Top names in the African contemporary art industry

African contemporary artAfrican contemporary art
African contemporary artAfrican contemporary art


Top names in the African contemporary art industry

The contemporary artists we will be looking at include fashion designers, painters, sculptors, illustrators and photographers. Each with their own unique focus and influence in the African art industry.

These are some of the top names in the African contemporary art industry and we’ll talk about their respective claims to fame and art styles.


Fabrice Monteiro

Fabrice is a photographer from Senegal who turned heads with his The Prophecy series that recently featured in the Photo Basel International Art Fair in Switzerland. For this series, the artist created nine figures (which he calls spirits) that were based on his country’s main environmental issues. This was brought through in the garment and costume designs made out of mostly waste items that were found on site of the photoshoot.

This series of contemporary art was created as a message of consumerism. These figures were petitions from the earth to its human inhabitants in an effort to encourage them to start respecting nature.


Laura Windvogel (Lady Skollie)

Lady Skollie, as Laura is known, is famous for bringing up the conversation of sex in a contemporary society through her paintings. Bananas and paw-paws as symbols for sex organs feature regularly in her artwork and she is not afraid of exploring the subject through her expressions.

One of her more recent exercises included an art performance at the FNB Joburg Art Fair where her Fire with Fire series performance explored expressions of trauma and pain and how we deal with them.


Mary Sibande

Known for her life-size sculptures and depictions of women in a post-apartheid society through her universal figure Sophie, Mary Sibande went on to win the Smithsonian African Arts Award.

Mary’s sculptures and photographs aim to confront the reality that African women face with regards to gender inequality, stereotypes (specifically the domestic worker stereotype) and feminism in both a historical and contemporary societal context.



Heading over into the fashion industry, we have LadumaNgxokolo – the designer behind the MaXhosa by Laduma fashion label. Winner of the African Fashion Award for Emerging Designer of the Year in 2014, Laduma has managed to place his fashion label on the global scale.

His textiles are purely inspired by traditional isiXhosa designs, which are put together in trending clothing styles for modernity. It’s artists like Laduma who successfully promote the African art industry and show the world what Africa is capable of producing.


Russell Abrahams

Russell Abrahams is the founder of Yay Abe illustration studios and is a South African illustrator and graphic designer known for artistic creations of popular African culture. Yay Abe’s more famous illustrations are those that were done with The Uncultured Club where they were approached with photographs of Laura Windvogel (Lady Skollie) and MantheRibane (Musical artist). They were told that they have complete freedom to create whatever illustrative creations they wanted over the photographs and so they did, creating art true to the Yay Abe brand.

But that is just one of the few illustration projects Yay Abe has created and there will be many more in the future.



Textiles are important in the art industry and SiwaMgoboza is an artist who relies on textiles in the complete creation of his art pieces. Specifically, the Ishweshwe cloth relating to his Hlubi heritage. This bright and patterned material features not only in his textile work, but his photography and sculpting as well.

His art is a story and explanation of being Africadian where Africadia “encourages the embracing of a utopia defined by equality, unity, human rights and shared potential; a return to the (lost) optimism surrounding the promises of post-apartheid South Africa made to Mgoboza's generation.”


Athi-Patra Ruga

Ruga is another textile artist and an expressor of current and post-colonial political climates through his art performance series. Last year he conducted an art crawl in Cape Town called “Chasing Rainbows” and included a stop at his studio in Woodstock with his latest Queens in Exile tapestry series on display.

Athi-Patra finds the creative process in art one that should be shared and physically explored in the places of inspiration and historical significance (in relation to his artwork). In this way, he brings a new air to contemporary art in the African sphere and tells the stories most don’t know about. His pieces are based in a utopian environment that are parallels of the past and hopes for the future.


Kura Shomali

The last artist we will be looking at is Kura Shomali. His artwork was featured at the Also Known As Africa Art and Design Fair in Paris last year, as well as the Contemporary African Art Fair in London.

His paintings are described as chaotic collages and depictions of public behaviour said to have been inspired by the city of Kinshasha in his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But these are only a handful of African artists out there making a name for themselves and their countries through their artwork.


African contemporary art