African Contemporary Art and of the Diaspora

The collection of African Contemporary Art and of the Diaspora brings together over 420 works produced by artists who have strong links with the African continent and its history in the many forms that characterize them, from the Maghreb to southern Africa.

The works in the collection tackle historical and social subjects as well as issues of form. The artists also employ hybrid forms and attest to an in-depth research in the implementation of a renewal of the codes of figuration and abstraction. The collection includes several categories of work, consisting mainly of paintings, textile works, sculptures and photographs.

The works collected offer a lucid vision of the world, sometimes with humour and derision, and often with an acute critical eye. Qualities that reflect a particular attention to the colonial past, to the present issues following from it and to the potential future dynamics. While tackling these questions with a plurality of means, the artists demonstrate a new impetus and are developing tools that disrupt the narrative and visual codes operating in a globalized art world.

Richard BUTLER-BOWDON, "Pureblood – The Gnomon", 2017

At the heart of the collection: thinking identities

The history of colonization followed by that of independence movements is a history of exchanges, porosity between cultures, power relationships, displacement of people and violences. Subjugation, enslavement and forced exodus for some, journeys and missions for others, the history of the early and late modern periods is a history of migration. Among the questions that concern both the artistic and theoretical production of the artists present in the collection, the movements inherent to the concept of identity – looking at colonial and migratory history from a new perspective – prove to be of fundamental importance. How are identities being challenged by globalization? How to imagine a new conception of beings outside the notions of nationality, ethnicity, race – understood as a social construct – and gender?

This multifaceted questioning occupies in particular the works of Athi-Patra Ruga (South Africa), Godfried Donkor (United Kingdom/Ghana), Richard Butler-Bowdon (South Africa/Australia) Ian Mwesiga (Uganda) or indeed Yinka Shonibare (United Kingdom/Nigeria).



A reversal of the gaze

The concepts of authenticity and otherness that have defined the way African production has been looked at for many years are very much tested by the works within the collection.

Aware and conscious of this skewed view taken by the West, the artists whose works are presented highlight this perspective, divert it and deliver in their turn a critical view, distanced from an obsolete vision of Africa. As part of a globalized world that inherits this colonial past, the works comment on individual and collective behavior; the artists create characters who are fallen, masked, combative or in search of recognition. Mohamed Saïd Chair (Morocco) and Collin Sekajugo (Uganda) thus display the abuses of a system, while Mary Sibande (South Africa) stages the resilience at the heart of the history of certain populations.


Mary SIBANDE, "Her Majesty, Queen Sophie", 2010
Kirubel MELKE ALEMU, "The Book Shelf 2", 2019

Heterogeneous materials

The contemporary art collection comprises works in which creativity occasionally draws on local craft tradition and appropriates the tools of globalized art. The production of several artists is characterized by the use of recycled materials, using collage, juxtaposition or fragile support materials. Hence, Armand Boua (Ivory Coast/United States), Gonçalo Mabunda (Mozambique) or Kirubel Melke (Ethiopia) use materials that are in keeping with the subjects they tackle.

Olivia Fahmy
Curator African Contemporary Art and of the Diaspora