For its tenth edition in London, the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair had more than 50 galleries present some of the most compelling and cutting-edge art made by artists from Africa and its diaspora. There’s a lot on offer in this tightly curated affair, from a bevy of figurative paintings to textile-based abstractions that are pushing the limits of sculpture.
In the courtyard of the regal Somerset House, leading to the fair is a major installation by Grada Kilomba, titled O Barca (The Boat). At 32 meters, the work is meant to replicate the scale of the hold of a historical slave ship. It’s made from 140 charred wood pieces, with the works at its center being inscribed in gold with a line each from a poem written by Kilomba that has been translated into multiple languages: those of people who were enslaved (Yoruba, Kimbundu, and Creole from Cabo Verde) and those who profited from slavery (Portuguese, English, and Arabic). An excerpt from the poem reads: “One oblivion one wound / one wound death.” It’s a powerful memorial to all that slavery has wrought and how its aftereffects continue on today.
Below a look at the best on fair at 1-54.