Artwork Origins

CONNECTING THE WORLD

The artists, their intentions and origins are at the core of our mission: their art is influenced by the often complicated histories of their countries, by their multifaceted identities, culture complexities, and art environments as well as by their own personal stories, convictions and emotional beliefs. Through our international platform and efforts, artists get credit for their achievements, and can make a living from their creative contribution as agents of positive social and cultural expression within their societies. They also get a space for connecting with art enthusiasts from across the globe to voice and express local and global opportunities and challenges and to strive jointly for positive social change. This list, which was developed by the artists and partners from these countries, is constantly being extended and modified as our global network grows.

SENEGAL

The culture of Senegal, in West Africa, refers primarily to the cultural practices of its currently 17,000,000 inhabitants.

 

From the most isolated villages to the trendy places of the capital Dakar, Senegalese culture is characterized by its taste for traditional sports, music, dance, clothing, the creative and ingenious work with any materials at hand, the conviviality of meals and celebrations, not to mention – from the palaver tree to mobile phones – an undeniable attraction for exchange and communication.

ALBANIA

Albania has a turbulent past, with many influences incorporated into art and culture from invading countries. It has two distinct cultural groups, the Ghegs in the north and Tosks in the south. Geographically divided by the River Shkumbin and with distinct dialects, their cultural differences are substantial, though both are proudly nationalist. With no common written language until 1972, Albanian’s have passed their heritage through epic rural songs, both nationalistic and lyrical in style.

 

Most of the art during communist rule was socialist realism. This style continued after communism as Albanian artists wanted to inspire national pride in their countrymen. Today, Albanian artists continue to maintain a proud connection to their roots with contemporary music and arts with an international flavour.

ARMENIA

Armenia has a rich artistic history and the national art market has up until recently been dominated by traditional arts, including sculptures, frescos, mosaic works, ceramics, metalworks, engraving, textiles, and carpet weaving. Yet, Armenia’s young creative generation and contemporary artists, including from the diaspora, are tireless, resilient, and unafraid of pushing boundaries towards establishing a contemporary art scene in the country. Whether their work means creating inclusive and activist art spaces, advocating for alternative arts education, putting Armenia’s emerging artists on the international arts scene’s radar, or promoting international exchange with artists, they are all united in one mission: pushing the country’s cultural scene to the cutting edge to keep it both alive and thriving.

 

The contemporary arts scene is clearly on the rise and curators and artists are helping to promote and develop an emerging art scene. Since 2018 Armenia has its own annual Art Fair. In addition, the Yerevan Art Week is a citywide event, which runs concurrently with the Art Fair and helps bring attention to Yerevan’s cultural attractions, museums, and galleries. There is also the Yerevan Biennal, which is also one of Satellites of Art’s partners. And yes – while the country may not be the first place you think of as a hotspot for contemporary art, in 2015 it even won the prestigious Golden Lion during the Venice Biennale!

BOLIVIA

The country is characterized by a mixture of diverse ethnicities and influences from all over the world. As one of the poorest countries in South America many artists seek to make “art for the people”. Colorful street art is hence omnipresent in Bolivia to improve the quality of life of ordinary people in their everyday lives.

 

Bolivia is home to a unique style of art and architecture known as Mestizo Baroque, created when the traditional religious art brought by the Spanish was combined with the styles of the indigenous Bolivian people. The combination of Indigenous and European cultural influences in Bolivia has produced a thriving artistic community, and Bolivian arts have gained prominence ranging from pre-Colombian indigenous works to sacrosanct religious art to colorful contemporary pieces. Many art galleries are in Bolivia’s main cities La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. Bolivia has a small yet pulsating scene of emerging artists, some of whom have already made it to international prominence. However, many of the exciting works of emerging artists still remain underexplored. You are invited to explore them with us!

Cuba is the cradle of great art. Through a richness exemplified by rhythm, strength and an impressive fusion of multiple cultures, the art of this country is constantly exploring their roots, legacies and history. Due to its geographical location, Franco-Haitian, Chinese, Hindu, English, Spanish and African influences coexist, leading to a symbiosis of multiple cultures that is reflected in the art. The framework of definition of what Cuban culture implies is complex: it expresses a variety of overlapping traditions, flavours, values, convictions and artistic expressions.

 

Cuban art emerged from a national desire to see the culture represented in the international aesthetic currents. Therefore, Cuban art promotes the exploration of identity beyond foreign influences. Through the lens of contemporary art, one can see its continuous internal battles exemplified by the remnants of colonisation and the constant battle with modernity. Cuba in itself acts as a museum –the old cars, the almost non-existent buildings, the blurred slogans on the walls, the ocean that breaks against the dreams, and the people walking through the streets proclaiming hopes–, that is its own artistic manifesto.

Ghana is a country with a rich history spanning centuries. Between the 17th to the 19th it was home to the sophisticated Ashanti Empire, which has fable-like origins linked to its founder Osei Tutu, his high priest Anokye and the famous Golden Stool. Ghana was also the first sub-Saharan nation to gain independence from a European power. The diversity of the land is reflected in the diversity of the people and languages spoken. There are more than seventy ethno-linguistic groups, each with its own individual language. Ewe, Ga, Mole-Dagbon are a few examples.

 

Ghanaian Art is as eclectic as any other art. From paintings, tapestries, installations and sculptures, the range is wide and spell-binding. El Anatsui is one of the most celebrated artists from the country. His mesmerising Kente cloths, his iconic bottle-top installations and his metallic textiles, have earned him and Ghanian art international acclaim. Moreover, Ablade Glover is another long-standing and well-known artist whose style has been described as a mixture “between abstraction and realism”. These few examples demonstrate that Ghanaian art’s diversity and vibrancy cannot be encapsulated in single words. Simply put, it’s captivating.

IVORY COAST

Ivory Coast’s contemporary arts scene has been on the rise over the last ten years and more following many years of conflict and crises. While traditional Ivorian artworks such as masks and statues remain prominent in art museums and exhibitions, the country’s leading contemporary artists have introduced a multitude of styles and schools. A considerable number of fine artists have built an international reputation both on the African continent’s art fairs such as the Dak’Art Biennale as well as in leading art fairs, museums and galleries all over the world including the 1-54 Contemporary African Artfair, the Guggenheim, Bilbao, Mori Art Museum Tokya, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and Hayward Gallery, London.

 

In spring of 2021, MuCAT, Ivory Coast’s first museum of contemporary art, opened its doors in the capital Abidjan to make art by established and emerging artists more visible to the wider population. In their work, many young Ivorian artists seek to express the actuality of their daily lives in the aftermath of the more than a decade long crisis. However, contemporary art is still perceived as the domain of the educated elite as a significant part of the population considers contemporary art to be less valuable than traditional Ivorian art techniques. Many artists, artist collectives and galleries seek to change this by advocating for arts education in schools as well as financial support to the promotion contemporary art in urban and rural areas. Join us in supporting their efforts!

LEBANON

The Lebanese art scene is in a perpetual state of contradiction, midway between collapse and rebirth. Beirut’s urban chaos and the continuous threats of violence appears to encourage richly dynamic artistic production. In the last twenty years, many galleries have opened in Beirut, giving a vital platform to generations of artists experimenting beyond the conservative restrictions purported by Lebanese official education.

 

Moreover, art in Lebanon is constantly utilised as a way to demonstrate resilience. For instance, after the 17th of October Revolution, the streets, which were utilised as an active protest site, were covered with urban art. Members of the Lebanese artistic scene use their practice as a form of political engagement and resistance; openly criticising the corruption. In support to this, several cultural organisations, private foundations and NGOs fund a variety of innovative art projects, such as visual and moving image projects. Art centres have also become hubs for production and research. In parallel to the framework of exhibitions, they also host performances, and round-tables for reflection and exchange about contemporary artistic production. In short, the challenges presented to Lebanese artists does not stop them from thriving. Through independent dance, film, theatre and art festivals, contemporary Lebanese artists keep the artistic scene alive, and disruptive.

Nigeria

Nigeria is home to many iconic artists. The country has a long history of art, spanning across the beautiful bronzes of the sixteenth century Kingdom of Benin to the Nsukka School and Yoruba-inspired art (Onaism). Nigerian artists have now found their voice in the international arena and incorporate a medley of techniques in their art.

 

Nigeria’s contemporary art scene has flourished over the last decade. Lagos, Africa’s most populous city, is now a globally acclaimed contemporary art destination, with the ART X Lagos fair, galleries and art spaces as magnets for African and international collectors and art enthusiasts. What is striking is that the contemporary arts scene’s dynamism is largely a result of the push by NGOs, artist collectives and private support as governmental support for the arts is largely non-existent. In the visual arts sector, there are still insufficient educational resources and art-funding like sponsorships for residencies, funding of studio spaces, support for art exhibitions, festivals, archives, museums, etc., while at the same time there is an abundance of talented young artists in the country who are yet to be discovered and/or promoted. Do this with us!

PALESTINE

The Palestinian art scene is a vibrant and an active hub. Individual artistic productions such as exhibitions, workshops, and activities converge with collective productions through groups, and initiatives in the field of visual arts. Moreover, there is a wide array of private and public galleries and visual arts schools which are spread all over the country.

 

Due to the displacement after the 1948 occupation, many Palestinian artists are located all around, leading to an international and multi-cultural diversity in Palestinian artistic production. Moreover, after The Oslo Accord many artists were able to return to their home land, creating a distinct form of expression. Over the past several decades, Palestinian art has invented different and distinctive ways of expression, and has moved from realism into abstraction, and from direct expression into symbolism, making these symbols a representative sign of the Palestinian identity and struggle.

 

All this has led to the emergence of an active art movement across historical Palestine and in the diaspora, where art has played the role of resistance and fight, and has been an important tool in resisting the occupation.

Since its inception, Peruvian art has been influenced by diverse cultural threads, leading to a distinct use of colours, tonalities and textures. In the last few years, Peru has transformed into one of the most vibrant artistic hubs in Latin America. Its capital, Lima, offers a variety of spaces to explore. From traditional museums exploring the pre-Columbian and colonial era, to galleries dedicated to the exploration of contemporary and emerging art, Peru has something to offer to all types of art enthusiasts.

 

Peruvian painters are diverse in their styles. Yet, jointly, they demonstrate a complex sense of self-awareness: through a balanced combination of tradition and modernity, each artist uses their personal perspective to acknowledge and work within the contrast of national identity and western modernity. Rhetorically, Peruvian artists are interested in exploring complex topics such as social conflicts, political criticism and inequality. Collectively, their art is an active reflection of the complex history of their country.

RWANDA

Only a long time after the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, towards the end of the 2000s, did the first galleries reopen its doors in the country. Emerging artists basically needed to start almost from scratch with close to no material available in the country and a lot of knowledge of the previous generation’s artists lost. What is striking is that Rwanda brings together a rich variety of art forms and techniques, such as traditional geometric artwork (“Imigongo”), wood carving, weaving, sculpture, painting and photography. Kigali’s streets are also colorful and full of socially aware street art.

 

While the contemporary arts scene has been thriving since, and quite a number of artists have attained international recognition, there are still only few limited physical spaces for contemporary artists and art collectives to get together and exhibit their work in Rwanda. Also, education about contemporary arts will require to be spread to a wider audience to take root. It is hence the mission of many art collectives’ in Rwanda to communicate the role and potential of art as an income-earning activity to the community, but also as a contributor to the productive means to the wider Rwandan society. Many young artists seek to contribute to social change processes in contemporary Rwanda and have strong social missions, with programmes dedicated to supporting people living in poverty and passing on skills to the next generation of artists. Please join us and support their mission!

SOUTH AFRICA

Political activists used art in the 1970s and 1980s to draw attention to the apartheid regime in South Africa. In the post-apartheid period, South African contemporary artists have increasingly participated in an international and continental arena for presentation and debate, fueled by global interest in the complex history and contemporary realities of the country. South Africa has become the continent’s art and design hub with its annual art fairs in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and vibrant gallery scenes that have been steadily growing for the last decade. In Cape Town and Johannesburg artists and gallery owners created their infrastructure – and where art now has a firm place in the fabric of these cities. A nucleus for people who want to try or create something new. Since 2017 the country is also home to the world-class Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) in Cape Town.  

 

Yet, there is a huge gap between the educated, affluent strata of society, that can easily afford to buy art and even fly to international art fairs, and those who simply burn for art without having the privilege of studying it and or being in the financial position to buy it. The legacy of colonialism, race relations, emancipation, sexuality, precarious living conditions and corruption is a cause many contemporary emerging artists speak about in their works. Many artists and artist collectives work towards making art more accessible for all parts of the South African population, a mission we encourage you to support together with us!

TANZANIA

The heritage and influences of the arts have been impressively diverse in Tanzania. The social scenes depicting elongated people and animals, which were declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2006, are only one of the many examples of the interactivity between art and humanity in Tanzanian history. For instance, in the second half of the 20th century, the self-taught artist Edward Tingatinga developed a unique painting style which was named after him: ‘Tingatinga’, and which broadly influenced the art movement in the region. He later gathered a group of apprentices and he taught them how to make art out of low-cost recycled materials such bicycle paint, and ceramic fragments. This tradition of originality still remains in the region, as contemporary independent and self-taught artists in Tanzania are bringing a new sense of innovation with an activist angle, where art is being utilised to expose social issues and to fight for freedom of expression.

UGANDA

Under the influence of the European directors that led the country’s main academic arts institution at the beginning of the 20th century, Makerere University, arts education and visual arts were heavily influenced by an external European perception of what constitutes “authentic” national art. Following the country’s Independence, artistic productivity appeared to increase through state-funding and a critical response to the social problems at the time. After the civil wars, and in parall to the increased political and economic development, the domestic art market has evolved. Uganda is now becoming a fast-growing cultural hub in East Africa and many acclaimed contemporary artists have exhibited internationally and have gained a significant international collector base.

 

Contemporary art events that have been created to broaden the audience nationally as well as internationally have gained considerable national and international traction. These include Kampala’s contemporary art festival KLA ART and the Kampala Biennale. However, the majority of this generation’s artist and also galleries struggle to make a living from art. Public funding for the arts has been on the decline and only a small fraction of the Ugandan middle class has a keen interest in the work of the contemporary arts scene in the country. It is against this background that artists, art collectives and art institutions have joined forces to ensure educative and interactive, public art is now part of public life with the objective of building and supporting sustainable alternative structures for artistic practice and debate in Uganda. We engage with these art collectives, come join us!

ZIMBABWE

Paintings, masks, images and stone sculptures, both ancient and modern are central to Zimbabwean art. Materials artists use range from granite stones, ceramics, metals, beads, fizzy drink cans and woods. Contemporary stone sculpture from Zimbabwe is oriented towards the traditions of their ancestors and the belief in the soulfulness of nature, as well as towards current Western art discourses. The National Gallery of Zimbabwe, the center of recognition of Zimbabwean artists in the world, has been in existence for almost 60 years. The gallery is devoted both to the presentation of contemporary art and to the preservation of Zimbabwe’s visual heritage.

 

Many contemporary artists in the country are inspired by the culture and people of their country but also by the international arts scene. Post Mugabe, a new wave of young artists in Zimbabwe is attracting attention from collectors and curators worldwide. Although the number of artists in Zimbabwe is comparably small a lot of these artists have risen to international fame. However, many contemporary artists are not able to sell their work in the country as it is not considered an indigenous tradition by wider parts of the population. Major obstacles for artists are the lack of exhibition spaces, limited opportunities to sell artwork at fair prices and difficulties obtaining basic art supplies. For this reason, many promising artists sell their work as street artists across the border in Namibia and South Africa, hoping to be able to make a living and to be discovered there. For Zimbabwean artists art is a way to express and think through what they experience in their daily lives. Connect and engage with them through our platform!

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