Afrocentric voices from the Motherland

Ange Swana, La Chute (the fall), (bipolar society), 2017. Acrylic and oil on canvas, 200 x 100 cm. Courtesy of African Arty.

African Galleries Now x Artsy

June 9 through June 30, 2021

By PETRA MASON, May 2021

All too frequently, panel discussions and public statements about African art feature far too few people who are actually African artists living in Africa! As a much-needed corrective to this loss of voice and presence in the global art market, the African Art Galleries Association (AAGA), has established a signature online collaboration with Artsy, the leading US-based media and arts auction platform.

The ‘African Galleries Now’ x Artsy collaboration, now in its second edition, brings together a network of 12 African Art Galleries Association members showcasing the Pan-African talent that they represent, in a media spotlight over three weeks starting June 9th, 2021. 

Each gallery presents four artists, a total of 48, including talents from Zimbabwe, Congo, South Africa, Mozambique,  Namibia, Angola, Uganda, Mali and Tunis. 

Aviwe Plaatjie, Music, 2021. Oil on Canvas, 150 x 120 cm. Courtesy of Ebony Curated.

As international interest in African contemporary art continues to grow, the pan- African AAGA initiative, established in 2016, brings together a broad community of arts professionals championing the growth and sustainability of contemporary African visual art on the continent and supports its current and future artistic talent. The organisation’s aim is to build an African arts infrastructure and advance the professional development of artists, curators, critics, art dealers and collectors, while creating networks that allow smaller galleries to prosper, not just the corporate elites and collections.

As part of the Artsy showcase, African Galleries Now will present a number of works expressing an updated take on an important genre in the history of African painting. Figurative and contemporary realist painting draws on an existing tradition in much African art, especially in the early to mid twentieth century, which depicts the minutiae of domestic life as a means of enacting and foregrounding black African lives on their own terms. 

Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude, Mirror, mirror!, 2021. Oil and spray paint on canvas, 186 x 170 cm. Courtesy of First Floor Gallery.

This ‘domestic realism’ played a much-needed role in the social and political lives of many African artists at that time. Colonialism in all its guises took away much of the infrastructure, education and access to galleries and artistic networks that would ordinarily have enabled art and artists to flourish. The response from African artistic communities was to use their talents to depict an authentic African domestic sphere, untouched by the repressions of colonial rule. In a few instances where African societies were liberated in the mid and late 20th century, such as Senegal, governed by the poet-philosopher of Negritude Leopold Senghor, artistic life would become central to the post-independence society.     

The new generation of artists, represented strongly in the selection on African Galleries Now, have taken up the mantle and are using the genre of domestic realism to question other aspects of contemporary African life – gender based violence and the identity politics of the global Black Lives Matter movement among them.  

Today the event went LIVE on US based Artsy -- African Galleries Now 2021 is now live on and on the Artsy app.

The Fair is featured on the Artsy homepage at and highlighted on the Fairs page at


Petra Mason

Cultural historian and publisher. Beefcake 100% Rare, All Natural is her first Universe title, Bettie Page Queen of Curves and Bunny Yeager's Darkroom are her Rizzoli titles. Mason edited Fall 2015 Skira/Rizzoli's Imperfect Utopia.

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