Having opened at The Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg on February 20, Lumières d’Afriques presents 54 unique artworks, each created by an artist from a different African country, under the theme of The Light of Africa.
The internationally renowned project by African Artists for Development was founded in 2015 and is premised on the idea that the 21st century belongs to Africa, while also reflecting on the challenges facing the development of the continent.
Following the exhibition’s inauguration in Paris at the Théâtre National de Chaillot, the collection of works has been presented in Ivory Coast, Senegal, the African Union’s headquarters in Ethiopia, Switzerland, Germany and, most recently, Morocco.
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Lumières d’Afriques visually depicts artistic expeditions across the continent to fuel a dynamic dialogue about how art and people can be active tools for social change.
The work shines a light on artistic voices that share their interpretation of the global conversation on access to power.
The multiple collaborations of mediums in different works not only highlights the abundance of art in Africa but also boldly acclaims the innovation that is inspired by identity and passion.
The internationally acclaimed queer performance and tapestry artist, Athi-Patra Ruga, is the South African visionary selected to be a part of the group exhibition.
His contribution to the first pan-African travelling exhibition is a photograph titled Miss Azania.
This work of Ruga was first exhibited in 2015 and it shows a woman at the centre of the artwork, posed in a very relaxed and luxurious manner, wearing a black lace bodysuit and stilettos.
She is Miss Azania, surrounded by a kaleidoscope of summery colours as she is seated on a rattan peacock chair, a potent political symbol with origins dating to far earlier than the era of mid-century modernism.
Miss Azania is a fictional beauty competitor for a fictional African nation, a utopia known as Azania.
The response is that, in reality, many marginalised people remain forgotten and rejected and Ruga’s Rainbow Nation is both literal, exploding with colour, and a reclamation of space for queerness.
Conversations about access should always centre the marginalised, and Ruga’s work in this exhibition reminds us of this in a way that looks at these marginalised bodies in a deserving-of-opulence and empowering light.
“The power of such exhibitions is how they relate to their context in whatever shape, size or format, and across different geographical locales – especially in how they touch on critical sociopolitical and economic themes,” says Standard Bank Gallery manager and curator Same Mdluli.
The benefit of such an exhibition is that it reiterates the importance of having such conversations through artistic expression.