African Routes, a review of artworks by Black British Female Artists

African Routes currently showing at the Lacey Contemporary until Saturday 13th February showcases some of the most fascinating contemporary talent by women of African heritage.

‘Vibrant art that amalgamates into unrestricted expression’

The art is vibrant, innovative and depicts a range of techniques that has amalgamated into unrestricted expression. This exhibition is a must see if you are an admirer of modern African art.  

Among the selection of artworks is a range of mediums and compositions, ranging from sculpture to textiles. The artists have portrayed their circumstances and influences as British identity and their African heritage and culture have spilled onto their artworks. I look at each piece as an expression of the essence of who they are as individuals which has resulted in versatility of hue, composition and medium such as Mandy Coppes- Martin’s Soft Currency; Her use of thread and hand made cotton paper is a unique technique and the round frayed edges break the mould of a traditional square or rectangle layout. 

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On the challenge of being black artists in the UK

The Lacey Contemporary held a discussion forum on Wednesday 27th January to support the efforts of the BBFA.The discussion I felt was just as important as the exhibition. The artists of BBFA spoke about what it takes to create art in terms of support, finances and studio space and the challenges that come with this territory. The art industry can be one of the toughest to be part of. Your passion has to run deep in order to make a conscience decision to pursue a career in it. I saw that passion in the artworks of African Routes and with that comes gratitude to galleries like Lacey Contemporary and collectives such as BBFA that give a platform to artists with that passion.

The discussion went in an interesting direction, which I found helpful as an artist. Where do you go for help when you are an artist wanting to make a career out of your talent?

Once I graduated from university, I had knowledge of the inner workings of the art industry, I had skills that had developed over a period of four years and I had the devotion to my craft to make it as an artist. I did not however have direction, I was overwhelmed at the fact that there are so many avenues an artist can take in order to achieve their goals. I was unaware that organisations such as BBFA existed, organisations that are there to spur you on, give guidance, reassurance and take you seriously as a creative person wanting to make a contribution to the industry.

The truth of the matter is, after university reality settles in, you have to earn an income, pay bills, start saving, this is the way the modern world works and if you are an artist, its easier said than done. Not only do I have to hold a full time job, I paint in the evenings, about to teach on the weekends and research in between. I am a firm believer in networking and communication. It’s important to keep in contact with other artists, not only does this give you inspiration and encouragement, you can discover a database of people who have been there, done that and willing to show you the ropes. 

I think my one wish is that if you take anything away with you from this article is that if you are an artist who is passionate about pursuing a career in the art industry, there are organisations that can point you in the right direction, it may not always be smooth sailing but persistence pays off.

I would like to thank the Lacey Contemporary Gallery and Black British Female Artists (BBFA) for their decision to promote African art in a European market. Their campaign to acknowledge and raise awareness of emerging artists is astonishing and admirable.

African Routes exhibition is running at the Lacey Contemporary Gallery, 8 Clarendon Cross | W11 4AP until Saturday 13th February. 

For more information about the BBFA you can visit : www.bbfablog.wordpress.com

Full list of Exhibitors

Tafadzwa Gwetai, Zimbabwe

Trymore Sengai, Zimbabwe

Enam Gbewonyo, Ghana

Lennie Lee, South Africa

Raymond Soko, Nigeria

Chike Azuonye, Nigeria

Toni Ndikanwu, Nigeria

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By Paula Paton



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