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Discover 5 Contemporary African Artists On Our Radar Right Now

These 5 contemporary artists tell uniquely African stories to the continent and the world

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By Kimberley Schoeman  | December 5, 2023 | Art

Ahead of the eleventh edition of Investec Cape Town Art Fair, Africa's largest art fair, from 16 – 18 February 2024 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. There are many exciting artists from the African continent who we cannot wait to see exhibit. The curatorial theme for the 2024 edition is Unbound, which focusses on emerging and ‘unbound’ voices.

With the help of South African art world legend, Elana Brundyn of Brundyn Arts & Culture, we present to you five African artists that should be on your radar too. Brundyn is an internationally renowned thought leader and taste shaper who has brought to fruition her long-standing vision of creating an art consultancy with the heft to leave a more pronounced impact within the arts ecosystem, both on the African continent and abroad.

Lebohang Kganye

Lebohang Kganye, Maria Magadeni, Khanyi II, 2023, Patchwork TC twill, organza, calico, buckram and batting, Courtesy of the Artist and Brundyn Arts & Culture

Lebohang Kganye emblematises a new generation of South African artists on the ascent, and hers looks to be rapid. Last year, the Joburg denizen represented the country with just two other contemporary artists in the 59th Venice Biennale, a significant achievement. Earlier this year she featured alongside veteran artist Sue Williamson in a two-person exhibition titled ‘Tell Me What You Remember’ at Philadelphia’s venerable Barnes Foundation.

With an excitingly wide oeuvre, her work encompasses photography, sculpture, performance, installation and film, all meticulously interwoven in her first solo presentation in Cape Town, ‘Mmoloki wa mehopolo: Breaking Bread with a Wanderer’. It’s a profound and moving exploration of the artist’s self-styled “fictional history” and masterful overview of her practice, through which she seeks to find connection in the context of a deeply inequitable society. I think it’s fitting her show launched the BA&C space; it’s a must-see exhibition up until 15 October.

Mmangaliso Nzuza

Mmangaliso Nzuza, The Sound of Colour, 2022 Oil on canvas, Courtesy of the Artist and THK Gallery.

Resonant of the angular forms of cubism, this Durban-based artist’s figurative works in oil are arresting not only for their accomplished use of colour, depth and texturality. There’s a remarkable sincerity to them relating to the serious issues Mmangaliso Nzuza explores, like social anxiety, loneliness and dissociation. It’s in keeping with this remarkable young man’s other career: last year he impressively completed a Masters degree in Government, Policy and Society at the University of Edinburgh. Thankfully he’s gifted us with his continued pursuit as an artist, moving on from his earlier works using charcoal as his chosen medium. The world is taking note. Nzuza recently participated in the Enter Art Fair 2023 in Copenhagen, representing THK Gallery alongside Lulama Wolf, another notable South African artist to watch, whose enthralling work explores black identity in a surprising use of technique.

Hanna Noor Mahomed

Hanna Noor Mahomed, Curry Mafia Princess, 2023, Acrylic, oil pastel and Kohl on canvas, Courtesy of the Artist and Brundyn Arts & Culture

At 24, Mahomed’s age belies the weight of the subject matter she so fluently presents in her work. Her beautiful, almost dreamy abstract paintings, collages and works on canvas may touch on the politics of body and place in a dominantly patriarchal society (note her Insta hashtag #womanlifefreedom), but her work resonates with a sense of joy and lightness that’s quite palpable. This is in no small part through her boldly experimental, imaginative practice, variously referencing her hometown of eThekwini (formerly Durban) along with Islamic motifs and architecture, pop culture and films. She continues to live and work in Cape Town following the completion of her Bachelor in Contemporary Art in 2019, with her alluring work featured in exhibitions including ‘Blue’, a group exhibition at the Westin Hotel curated by BA&C, ‘Oh So Quiet’ at WHATIFTHEWORLD and ‘Common’ curated by Khanya Mashabela at A4 Arts Foundation.

Luvuyo Equiano Nyawose

Luvuyo Nyawose, Untitled 30 (December 16th, 2019), 2021, Courtesy of the Artist

Another eThekwini-born artist, Nywawose rose to prominence through his extraordinary ‘eBhish’ solo show at blank projects in 2021. Informed in part by the nostalgia of childhood excursions to the Durban beach and his interest in the intimate histories documented in the family photo album, his remarkable photographs offer a critical and sensitive re-reading and re-questioning of depictions of black identity, here as joyful beachgoers. His work also reveals the depth of his practice as a researcher and documentarian – in addition to his photography practice, he holds honours degrees in film (AFDA) and curatorship (UCT). A selection from this series was exhibited as part of Zeitz MOCAA’s museum group show, ‘Indigo Waves and Other Stories: Re-Navigating the Afrasian Sea and Notions of Diaspora’,and presented this year at the 13th edition of the Rencontres de Bamako - African Biennale of Photography.

Lulama Wolf

Lulama Wolf, Untitled 2, 2013 Acrylic and sand on canvas, Courtesy of the Artist and THK Gallery.

Lulama Wolf is an artist living and working in Johannesburg, South Africa. Wolf’s work is interested in exploring the intersection between colonial Africa and contemporary art. She draws from techniques associated with vernacular architecture – for example, smearing and scraping pigments, to challenge ideas of tradition and modernity. Wolf’s work draws on the natural desire to mark one’s existence, she treats her practice as a “proof of existence” as a black woman artist. Regardless of her choice in medium, Wolf understands black identity as being essential to her work, describing her art as a space to explore questions of community and personhood. She recently represented THK Gallery with Mman galiso Nzuza at the Enter Art Fair 2023 hosted in Copenhagen.