The exhibition features artists working in numerous fields from fashion to film, architecture to literature. The artists are: Emmanuelle Andrianjafy, Neil Beloufa, Girma Berta, Eric Gyamfi, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Lebohang Kganye, Namsa Leuba, Michael MacGarry, Sabelo Mlangeni, Musa N Nxumalo, Ruth Ossai, Athi Patra Ruga and Michael Tsegaye.
Their work is inspired by wide range of subjects: urban nightlife in Johannesburg; Afrofuturism; construction projects in Ethiopia; vodun (voodoo) religion in Benin; and Ghana’s LGBT+ community, among others. What unites these diverse approaches is an emphasis on subjectivity to explore life and identity on the continent, by its inhabitants and diaspora. Together, the artists reveal Africa to be a psychological space as much as a physical territory; a state of mind as much as a tangible location.
The exhibition is curated around three main themes. Hybrid Cities documents the modern African city in all its dynamism and contradictions. Zones of Freedom addresses the fluidity of gender and sexual identity through compelling portraiture, as well as the legacy of history, from slavery and colonialism to apartheid. Inner Landscapes draws on the artists’ memories and fascinations to conjure individual interpretations of the African past and present.
Curator Ekow Eshun says, “popular Western views of the continent remain distorted. Ethnographic imagery of the colonial period presented Africans as the primitive people of a dark place. Today, contemporary news reports still portray the continent as a place of chaos, corruption and disease. By contrast, Africa State of Mind features photographers that seek to address the complexity of what it means, and how it feels, to live in Africa today”.
Africa State of Mind is a touring exhibition by New Art Exchange, Nottingham, curated by Ekow Eshun, in association with touring partner Impressions Gallery.