Africa plays host to a variety of cultures. With 54 countries on the continent and more than 1.4 billion inhabitants, there is a true diversity of tradition and lifestyle. The best way to portray culture is through art. As well as helping share cultural practices with the rest of the world, some have also utilized art to tackle stereotypes of African people and highlight injustices in certain communities. Here is a list of four African artists combating poverty and social inequality through their artistic talents.
4 African Artists Combating Poverty and Social Inequality
- Aida Muluneh: Hailing from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Muluneh’s photography is reflective of her birthplace. The artist dresses her models in bold block colors, and all of Muluneh’s pieces utilize symbolic props to tell a story. WaterAid approached Muluneh to create a series of photographs as part of a water poverty campaign. Muluneh called the series “Water Life,” depicting female northern Ethiopian models transporting water throughout Dallol, Afar, Ethiopia. Muluneh hoped to “advocate through art” and highlight the responsibility bestowed upon women to sustain their communities.
- eL Seed: This interdisciplinary artist combines painting and sculpting to express messages of peace throughout northern Africa and beyond. The French-Tunisian is most well-known for “Perception,” a series of paintings covering almost 50 buildings in Cairo. The piece of art was a successful attempt at highlighting the importance of often forgotten communities in cities like Cairo. The mural is visible in the Manshiyat Nasr neighborhood, whose residents have received the name “Zabaleen” (the garbage people) due to their collection of the city’s trash. The artwork highlights the community as an integral part of city living.
- Chéri Samba: Born in the 50s in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Samba does not shy away from his heritage in his artwork. The paintings play on a surrealist style to reflect life for those in Kinshasa, DRC. Samba uses his artwork to highlight social inequalities that have plagued Congolese people over the last 70 years, from AIDS to general social inequality. The French and Lingala-speaking painter uses both languages in his artwork highlighting his saddling of two cultures as he splits his time between Paris and Kinshasa.
- David Koloane: During his lifetime, the South African artist was not allowed to enter many spaces, including museums and art schools. The artist works hard to create artistic spaces for black artists to develop their careers and skills. His own art is very distinct, using abstract depictions of life and figures in South Africa. Through both his art and his efforts during Apartheid in creating spaces for young black artists, people will continue to celebrate Koloane for the foreseeable future.
Art and Social Inequality
Despite the progress that these artists have made in combating poverty and social inequality, there remains a lot of work to do. The contribution of African artists to public discussion and debate is huge. Their work will continue to give many African people a voice and provide a platform to promote social change.
– Christian Vince