Contemporary African Art in London

contemporary african art

54 countries

The 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair runs from 4-7 October at Somerset House, and is the leading exhibition dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora.  The 1-54 in the event’s title refers to the fifty-four countries, which make up the continent of Africa.

contemporary africn art


Somerset House is one of London’s most recognised buildings, and the exhibition space is divided up into a large number of small rooms, providing intimate showcases either for individual artists or for geographic regions.

contemporary african art

The current fair provides a vivid illustration of the explosive creativity emanating from Africa, including painting, sculpture, photography, video, furniture and numerous works of mixed-media.  These are as diverse as tribal masks made from scrapped munitions to large wall-hangings comprised of colourful fabrics.

contemporary african art

The exhibition is complemented with a number of artist talks, open forums, lectures and performance pieces.

Godfried Donkor

One of the artists who is exhibiting his work at this year’s Contemporary African Art Fair is Ghanaian artist Godfried Donkor.  Godfried completed an MA in African Art History at SOAS and talks about his time at SOAS and how this influenced his work:

I understand that your artwork The First Day of the Yam Custom, 1817 was inspired by a book you discovered in the SOAS Library?  How did that come about?

“The book by Thomas Bowdich was in the SOAS Library and I came across it after some classes in African history.  I was drawn to it not only by the text, but by the wonderful illustrations inside made by Bowdich from his time in Kumasi.  It was the first time I had seen images from Ashanti depicted.”

Any other memories of your time at SOAS?

“I have great memories from my time at SOAS.  The learning, politics, student union and above all the libraries… especially the secret ones.”

contemporary african art
Ebony Dakar Edition, 2003

Can you describe your creative process?  

“My creative process really begins with research.  Most of my artworks start with long periods of research and a steady slow investigation into the subject matter.  This process began from my art school days and continues on to today.”

Future plans?

“I am planning for my next project on boxing and the art and history of pugilism from the middle of November through to next year.  There are also plans for exhibitions both in London and in Ghana.”

contemporary african art
St Daniel Mendoza, 2010

Godfried Donkor at 1-54

Some of Godfried’s artworks, which can currently be seen at the Contemporary Art Fair include: Ebony Dakar Edition, 2003; St Daniel Mendoza, 2010; and St Tom Molineaux, 2010.

contemporary african art
St Tom Molineaux, 2010

Hot foot it to room W17, on the ground floor of the west wing of Somerset House, to discover more about Ghanaian art.

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