shed a new light on cross-cultural dialogue and clay work as a primary form of plastic expression across nations.”
The learnings of this project are encapsulated, in part, by the series of ceramic work, Time on Earth, which includes pieces that, through Houndekpinkou’s creative process of intentionally scratching, tearing and repairing clay bodies, “cultivates an attraction for the beauty of imperfection”. Once fired and glazed, the works emerge with “visible cracks, grains and flux that emulate the aesthetics of Voodoo altars” from the artist’s ancestral Benin.
Having been exhibited concurrently in Galerie Vallois in Paris and Vallois Gallery in New York earlier in 2017, selected works from Time on Earth will travel to Hong Kong for the first time for the Full Circle Africa component of the World Cultures Festival. Here, Houndekpinkou – a member of the French federation of craft professionals Ateliers d’Art de France – will also be engaging with fellow artists on the building of bridges between Africa and Asia through art.
In this way, the Houndekpinkou’s ceramic collection becomes the bearer of past experience and the vessel of new potential. In this way, the natural lifecycle of clay is somewhat poetically preserved.
Zimbabwean visual artist Tawanda Takura works with used objects to create sculptures that reflect issues of socio-political well-being, identity, spirituality and the status quo. Fascinated by the journeys, histories and characters carried through worn objects such as old shoes and belts, Takura brings new meaning to the old adage of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. His works implore the viewer to embody that someone else and to contemplate the materiality of life – if only for a moment.
The interaction of human and animalistic figures in Takura’s work signifies the energies which sometimes resides in each of us – influencing us and, in many ways, determining our paths of who we are and what we can be. It is a tension that fascinates Takura. In moving between these energies, his work embodies a reclamation of place and knowledge of what is to be human, artist and Zimbabwean, whilst inviting the viewer to contemplate the energies contained within their own identities.
The works, exhibited as part of the Zimbabwe Assemblage Collective (ZAC) at Full Circle Art Africa, are representative of challenges faced by the artist – it is a story of vulnerability and hardship told in worn out soles, torn threads and roughly hewn fabrics that weave together a distinctly human-like figure.
Still, a sense of dignity in the discarded objects is meticulously preserved.
In addition to group shows around Southern Africa, Takura’s work has achieved international recognition, winning first place at both the Zimbabwe National Annual Exhibition and the Chinese Year of the Horse Exhibition.
Victor Nyakauru is a mixed media artist majoring in found object art – the upcycling and repurposing of unwanted, discarded and unused materials in a process that contributes to the reduction of pollution and environmental consciousness as much as it stimulates the creative consciousness.
“My style has a limitless range and evocative use of materials that transform seemingly unrelated materials into a work of art. This allows me to juxtapose materials such as stone, metal, wood, bone, plastic, leather and any other found objects to form part of a body of art,” explains Nyakuru.
His sculptures reflect the traditional Shona culture and folklore of his homeland, Zimbabwe, drawing on the function of traditional folk tales to teach life lessons and to entertain. Just as the construction and content of folk tales reveal much about the essential value of the Shona culture and way of living, so too does Nyakuru’s art embody Shona tradition and contemporary culture.
The themes present in his sculptures are rooted in the animal kingdom. His sculptures may appear silent and frozen in midair, but there is a movement and sound evoked in their body language and expressions.
Nyakuru has exhibited in numerous shows in Zimbabwe, South Korea and China, both as a solo artist and in group shows. He now teaches at the School for Visual Art and Design in Harare, working with upcoming artists carefully selected by the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.
He will be exhibiting as a member of the ZImbabwe Assemblage Collective (ZAC) alongside fellow ZImbabwean artists at the Full Circle Art Africa programme in Hong Kong.
Nathaniel Sheppard III
Nathaniel Sheppard was born in Washington D.C. to an American father and South African mother. It was at the Southern California Institute of Architecture where he began to enter into the conversation and ideologies surrounding the architect or artist in relation to spaces around them and the people within those spaces.
Sheppard lived and studied in the United States until 2010, when he chose to move to Johannesburg, South Africa, to continue his studies. Pivoting away from architecture, he studied Fine Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Through his studies he came to realize the important socio-political position the practice of art had – particularly within discourse about South Africa’s access to spaces and opportunities within a post-Apartheid society.
Labour – a term that is heavily loaded and historically turbulent in the context of South Africa’s formation – is a theme central to Sheppard’s art practice. Beyond the direct reference to the labour involved in the artist’s creation process, it is the presence of a labour of love and a love for labour.
Having previously been locked into the medium of painting, Sheppard turned to printmaking. Along with a growing group of printmakers and artists, Sheppard endeavours to challenge exclusionary traditions that are deeply rooted within the South African apartheid movement.
Together with, Sbongiseni Khulu, Anaz Mia and Chad Cordeiro, he is co-founder and co-owner of Danger Gevaar Ingozi (DGI). Sheppard has also participated in numerous group shows, including:
Martienssen Prize 2014 (Finalist), The Substation, Johannesburg
– Martienssen Prize 2015 (Merit Award winner), The Point of Order (University of the Witwatersrand)
– Carved, David Krut Projects, Johannesburg, 2015
– A Labour of Love, Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt, Germany, 2015
– Inch x Inch, David Krut Projects, Johannesburg, 2016
– Capturing State and Possibility of Sight, KKNK, Oudtshoorn, 2017
– DGI Pop-Up Print Exhibition, Johannesburg, 2017
– A Labour of Love, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, 2017
– ArtNext Hong Kong
Born in South Africa to parents of Indian ancestry, and currently based in Johannesburg, Dinika Govender’s work is situated at the intersections of diasporic identity, cultural amorphisms and architectures of power. Working with words and images to capture the subtext of lived experiences, Govender’s work spans poetry, storytelling and visual art.
As the elder daughter of an anti-Apartheid activist turned educator father and an independent feminist mother who made her way in academia and the corporate world, Govender’s lens on the world has been duo-toned from the start. She is sensitive to working and middle class struggles faced by people of colour in a globalised marketplace, and is also privy to the mechanising of such systems. Her academic and early professional background in the fields of commerce, strategy and innovation afforded her greater insight into, and experience, in these mechanisms - ones that reveal themselves to be anti-poor, anti-femme and anti-black across the world.
Propelled to understand why it is that femmes and queer of colour are systemically undervalued and ill-treated globally why success is defined according to a globally accepted set of material desires and why her own people - South African Indians - seem trapped in a system of assimilating to colonial aesthetics whilst holding onto their political blackness, Govender finds her space of creation in words, narratives and the architectures of cultural hegemony.
Her images comprise mixed media in a lo-fi, high-contrast yet muted format, evoking the sense of being muted and moved in the presence of power. Her visual meditations on urban spaces and architecture mirror are, in some ways, odes to the aesthetic value and divisive power of the built environment.
Together with her poetry, Govender seeks to add more ways of seeing and remembering - ways that do not rely on linguistic architectures of colonialism. It is a project she describes as, “something we are only small parts of - each adding our truths to build a richer, truer tapestry of life - so that our great great grandchildren might feel less invisible.”
Untraceable on Twitter or Facebook despite a global career in design, art direction and luxury textile design, Serge Mouangue is most likely to be found at the confluence of West African and Japanese cultures – behind the seams or scenes of a production of his multifaceted design firm, WAFRICA.
Born Cameroonian, raised and educated in France, employed in Australia and pivoted in Japan, the idea of a singular identity is ill-fitting on Mouangue. And he knows it. He describes his WAFRICA creations as the encapsulation of both West African and Japanese ancient aesthetics of sophistication, mutual respect for animism and respect for the elder into what he calls a Third Aesthetic.
“It does not belong only to (Cameroon) or to Japan, but carves out its own new territory, a Third Aesthetic. To me, (WAFRICA represents) the new and enlightened international consciousness that can emerge when unique treasures are juxtaposed,” he says.
This Third Aesthetic comes to life in WAFRICA’s signature wax-print cotton kimonos, Cameroonian-influenced tea ceremonies and Japanese-lacquered Pygmy-carved wooden chairs, among other cultural collaborations – each of them products of Mouangue’s ability to step outside of the boundaries of the world as we know it in order to paint a picture of how the world knows us.
His West African-inspired kimonos are more than wearable art. They are physical representations of the meeting of cultures and the potential of cultures to evolve. Through his designs, Mouangue challenges the tendency of traditions to close themselves off to new lived experiences and new modes of existence.
A 2011 TED Fellow with academic and professional stripes in Art, Design, Architecture and Innovation, Mouangue might easily have taken the Western science-fiction route to his Third Aesthetic – to establish a postmodern aesthetic by erasing all difference, for example. Instead, he creates a picture of a shared future by connecting ritual, ceremony and ancient processes both common and unique to Africa and Asia.
Staring into the painterly strokes of Jean-Claude N’Doumbé’s photographs, we can almost hear the jazzy sounds of Miles Davis or John Coltrane that the fashion designer-turned photographer might have been listening to while composing his images. Each photograph evokes a sense of movement and colour that blurs its subject to a point just shy of abstraction and surrealism, and we are left wondering what is happening both inside and outside the subject’s world.
None of this is incidental, for this is the way N’Doumbé approaches his subject matter. His process sits in the space of being an observer “caught between two images: the ones (he) has in mind and the other ones (in front of him).” Photographing these observations thus forms the bridge between the outer and inner worlds of the observer.
Born in Cote D’Ivoire and raised in Paris – where he graduated from École Supérieure Des Arts et Techniques De La Mode (ESMOD) and embarked on a career in fashion – N’Doumbé has nurtured a love and talent for photography since the age of sixteen. His images centre around the themes of human and urban nature whilst his aesthetic reveals a sensitivity to texture commonly found in fine art painting. His works emerge as if lacquered over years: suggestive of an observant meditation on his subjects.
“I like the idea of ainting with a click the world around me – and that my imagination takes flight from a true story,” the self-taught photographer says.
In the position of observer, N’Doumbé’s photographs are his means of holding up both a mirror and a magnifying glass to a city and its people.