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The "other" Modern African Art - Exhibition at the Linden Museum Stuttgart 2004

Dr. Herrmann Forkl, Africa expert/curator of the exhibition

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Linden Museum in Stuttgart is well known for mounting exhibitions of traditional, indigenous, cultural, historical, contemporary and modern art works from other continents apart from Europe. Among others, the museum has an excellent collection of modern African art. In the period from 15th July till 26th September 2004, the museum presents an exhibition titled “Die andere moderne Afrikas” (The „other“ Modern African Art). AFRITOPIC attended the exhibition and discussed with the Africa expert/curator of the exhibition, Dr. Hermann Forkl. He spoke about his fascination for African art and explained the classification as well as the relationships between the exhibited art works.  
I find the ironical expressions in African art very fascinating. These expressions are found in a variety of African art. Whenever I visit Africa, It is always a beautiful sight for me to view works of art on the roadsides, on buses/lorries or on the wall of a barber’s/hairdresser’s shop while traveling in a car. The immense diversity of art styles from different regions of Africa is overwhelming.
Art by Althinoe 
This exhibition focuses on a relatively small collection of 140 modern African art works from 22 countries, South of the Sahara. These include contemporary art works of the 20th century, ranging from paintings from West African countries like Nigeria and Togo to the Makonde sculptures from Tanzania and Mozambique.  
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Art by Afäwärq Mängäša
 
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Dr. Hermann Forkl 
 
The traditional African art is usually created for a purpose. Art works are used for religious ceremonies, traditional festivities, medical/healing rituals, status symbol and other traditional or social needs of the region in which the work of art is created. Over the years, with the growth of interest in African art, modern African artists have developed the traditional art in a way that would serve their needs as well as the art collectors’ market. Example of such works of art, are figurative paintings that are done as commissioned work for clients and paintings depicting particular services offered by a business owner. 
 
The themes of the figurative paintings vary from social habits, lifestyle, celebrities to political issues. Typical political placards in this exhibition are displayed by the paintings of the Ethiopian artist, Afäwärq Mängäša, which deals with the presidency of Mengistu in Ethopia. Paintings depicting services are commonly found in hairdressing and barber shops, showing different styles of hairstyling. Traditional medical services also employ this class of artwork to showcase their expertise. The paintings are generally done on wood in rectangular or circular formats.
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Art by Michael Ayodele
 
The development of this form of African art originated from the Igbo region in Nigeria in the 1950s. Since then, the style has been emulated in other West African countries and its influence on other artists could be found as far as Mali. Over time, regional styles have been developed and through the impact of national art schools as well as contacts to the rest of the world.
Art by George Lilanga
The influence of the African-American style could be found in some of the paintings showing hairstyling. While individualized artistic styles characteristic of paintings by K. Kosivi Fe´do from Togo for example, as well as local styles are relatively easy to come by, ethnical styles are very rare. The exhibition also shows works of renowned African artists such as Michael Ayodele who was a typical scholar of the Oshogbo school in Nigeria. Michael Ayodele was devoted to making the traditional scenery and cultural rituals the core themes of his work. In his artworks, which are predominantly in ink, he gives the viewer an insight to the Yoruba traditions. Another set of artworks are those of  Mugalula Mukiibi, a graduate of Margaret Trowell School of Fine Arts at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and  Keíta Mori, a graduate of the Art School at Poto-Poto in Congo-Brazzaville. It is interesting to know that the Poto-Poto scholars abide by the ideology of portraying only village and festival scenes in their artworks. Another well-known artist represented in this exhibition is George Lilanga from Makonde, Tansania. A sculptor turned painter, he uses square format for his colorful work. Eduardo Saidi Tingatinga developed this format in the 1960s.
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Sculpture by T(h)omasi
Art by Mugalula-Mukiibi
In the sculptures section, the exhibition presents a representative collection of modern Makonde sculptures. These sculptures, developed in the 19th century in Tanzania and later in the 1920s in Mozambique, still have elements of the traditional pre-colonial styles. They are predominantly figurative, masks and combination of different elements in naturalistic style. Some of the sculptures express the socio-political situation or trauma of war experience in the region. We also present a collection of plastic art we term “Afro-kitsch”. The works were created between 1907-1909 by Ali Amonikoyi, a Yoruba caster. Research revealed that the objects were souvenirs produced by Amonikoyi by the lost-cast method for his European client, who he knew had a bad taste.
"Afro-kitsch" by Ali Amonikoyi
African art was never stagnant. It was always in continuous development. But despite contacts to other cultures and the teachings of modern art schools with European or American influences, African artists have never neglected the basic African traditions in their works of art. This principle could be seen as the main connecting thread in all works presented at this exhibition.
Afritopic 2004.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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