African art is the focus of this spring’s Art Paris Art Fair, which will be at the Grand Palais from Thursday, March 30 to Sunday, April 2. For its 19th edition, 139 modern and contemporary galleries from 29 countries will exhibit hundreds of painters, sculptors, and video artists, including these ten young creative geniuses you’d be a fool to miss.
Mario Macilau was born in 1984 in Maputo, the city in which he continues to live and work. He began taking pictures in 2003 and went professional four years later. Favoring long-term projects, his subjects tend to be members of isolated social groups and his work explores how they are affected by changing living and environmental conditions. Macilau’s photography has been recognized with numerous awards and frequently features in international solo and group exhibitions, among them the African Art Auction in London in 2013. He is represented by Ed Cross Fine Art, a gallery which specializes in visual arts from Africa, its diasporas, and other artists with a strong connection to the continent.
Born in 1987 in Sidi Bougou, a village between the coastal Senegalese city of Mbour and the Forêt de Balabougou national reserve, Diack fell in love with nature as a young boy. However, at ten he moved to Dakar for school, leaving the lush vegetation and wildlife behind. As a means of managing his homesickness, he drew obsessively from memory, trying to recreate the environment that had so moved him. His obvious talent earned him a place at the École Nationale des Arts, where he perfected his skills. He is now represented by Galerie ATISS, a prominent gallery in Dakar.
Patrick Joël Tatcheda Yonkeu
Patrick Joël Tatcheda Yonkeu hails from Douala, Cameroon’s largest city, where he was born in 1985. Always a strong student in art and the sciences, he finally decided to dedicate himself to the former in 2009 while living in Italy. There, he received a scholarship to study at the Accademia Delle Belle Arti in Bologna, from which he graduated in 2013 with a degree in Painting Studies and in 2016 with a masters in Fine Art. His work is being represented by both the Fondation Donwahi from the Côte d’Ivoire and Galerie MAM of his native Douala at the APAF 2017.
Described by Jean-Luc Monterosso, director of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, as the one of the most promising photographers of her generation, Leila Alaoui died on January 18, 2016, after being wounded in the terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, three days earlier. She was 33. Alaoui, who possessed dual French-Moroccan nationality, was on a mission for Amnesty International at the time, working on a series on women’s rights. Her exquisite and unsentimental photography explored issues such as migration, displacement, and cultural identity. Pieces from her 2014 series “Les Marocains” will be displayed by the Wild Project Gallery from Luxembourg.
Born in 1993, Gosette Lubondo is the youngest of the young artists on our list by some margin, but you’d never guess it given the refinement and maturity of her photographs. A lifelong resident of Kinshasa, where she graduated from the Académie des Beaux-Arts with a degree in Visual Communication in 2014, Lubondo was inspired to pursue a creative career by her father, a fellow photographer. Her work, which is presented by L’Agence à Paris, questions the memory of space and individuals and creates a meeting point between history and society today. With her photographs, she hopes to give a second life to her subjects.
Gareth Nyandoro currently lives between Amsterdam, where he is a resident artist at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, and Harare. The 35-year-old Zimbabwean’s artworks bring together three-dimensional objects and two-dimensional collages created using his unique “Kuchekacheka” technique—which involves inking, cutting, scratching, and peeling layers of paper—and deal with human interaction within the urban environment, touching on subjects like alienation, diversification, and social reconstruction. Having exhibited widely since his first show in 2004, he was awarded the prestigious FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Award for Art and a residency with the SAM Art Projects in Paris in 2016. He is represented at APAF by London’s Tiwani Contemporary.
Born in Soweto in 1986, Mohau Modisakeng uses “material, metaphors, and the black body” as tools to explore the influence of his country’s violent past on how cultural, political, and social roles are understood today in post-colonial Africa and, particularly, post-apartheid South Africa. A student of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Art, where he gained his undergraduate degree, specializing in sculpture in 2009 and later his masters, his creative output includes films, large-scale photographic prints, installations, and performances. He is represented by Tyburn Gallery from London and WHATIFTHEWORLD from Cape Town, where the artist lives jointly with Johannesburg.
The work of Swiss-Guinean photographer Namsa Leuba (born in 1982) has appeared in countless international publications, including I-D, Numéro, Interview, Vice Magazine, Wallpaper, and Libération, and is held in prestigious private collections such as the Swiss Foundation for Photography and the Tang Museum in New York. Her diverse projects, which entail documentary, fashion, and performance, examine the representation of African identity through the Western imagination. After many successful group and solo shows, Leuba held her first large-scale exhibition, “Ethnomodern,” in 2016 at Lagos’ Art Twenty One, which is representing her at APAF along with Paris’ In Camera Galerie.
Born in Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe, in 1983, Virginia Chihota now lives and works in Podgorica, Montenegro. She graduated from the National Art Gallery Studios in Harare with a degree in Fine Arts in 2006 and represented her country at the 55th Venice Biennale seven years later. Memory and metaphor are key elements of her drawings and monoprints, which appear in the collections of the Tate, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Deutsche Bank, and the Saatchi Gallery. Recently, her work has incorporated her experiences of marriage and motherhood, a continuation of her ability to transform observation into formal complexity on paper. Tiwani Contemporary is representing Chihota at the APAF.
A major force on the emerging contemporary art scene in Tunis, Thameur Mejri (born in 1982) lives and works in Nabeul, on the other side of the Cap Bon peninsula. He finished his PhD in the sciences of technology of the arts in 2008 and his multidisciplinary work incorporates both conceptual and graphic approaches. With the Galerie Elmarsa, which is representing him in Paris this month, he has participated in group shows and international fairs in Morocco, Dubai, and the United States, where his video piece, The Plague, won Best Experimental Short Film at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival (NYIIFVF).