AKAA 2021 features over 100 African and African Diaspora artists from 39 international galleries

Top Image: Wonder Buhle, "A coat found in the museum of shame by kids", 2021. Courtesy of BKhz Gallery.

From November 11 to 14, 2021, Also Known As Africa (AKAA) opened its doors for the sixth edition of its annual art and design fair. Held in Paris, the fair had its first iteration in 2016 and was created to focus on contemporary art from Africa.

This year, the fair took on the theme of Against the flow of time, based on Birago Diop’s memoir. Through this theme, the fair looks at the past year and how the flow of time is defined and shaped by a multitude of factors, including our past.

But even through hardship, humans, especially artists, have found ways to continue and persevere. At times, artists are the very people that shape our understanding of our history. They’re both the recorders and the actors of our struggle in life.

Similarly, many of the works displayed reflect this resilience through time. Artists tend to take inspiration from the history happening around them. And for all of us, that history includes the reckoning we all faced thanks to the global pandemic.

In the middle of the exhibition hall, AKAA has installed a fabric work by artist Morné Visagie. The installation, called Untitled II (The Last Colour to Fade), hangs from the ceiling of the Carreau du Temple. The cloth is made out of sheer recycled and sewn tarlatan cloth. The colors fade in and out, both revealing and hiding what’s behind it. Both the choice of materials and colors reflect the resilience of the physical and the metaphorical. 

Outside of the main installation, it’s clear how resilient artists can be. Much of the works on display are created in 2020 or 2021. As cliche as it might sound, it does feel like artists are most creative and inspired when they are in a troubled spot. But this doesn’t take away from the strong messages the art wants to convey.

AKAA 2021 features over 100 artists, both emerging and established, from 39 international galleries. Focused on contemporary art, the works on exhibit consist of multiple mediums and sizes that will attract a similarly varied group of collectors. From more “traditional” paintings to abstract collages and wall sculptures, AKAA shows just how much creativity and passion these African artists have.

Tatenda Chidora, "Self Isolation II", Part of the Series "If Covid was a Colour", 2021. Edition 1/10 + 2AP. 112 x 140 cm. Courtesy BKhz Gallery

Other than the main installation by Visagie, there are many booths worth visiting. South African gallery BKhz Gallery features some hot up-and-coming artists like Wonder Buhle and Tatenda Chidora. Didier CLAES Gallery, based in Belgium, is more known for dealing with classical African art, but at AKAA they are presenting new works by Gopal Dagnogo. Nuweland is a gallery that focuses on South African artists and the diaspora and is exhibiting works by Claire Johnson, Stephané Conradie, Kylie Wentzel, and Faatimah Mohamed-Luke.

Gopal Dagnogo, "Life in dark 13", 2021. Mixed techniques on canvas. 100 x 100 cm. © Valentin Clavairolles. Courtesy Gopal Dagnogo & didier CLAES.

Other than the booths by the 39 galleries, AKAA also offers a few programs for the duration of the fair. There are five panels covering a variety of topics with speakers like artists Lélia Demoisy, Fransix Tenda-Lomba, and Maya-Inès Touam. The artist of the main installation of the fair, Morné Visagie, will have a conversation with independent curator Sandrine Honliasso about Visagie’s installation and his body of work. In addition, there will be several book launches and signing spread out through November 12-14. A full breakdown of the programs can be found here.

Here's a few more look at our visit to AKAA.

There is much to be discovered at AKAA this week. The fair is open to the public from November 12-14, 2021 at Carreau du Temple. Tickets range from 16€ for a day pass and 67€ for a three-day pass and a copy of ART BOOK. You can book tickets to the fair here. For more information on the Also Known As Africa fair, you can visit their website.

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