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Art for Africa's sake

Friday, January 02, 2015 - 02:19

A revival in restive Somalia's art scene, booming business for art in Ethiopia and the ever present demand for African art abroad. Joel Flynn reports.

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This is the Shik Shik Gallery - the oldest art gallery in Mogadishu. It's run by Nor Hussein and his brothers - their father opened it in 1979. Art has always been part of the every day in Africa, but in Somalia, decades of war has meant life was never normal. Now, as relative peace takes hold, hardworking artists like Nor are fighting for their passions, not their lives. SOUNDBITE: Artist, Nor Hussein, saying (Somali): "My father inspired me to become an artist. It was the only thing I wanted to do, and the only education my father could afford to give me during the civil war era. My biggest challenge now is struggling to make a good living from my art." 2014 was a big year for African art. And demand for it from abroad has grown. This, the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, launching its second annual show in London's iconic Somerset House - now double the size of last year. SOUNDBITE: Art Twenty One Art Director, Caline Chagoury, saying (English): "I think it's been growing for a few years, slowly but surely, but I've heard from a lot of people and I think it's true, that there is way more interest. I think people are surprised by what they see when they're coming to see African art. I don't think all of this is what they are expecting." Appetite growing for art, too, inside Africa. In Ethiopia, the Makush Art Gallery Restaurant is putting it on the menu - customers here consuming culture and cuisine. Art for art's sake is something Ethiopia is seeing more of. That's according to Abyssinia Art School teacher and artist, Girma Saboka. SOUNDBITE: Abyssinia Art School Art Teacher and Artist, Girma Saboka, saying (Amharic): "Art, by its nature, has two categories: one where an artist paints for commercial gain, and art made to express feeling, often more invaluable and not made for sale, but for museums. That's how they differ and that's the trend we're now seeing in our country." In Mozambique, another post-war art scene. This is the workshop for Goncarlo Mabunda, where he turns decommissioned guns, mortars and rocket launchers into sculptures. Previous wars have left the country littered with weapons. Making it into art is dangerous work - unexploded ordinance a killer. But for Mabunda it's a risk worth taking - turning something that once brought such pain to his country, into something he hopes will bring some beauty.

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Art for Africa's sake

Friday, January 02, 2015 - 02:19