“If you are looking for an excellent rate of return on your money, invest in African art.” That's a quote from Sothebys ’ which has auctioned off more than $200m in antique African tribal art over the past few years.
There's a rich tapestry of stories of Africa captured in carvings, on canvas or in sculptures by under exposed or under nurtured artists. Education in Africa is not free, so not everyone can afford to go. Money isn't the only barrier either. There’s a generation of young people in & out of school who have no idea what a career in the arts could look like or that it’s an option. Through a cultural connection that will educate and inspire beyond just the artists, something truly magical could happen and the best part is that anyone can be part of it!
The number of new buyers of African art rose by more than 70% between 2012 and 2013 alone according to this article in African Business Magazine . In 2012, South African artist, Vladimir Tretchikoff’s ‘Red Jacket’ expected to sell for $50,000, sold for £337, 250 at Bonhams. His “Chinese girl” is the most widely reproduced picture in the world and sold for £982,000, three times as much as expected. A set of 7 wooden sculptures by Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu sold at Bonhams in London for £361,000, three times more than expected. Ghana-born, artist El Anatsui’s ‘New World Map’, an aluminium bottle caps and copper wire sculpture sold for £541,250 in 2013.
I'm African and proudly so. I'm also a mummy to an amazing little boy. I truly believe that no-one wants a handout; no parent wants their child's wellbeing to rest in someone else's hands. Worse is seeing potential stifled by circumstance that could be overturned if someone cared just a little. If we can create this framework to give people the dignity that comes from independence and self reliance, while reigniting the creative economy that's so rich and vibrant in Africa, the world will benefit!
With the interconnected and interdependent nature of our world, the global is not ‘out there’; it is part of our everyday lives as we are linked to others on every continent (ideas-forum.org.uk). Africa can contribute to the world economy through its creativity and richness of its cultural industries. An Africa that doesn't need to rely on international aid is a good thing for everyone!
For the plan to work, we will:
- Hold multimedia, unique exhibitions in various spaces (including companies) across the UK to maximise access to and awareness of the artists and their work
- Deliver exciting events to raise funds needed to bring art to the UK market from Africa and fund the art training programmes to help people (especially young people and women) explore/discover their talent
- Arrange webinars and skills exchange sessions to raise awareness of new techniques being used by artists both in the UK and in Africa e.g. aerosol art, paint from plastic, paint from natural elements like specific mud/leaves
- Enable access to art via our online gallery and auction site to create a mechanism for artists to have that sustainable income from a global marketplace
- Work with educational institutions and bodies such as the arts council and national galleries in the UK and in Zimbabwe to explore ways of building a supportive and developmental framework to nurture talent
- Work with galleries, buyers and curators to understand what they look for and feed this back to art institutions and our team of art tutors who will carry out training in remote parts of Africa
- Provide tools and materials to enable artists to explore their talent
- Inspire more artists by sharing stories of artists (especially women and girls) and how they use various materials e.g. Gogo Mahlangu who uses chicken feathers and sticks to make her brushes, and creates paints from natural elements around her
In summary, together we can enable emerging and struggling artists in the UK and in Africa to access a programme of skills seminars and workshops that will help them either learn new techniques or acquire business skills such as digital marketing etc. We will deliver exhibitions that will give more people access to art (and these incredible stories told through art) in unique and unintimidating environments. Not everyone feels comfortable or able to go to galleries, so creating exhibitions within communities and in spaces that are used by communities will make it accessible but also help bring much attention and profile raising for the artists. Partnerships with companies and exhibitions within firms such as the one we had at the European Bank or Reconstruction and Development from 14-18 November, raise major awareness of the artists and their work and can help to make this a lucrative career option for more people struggling to make a living from creative industries.
Africa and the UK have so many of these fantastic gems to contribute. There are many people rich in talent and creativity but poor when it comes to opportunity. Be part of uncovering them! Visit www.positiveafritude.com/heart-of-africa