• Icons of a Modern Era: Five Premier African Artists

This week we look at the souls behind a unique kind of expression within African art, a look into the five artists within the continent whose art and inspirational works have transcended the continent and gone beyond expressionism into icons of a modern era.

Sanaa Gateja
Sanaa Gateja is a man driven by artistic navies and ethnic remix culture. He is one of the internationally acclaimed Ugandan artists and an exhibitor at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York. He famously quips about art as having the ability to “Create a mystery. That is why I love art. For me, art has to be abstract, because everything is in motion. 

Icons of a Modern Era: Five Premier African Artists

Art brings me closer to the process of creation, which I would never fully understand.” He is the Bead King, an artist that has continually made bead artworks from recycled paper and other waste material, empowered local artists to the same craft and influenced the local Ugandan Community and Africa as a whole.

Expedito Mwebe Kibbula
Expedito pursues life from an intricate beauty point of view, one that takes time to look at the world and discern its thoughts, sights and feelings. He loves nature an evident scene from his collections of thousands of leaves, where each one is a narration of an event, or reflects another object. On Expedito, Architect Alan Donovan says, “A genius must be a visionary, which both were. 

Picasso was one of the so-called ‘modern’ artists in the early 20th century that borrowed heavily from past African masters. Few contemporary African artists have the talent and genius to awe their viewers like past African artists who created the masks, textiles and sculptures that reside in the world’s museums. Expedito is an exception.”

Prof Elkana Ongesa
Prof Elkana Ongesa, an alumni of Kenyatta University and Makerere University, is an artist who produced the first major exhibition at African Heritage on Kenyatta Avenue in 1973. 

Icons of a Modern Era: Five Premier African Artists

He has been able to exhibit at the entrance of the United Nations Building in New York; the front of the UNESCO headquarters in Paris; the Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta and Caltex headquarters in Houston, Texas.  “The Bird of Peace Emerging from the Stone of Despair” is his first major piece in Africa that now sits at the graveside of Joe Murumbi, founder of the African Heritage, a personal friend of Professor Ongesa.  

Francis Nnagenda
Icons of a Modern Era: Five Premier African Artists
A sculptor, painter and former chairperson of the department of fine arts, Makerere University has contributed to African art riches through his gigantic wooden sculptural elements that have transformed spaces into quests for knowledge and thought provoking avenues. Among his works is the National Museums of Kenya Artpiece adorning the entrance to the museum.

John Edward Odoch Ameny
(His friends call him Odochameny) is a Lira (Uganda) born sculptor who makes the tactile art an extension of his forearms. He is the King of Molten metal. He lives and works since 1989 as a sculptor in Malaba, Uganda best known for his individual expressive style and tactile handling of the stone, wood and iron used to create his sculptures in exhibition at the Murumbi Art Gallery, Nairobi and Museum der Weltkulturen in Berlin among others. 

Icons of a Modern Era: Five Premier African Artists

His early sculptural work uses soft wood, creating figures with convoluted bodies whose limbs seem indicative of insects. Their expressiveness is equally evident in his stone sculptures. Since the late 1980s, John Odoch Ameny has worked mainly in metal.

His bizarre assemblages of pistons, chains, telephone receivers, bells and typewriter parts address topics related to technology and everyday life in East Africa.

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