African contemporary art and design is being showcased in the French capital, Paris, this weekend, with a three-day fair that runs through Sunday. It is among a number of African artistic events taking place in France this year.
The richness and diversity of African creativity, the second edition of “Also Known As Africa” — the first of its kind in France — is packed into the massive Carreau du Temple, in central Paris. This building once served as a food market in the 19th century. The goods have changed: the crowds today are admiring cutting-edge sculptures, paintings and photography…like the works of Januario Jano, an Angolan artist who splits his time between London, Lisbon and Luanda.
“As an artist I came more for the experience and to support the gallery,” said Jano. “I like to be in my studio and talk to my work and do my things. The whole experience is new for me and I’m trying to understand it…this relationship with the collectors, the media..is not different from events like fashion shows. And I’m trying to enjoy it.”
Gallery owner Sonia Ribeiro, who is displaying Jano’s work, says Angola’s art scene is recent and still struggling — especially with the country’s financial crisis.
“Arts and culture – it’s something we need to have to develop the awareness and the approaches and the spaces. But mainly to bring the artist to be in a global spectrum,” said Ribeiro.
Thirty-eight galleries from 19 African and European countries are present at the Also Known As Africa fair – or AKAA. Photographer David Uzochukwu is Austrian, but has Nigerian roots. He recently shot a global campaign for sportswear giant Nike that featured British singer FKA twigs.
“It’s super exciting – it’s a huge, huge space,” said Uzochukwu. “There are some other artists that I’m very excited about. Apart from that, I’m super glad see my own work in print which I don’t do very often. And the response from people has been amazing.”
Roughly 15,000 people attended last year’s first edition of AKAA. Parisian Grace Loubassou, whose family comes from Congo Brazzaville, is back for more.
“I”m really enjoying myself to see a lot of different things here…I don’t think you need to be originally or connected to Africa to understand the art here. They try to be democratized everywhere to not be just in Africa,” said Loubassou.
The show also features public discussions, documentaries and performances. The theme – at a time when a number of African countries are caught up in conflicts — is healing.