Books you Should Read on African Art & Design

Books you Should Read on African Art & Design

Every library and coffee table needs a rich variety of books. With the richness and diversity of Africa’s numerous tribes, books on the continent’s arts and design, make some of the most interesting reads. Omenka brings to you in no particular, a selection of the most exciting.

Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design


by Mateo Kries and Amelie Klein
Published by Vitra Design Museum (2015)
ISBN: 978-39-3193-652-5

Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design focuses on a new generation of entrepreneurs and doers who have opened up a fresh view of this vast and diverse continent, using the Internet to make themselves visible. Developed in collaboration with renowned curator Okwui Enwezor, Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design embraces this new perspective, seeking to reveal the continent as a think-tank while investigating the intriguing possibility of a new understanding of design. It focuses on a generation of African designers, architects and artists who transcend the boundaries between design, art, photography, architecture and urbanism. Utilising traditional techniques as comfortably as new media like Facebook and mobile banking systems, these designers are establishing a new design identity—and thus a new future—for the continent. Making Africa examines everyday life through such items as furniture, posters, fashion garments and accessories. It features J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere’s “Nigerian hairstyles”, Cyrus Kabiru’s eyewear sculptures, the objects of Cheick Diallo, fashion by Buki Akib, the photographs of Mário Macilau, the architecture of Francis Kéré, the animation art of Robin Rhode and many other creations of designers from different disciplines. Grounding these new movements in a larger historical context, Making Africa also takes a look at the first generation of postcolonial Africa.

Onobrakpeya: Masks of Flaming Arrows

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Edited by Dele Jegede
Published by 5 Continents (2014)
ISBN: 978-88-7439-669-6

This book presents an astonishing array of colour and black-and-white reproductions of Bruce Onobrakpeya’s drawings, paintings, prints, and installations. In addition, it includes notes by the artist and selections of his poetry.
Widely acknowledged as Africa’s master printmaker, Bruce Onobrakpeya (b.1932) is also a world-renowned painter and sculptor. He has exhibited at the Tate Modern, London; the National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Malmö Konsthall, Sweden. Educated in colonial Nigeria, Onobrakpeya stands in the vanguard of contemporary African artists who set the standards for innovation and professionalism in a new, postcolonial nation.




Ben Enwonwu: The Making of a Modernist

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by Sylvester Ogbechie
Published by University of Rochester Press (2008)
ISBN: 978-15-8046-358

The history of world art has long neglected the work of modern African artists and their search for forms of modernist expression as either irrelevant to the discourse of modern art or as fundamentally subservient to the established narrative of Western European modernist practice. With this engaging volume, Sylvester Ogbechie refutes this approach by examining the life and work of celebrated artist Ben Enwonwu (1917-94), a premier African modernist and pioneer, whose career opened the way for the postcolonial proliferation and increased visibility of African art. In the decades between Enwonwu’s birth and death, modernisation produced new political structures and new forms of expression in African cultures, inspiring important developments in modern African art. Within this context, Ogbechie evaluates important issues such as the role of Anglo-Nigerian colonial culture in the development of modern Nigerian art, and Enwonwu’s involvement with international discourses of modernism in Europe, Africa, and the United States over a period of five decades. The author also interrogates Enwonwu’s use of the radical politics of Negritude ideology to define modern African art against canonical interpretations of Euro-modernism; and the artist’s visual and critical contributions to Pan Africanism, Nigerian nationalism, and postcolonial interpretations of African modernity. First and foremost an intellectual biography of Ben Enwonwu as a modern African artist, rather than an exhaustive critical exploration of the discourse of modernism in African art history or in modern art in general, Ben Enwonwu situates the artist historically and interprets his work in ways that surpass traditional discourse around the canon of modern art.

J.D ‘Okhai Ojeikere

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Edited by Bisi Silva
Published by Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (2014)

J.D ‘Okhai Ojeikere (1930) had a groundbreaking career that was dramatically influenced the trajectory of photography in Nigeria, Africa, and the world more broadly. Like other pioneering West African photographers such as Seydou Keïta (1921-2001), James Barnor (1929) and Malick Sidibe (1936-2016), the interest in Ojeikere’s work has dramatically increased in recent years.

This book evaluates Ojeikere’s work in relation to histories of West African photography, architectural design, and hair culture in Nigeria and Africa. The detailed interview is one of the last extended conversations with the artist, and provides illuminating insight into his career, working methods, and cultural investments. This five-year project is the work of Bisi Silva, curator and founder of the Centre for Contemporary Art Lagos, Nigeria (CCA Lagos) and it documents Ojeikere’s legacy and bears witness to his influence in not just Nigeria and Africa, but across contemporary photography.

Artists of Nigeria

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by Onyema Offoedu-Okeke
Published by 5 Continents (2012)
ISBN: 978-88-9439-547-7

Artists of Nigeria analyses the influence of different art systems (museums, cultural institutions, art fairs, galleries and the Internet) and cultures on the development of modern and contemporary Nigerian art in the past one hundred years. Using a combination of a chronological framework, biographical notes and lavish colour illustrations, this book charts the development of modern Nigerian art, and analyses the works of significant Nigerian artists and art movements within the country and beyond. This comprehensive overview demonstrates the variety and vitality of Nigerian artists and confers on them a visibility they are often denied in global publications.




El Anatsui: Art and Life

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By Susan Mullin Vogel
Published by Prestel (2012)
ISBN: 978- 37-9134-650-2

An African artist who has garnered worldwide recognition while based permanently in Nigeria, El Anatsui is best known for shimmering tapestries made from liquor bottle tops, which are part of the permanent collections of many of the world’s great museums. Author Susan M. Vogel, who worked closely with Anatsui while directing a documentary film about the artist, offers a uniquely personal perspective on Anatsui and provides the first penetrating study of his artworks. Accompanied by nearly 150 images, this book traces his lifelong exploration of media leading up to the bottle top art form that has captured the interest of the global art world. The book explores the artist’s themes of loss, chaos, and decay, his Nigerian university intellectual community, and his creative studio practice. Vogel traces the intertwined threads of Anatsui’s ideas, life, and art, from his youthful searching and desire to express Africa’s history, to today’s work that can be immense and ethereal.

David Adjaye: Form, Heft, Material

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by David Adjaye, Andrea Phillips and Mabel O. Wilson
Edited by Zoë Ryan, Okwui Enwezor and Peter Allison
Published by Art Institute of Chicago
ISBN: 978-03-0020-775-0

Born in Tanzania, David Adjaye (b. 1966) is rapidly emerging as a major international figure in architecture and design—and this stunning catalogue serves only to cement his role as one of the most important architects of our time. This publication includes his compendium of work, over 50 built projects and his essays, which coincide with the opening of Adjaye’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in the National Mall in Washington, D.C.





Photo Credit: Amazon

Oyindamola Olaniyan holds a in Botany from Lagos State University. Broadly experienced in this area, her core expertise includes social media management, content development and brand identity.

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