African Creatives to Watch – the Full List
By Nana Ocran
A few years back, it was said that Africa’s creative economy was like a sleeping giant. That may have been, but the giant’s awake – and woke – to the fact that the vast digital presence of young African artists is fuelling new and dynamic takes on humour, politics, fact, fiction, sexuality, satire, fantasy, technology, innovation, imagination and much much more.
From the visible hits of Instagram to filtered film clips on YouTube, the digital podiums for showcasing visual ideas and experiences have become energised by the uploaded work of artists, thinkers and adventurers who are remixing ideas of creativity across platforms and genres, some subtly, some politically – much of it brash, sassy and savvy – but all of it deserving to be shouted about.
This curated selection of some of the most striking digital art and artists coming out of Africa exposes a world that contains movement makers, pivotal names and vital collectives.
What’s clear is that the ideas that inhabit these platforms are just the modest tip of an ever-evolving iceberg of activity that’s as deep as it is wide. With new and established African and Africa-based artists reacting to their immediate and to global locations, the abundance of sharp, edgy, smart or whimsical content exists as a dynamic source of delight, surprise and aesthetic invention, fuelling a rich eco-system of bold and digitally borderless artistic expression.
The Nest Collective: A small army of thinkers, makers and believers in Nairobi.
Made With Love: Illustrator and art director Musa Omusi is behind this Nairobi-based creative studio, the title of which that essentially highights his own ‘philosophy in action’.
African Digital Art: The queen of digital art, Jepchumba’s African Digital Art portal is without question one of the best online inspirational sources for African creativity, produced by a pan-African network of artists and writers.
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Brian Siambi: A one-time mathematician an a by-day graphic designer, Siamba has now turned to documenting Nairobi.
Uganda Press Photo Awards: Annual awards that showcase new or established Ugandan photographers and photojournalists in Uganda.
Sunny Dolat: Kenyan fashion stylist, creative director and production designer. ‘Inhale fashion, exhale style’ is his Twitter bio.
Osborne Macharia (featured above): Kenyan photographer behind The League of Extravagant Grannies project.
Osse Greca Sinare: Celebrity fashion photographer and vlogger. Voted one of the ten most powerful youths in Tanzania in 2012.
Jim Chuchu: A big creative name in Kenya, the filmmaker, photographer and musician is also a co-founder and member of the Nest Collective and a past member of the (apparently still on hiatus) House/Funk/Disco outfit, Just a Band.
Plus Two Five: A platform for young upcoming photographers working in and around East Africa.
Martin Kharumwa: Martin Kharumwa creates textural images of Kenyan life through fashion, portraiture and not-for-profit themes.
Style and fashion
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The Salooni Project: Initiated by four Ugandan women – Kampire Bahana, Darlyne Komukama, Gloria Wavamuno and Aida Nambi – The Salooni Project unpicks all elements of the story and stories of hair experiences of black people – from styling to identity, knowledge, love, trauma and self care – passed down from generation to generation.
2Many Siblings: Brother and sister duo, Velma Rossa & Oliver Asike curate transitional contemporary African narratives through fashion.
Styled by Africa: Award-winning continent-wide boutique of Africa’s best fashion brands.
Innovation – Architecture – Design
Addis Ababa Design Week: Innovations in architecture, technology, industrial design, interiors, fashion, food\gastronomy and graphic design.
Cave Architecture (featured above): An African design bureau based in Nairobi and focused on delivering architecture, interior design, furniture and landscape services.
Muthoni the Drummer Queen.
Blinky Bill: Kenyan musician, DJ and TED Fellow.
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Inema Art Centre (featured above): Launched in 2012 by brothers and self-taught painters Emmanuel Nkuranga and Innocent Nkurunziza, Inema Arts Centre spurs creativity for personal, social, and economic growth.
Addis Fine Art: Mesai Haileleul and Rakeb Sile founded the gallery to specialise on contemporary African Art, with particular focus on art from Ethiopia and its diaspora.
Circle Art Gallery: Contemporary art from across east Africa.
The Art House: An initiative in Rwanda connecting artists and creatives within the region and beyond.
Bubblegum Club: A cultural intelligence agency, founded by Lex Trickett and Jamal Nxedlana. They help brands and organizations understand and engage with contemporary South African youth culture.
I See A Different You (featured above): Collective of Soweto born creatives who set out to change the world’s view of Africa from the negative to the positive.
All Hail the Honey (featured above): An online, photographic comic book with images by film photographer Andile Buka.
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Lady Skollie: Laura Windvogel (aka Lady Skollie) produces work revolving around the themes of gender roles, sex, greed and lust.
Dance and Performance
Manthe Ribane: Creative performer, and designer from Soweto. She calls herself “a visionary artist exploring how the human force moves in spaces gravitating within their own purpose”.
Buhlebezwe Siwani: A Sangoma and contemporary artist from South Africa, and a performance artist who uses her body as a medium and site of protest and power.
Buhle Ngaba: Actress, author and performance activist.
Jabu Nadia Newman: Between art directing music videos and collaborating on photo series’ and fashion films, Jabu’s also been busy with a popular web show, The Foxy Five, about intersectionality and feminism. The first of its kind to come out of Cape Town.
Albert Silindokuhle Ibokwe Khoza: A walking exhibition of hair and style of the enigmatic Albert Silindokuhle ibokwe Khoza – Soweto actor, singer, dancer and performer.
Minerva’s Lilies: Set to a Swahili Tarab song, this short film by two sisters Amirah and Wafa Tajdin is a “personal portrait of sisterhood, magic and mothers”.
Batuk: A house music collective founded by Aero Manyelo, Spoek Mathambo and Manteiga.
DJ Doowap: A female DJ influenced by 90s beats.
Innovation – Design – Architecture
The Colonial Bastard Rhodes Typeface: A graphic design project by Zimbabwean-born illustrator and graphic designer Osmond Tshuma. It’s a post-colonial critique of both Cecil John Rhodes and the impact of Colonialism in South Africa.
Style and Fashion
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Sartists: Creative fashionistas Wanda Lephoto, Xzavier Zulu and Kabelo Kungwane document the street style of Jo’burg and Cape Town using inspiration from various styles across the globe.
TKLM Slam Collective: Founded on the belief that youth can and must speak for themselves, TKLM presents literary arts education and youth development programmes in the areas of creative writing and public speaking. They also host a monthly slam poetry event.
Nassim El Qochairi: The young man describes himself as: “18 Years Old | Graphic Artist | Spoken Word Performer | Nerd | Cinéphile | Sériephile”
Poetry Soup: A website resource of poems by Moroccan poets.
A Dictionary of the Revolution: a project started by artist Amira Hanafi.
Theatre and Dance
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Art Solution: Art solution is an association founded in 2011 in order to gather the Tunisian Urban Community around a passion, dream, and art banished by many. They promote breakdance as a tool for personal and professional empowerment.
Alternative Vibes Festival: A festival organised by Art Solution and Kate Scanlan. It involves creative exchange with the hip hop community and graffiti artists in Sousse and Tunis.
Ismail Bahri (featured above): Swiss-Tunisian Ismail Bahri works in Paris, Lyon and Tunis. In his 2010 video work ‘Orientations’, viewers see reflections of Tunis in a pot of ink as the artist carries it through the city. The ink captures the image of the world — but only for a moment.
Le 18: A cultural, multidisciplinary riad, a place for gathering and exchange, a common living space dedicated to creation and reflection, and an artist residency in the medina of Marrakech for Moroccan and international artists. Run by photographer Laila Hida.
DJ Van: Based in Marraksh, DJ Van is said to be the “Godfather of Moroccan music”.
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Mounir Fatmi: Fatmi lives and works between Paris and Tangier. He constructs visual spaces and linguistic games using VHS tapes, copier machines and antenna cables. His work deals with the desecration of religious objects, deconstruction and the end of dogmas and ideologies. He is particularly interested in the idea of death of the subject of consumption.
Zineb Benjelloun: A Moroccan artist, illustrator and documentary filmmaker.
Mouna Karray: Karray works with photographs, video and sound installations on questions of identity, memory and mental boundaries. Her work ‘An Object on the Shore’ plays with the same themes using sounds. The listener hears chanting from the Koran, dogs barking, birdsong, car engines and a radio playing. The work frames the question of whether these religious, profane and mundane sounds form a set of fragments or a cultural whole.
IBRAAZ Publishing: An online platform producing critical forms of knowledge about visual cultures relating to and emanating from North Africa and the Middle East.
Zahrin Kahlo: a photographer based between Morocco and Italy. Her focus is on femininity and body politics.
Hela Ammar: Ammar works with photography, sound installations, and embroideries in her 2014 work ‘Tarz’. Her work explores the female identity among the moral and religious conventions of Tunisia today and in the past.
Ramzy Bansaadi: Bansaadi is an Algerian street photographer.
Razine Mebarki: an Algerian photographer.
Innovation – Architecture – Design
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Annassi Mehdi: Mehdi is a digital illustrator
Brain Oil Factory (BOF): a group of Moroccan artists, BOF hold challenges every week or so to keep themselves working to improve and have fun.
Vintage Maroc: An intriguing look at retro Moroccan scenes and architecture
Cheb Moha: Moha is a photographer/designer
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Yassine Morabite: Moroccan artist, painter, illustrator, and fashion designer
Amine Bendriouich: Based between Casablanca, Marrakech and Berlin, Amine Bendriouich spreads the word of “Couture and Bullshit” via his fashion label in Casablanca.
AW-CA: A creative representation agency with an architectural take on art, design and creativity wit evens taking place at the White Space physical hub spot.
Mesh Creative Platform: A collective of young Ghanaians with combined skills in creative writing, photography, videography and social media.
Playable City (featured above): An initiative aimed at “re-using city infrastructure and re-appropriating smart city technologies to create connections”.
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Etejo (featured above): A platform for photographers and photojournalists interested in sharing and exploring everyday stories in Africa through beautiful photo essays.
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Bright Ackwerh: 26-year-old, Ghanaian artist based in Accra and with a background of street art and graffiti.
Nana Kofi Acquah: Ghanaian photographer behind a series of projects including The Net Girls featuring street hawkers sell whose colourful nets and bathing sponges are used in an haute couture style fashion shoot.
Ley Uwera: Freelance photojournalist based in Goma, Uwera uses her talents as a photographer documents the social and cultural evolution of east Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Monochrome Lagos: Lagos as muse; stripped down, black and white and in all its beauty.
Innovation – Architecture – Design
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Damola Rufai: Designer and manufacturer of the glass and steel ‘Esho table’ collection.
Archidatum: ‘Design at the Cradle of Mankind’
This digital gallery was curated as an accompaniment to The Arts Forum – and event hosted in April 2017 by the Royal African Society and the British Council to discuss and share experiences of presenting contemporary African art to UK and international audiences. This is part of a strategic partnership between the two organisations, aimed at increasing networks and sharing knowledge, expertise and connections between the UK and African countries.