Parisian Contemporary Art Fair Sheds Light on Africa's "Shock of Being Seen"

Addy Campbell, Agape V, 2016
Addy Campbell, "Agape V," 2016 | Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Number 8, Brussels

Paris’ AKAA festival (Also Known As Africa) is an inspiring art fair and cultural platform. It is devoted to showcasing contemporary art and design from Africa and breaking social barriers.

AKAA is the ultimate place to discover the wealth of contemporary artistic talent in Africa. There are no limits to the scope of creativity, with everything from sculpture, painting, and photography to installation and design stepping into the spotlight. There are surprising discoveries and inspiration at every turn.

Addy Campbell, “Agape V,” 2016

The event aims to spotlight how Africans have decided to handle their own destiny, and the “shock” that plays out in response: “When you removed the gag that was keeping these black mouths shut, what were you hoping for? That they would sing your praises? Did you think that when they raised themselves up again, you would read adoration in the eyes of these heads that our fathers had forced to bend down to the very ground? Here are black men standing, looking at us, and I hope that you – like me – will feel the shock of being seen.”

“Aiuê Monami” from the series LiberdadeJa

This “shock of being seen” was already staged by Fernando Alvim, ten years ago at the Venice Biennale, and these artists reinterpret it through a contemporary prism. While there is scope for reinterpretation, there’s a fierce interest in shaking off the shackles of tradition by developing undiscovered talent.

In 2017, AKAA will bring together 150 artists from 28 different countries, with more than half of its 38 exhibiting galleries being completely new to the fair. There are five countries from the African continent (Angola, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Tunisia, and Uganda) being represented here for the first time, as well four from Europe (Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, and Spain).

Patrick Willocq; “The art of survival”

“Our Africa is fluid, complex and permeable,” says Victoria Mann, founder and director of AKAA. “It influences and inspires the world by its capacity to innovate and create. Over four days we share the African energy, hear its hum and feel its vibration.”

Joel Mpah, “Postcard”

Les Rencontres AKAA—a cultural forum based on exchange and reflection—will be providing the opportunity to hear directly from the creatives who are carving out the new face of Africa’s contemporary art scene. The theme of Les Rencontres AKAA 2017 will be “Healing the World,” and they’ll be inviting the public to speak to and meet the artists, curators, and experts in question.

Nicola Lo Calzo’s “Obia : The Kiss, Itarno and Shanigwa, Saint Laurent du Maroni”

The lower level of the Carreau du Temple will be also used by AKAA Underground, an “art laboratory” offering a host of exciting hands-on workshops, fascinating talks, and book signings.

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