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Emerging African artists bring their voices to the forefront of the climate movement in The Africa Centre’s latest exhibition, ‘Our Story’.

Courtesy of The Africa Centre.

The Africa Centre is pleased to present ‘Our Story: Africa’s Climate’, a group exhibition of emerging African artists from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania. Curated by Haja Fanta, this exhibition seeks to highlight the impact of the climate emergency in Africa through photography, illustration, and collage. Using storytelling as a vehicle, artists Antoinette Oni, Chioma Ince, Mihayo Kallaye, and Ngadi Smart give honest and thought-provoking insight into environmental colonialism, waste management, and historical activism.

“The purpose of bringing these artists together was to diversify the conversation around climate change and to pass the mic to those who are directly being affected by our ever-shifting climate. It was imperative to bring a range of topics to the forefront, especially with Egypt hosting the COP27 summit next month,” said Haja Fanta.

Africa has suffered disproportionately from the climate crisis, although it has done little to cause the crisis. The ramifications of the exhaustion of natural resources have made themselves ever more present over the years. In 2020 alone we saw life-threatening floods in Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, and other East African countries. Despite contributing the least to global warming, Africa is currently most vulnerable to its dangers.

In her piece ‘Leader of Resistance,’ Ince takes a historical approach and pays homage to the roaring strength, leadership, activism, and power of the Abeokuta Women’s (1946) revolt in Nigeria. She states “both this piece and the 1946 revolt show what has been evident from the start; women can be found at the centre of any form of resistance against colonial forces”. Women are a common thread in this exhibition, Oni interviewed Mrs. Grace Reju, an Elder of Ejinrin fishing village in Nigeria and we see her captured weaving in  ‘Lagoon 2’.

Acting as a cultural hub, The Africa Centre hopes to not only call attention to this issue but to further this conversation through critical dialogue on how Africa can build a sustainable future. The exhibition will be accompanied by an exciting programme consisting of talks and workshops around sustainable practices, grassroots environmental activism, and more.

Haja Fanta is a London-based curator, writer, and researcher originating from Sierra Leone. She works with artists and institutions to deliver a range of visual art exhibitions, projects, and programmes. She has a particular interest in artistic and cultural production from Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal, and Sierra Leone and in building creative connections between those cultures and the broader diaspora.

In her practice, Haja explores different approaches to curatorial production. During her MA in Arts and Cultural Enterprise, for example, she examined how incorporating sound and spatial design in curatorial practice can enhance levels of engagement and accessibility in contemporary art spaces.

Haja has previously developed projects with Southbank Centre, National Portrait Gallery, and photographer Neil Kenlock. She currently works as a studio assistant at HOME by Ronan Mckenzie.

Antoinette Yetunde Oni is an award-winning architectural designer and multidisciplinary artist working between London and Lagos, Nigeria. With a focus on the Global South, her work addresses postcolonialism, resource degradation, and the climate emergency in the urban environment through speculative collage and assemblage installations.

In 2021, she exhibited an assemblage titled Community of the Divine Flood at HOME by Ronan McKenzie as part of a group exhibition of multidisciplinary artists. Antoinette is heavily influenced by the arte povera tradition of using found objects to narrate stories on climate change, material exploration, and heritage.

Other notable work includes the collaborative exhibition New Commons Lagos to Berlin at Galerie Wedding in Berlin, 2019. The exhibition was part of a residency exchange programme supported by SAVVY Contemporary, ZK/U. Commissioned by the Goethe Institut, where she created a gaudy, neon green collaged intervention highlighting the racist erasure of minority communities from the climate conversation during the widespread Extinction Rebellion protests. Antoinette holds a BA (honours) in architecture from the Manchester School of Architecture and is also an alumna of Delft University of Technology. She is currently obtaining a Master’s in architecture from Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

Chioma Ince is an African and Caribbean Illustrator and Workshop Facilitator whose practice explores themes of politics, and identity and bringing to life vibrant narratives. Her multifaceted discipline engages with the materiality of storytelling in its many forms and functions in our lives. Ince’s desire to create art that sparks conversation and engages with all ages has led her to work with: Penguin, Fairtrade, Action For Children, Andersen Press, Climate In Colour, City Lions, Shado, Shelter Scotland, NHS Trust, and Kings College London. All these collaborations have derived from a passion to promote representation, inclusivity, and accessibility within the arts; whilst amplifying voices that are often silenced and erased.

Mihayo Kallaye joined Nafasi Art Academy after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences and Management. Through his artistic practice, he seeks to redefine his position in his society. Additionally, his scientific background, beliefs, and readings inform his creative practice. Rooted in research and experimentation, he creates works that explore ideas of environmental sustainability and the post-colonial situation in Africa. Materiality is an important element in his work, as he believes it tells something about the idea being explored. This plays an instrumental role in provoking conversations around the themes of his work. Mihayo’s work has been exhibited at the East Africa Biennale 2019; the National Museum of Tanzania 2020; Circle Art gallery, Kenya 2021; and Galerie Atelier III, Barmstedt Germany 2022. He also participated in Tuning-in Mini-lab residency at Livingstone Office of Contemporary Art (LOCA), Zambia 2021/2022.

Ngadi Smart is a Sierra Leonean Visual Artist and Designer based between London, U.K and Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Her practice comprises Illustration, Photography, and Design. She also works as a Mixed Media artist, primarily in the form of collage art.

In her Illustration work, she is motivated by the representation of minorities, highlighting cultural identity and racial discrimination, as well as themes of Feminism and gender roles. She likes to deconstruct mainstream society’s preconceived views of what the definitions of “normal”, “beautiful”, and “right” are. She has illustrated for The Atlantic, Time Out London, Eastpak, and The Guardian, as well as for publishing houses such as Penguin’s Riverhead Books in NYC and London’s Faber’s Children.

In her Photography, her focus is documenting cultures, subcultures, and intimacy. Her work often speaks on how people self-identify and choose to present themselves in front of the lens. Recently, she has also been interested in documenting Black sensuality and culture from an African point of view. She aims to show as many representations of African people, and what it means to be African as she can. Her photography has been published on CNN, British Journal of Photography, Vogue Italia, Atmos Magazine, and I.D Magazine.

The exhibition will be on view from the 10th of November until the 9th of December 2022. For more information, please visit The Africa Centre.

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