Monday, August 19, 2013

An interesting exhibition applauds African Modernism

The first Tate Modern exhibition dedicated to African Modernism traces the life and work of Ibrahim El-Salahi. This major retrospective brings together 100 works from across more than five decades of his international career. The exhibition highlights one of the most significant figures in African and Arab Modernism and reveals his place in the context of a broader, global art history.

The exhibition outlines the artist’s personal journey, beginning in Sudan in the 1950’s and followed by his international schooling at the Slade School in London. After a period of research and self-discovery, he returned to Sudan in 1957.There, he established a new Sudanese visual vocabulary, which arose from his own pioneering integration of Islamic, African, Arab and Western artistic traditions. El-Salahi lived in Qatar before settling in England in the 1990s. His recent paintings reflect his joy for life, his deep spiritual faith, and a profound recognition of his place in the world.

The presentation at Tate Modern is curated in collaboration with Elvira Dyangani Ose, Curator, International Art. ‘Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Visionary Modernist’ is organized by the Museum for African Art, New York, in association with Tate Modern, London. The exhibition is curated by Salah M. Hassan, Goldwin Smith Professor, Cornell University.

The exhibition first opened at the Sharjah Art Museum in May 2012 and travelled to the Katara Cultural Village Foundation, Doha, Qatar in October 2012. An illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, edited by Salah M Hassan with contributions by Sarah Adams, Ulli Beier, Iftikhar Dadi, Hassan Musa and Chika Okeke-Agulu, as well as special texts by El-Salahi.

Veteran columnist Sunil Sethi applauds the idea by stating in a recent essay: “This summer the Tate is doing what great institutions should be doing - it is giving major retrospectives to artists who ought to be legends in their lifetime.  Their contribution may have escaped the world's notice, but their triumphant individuality has emerged unscathed through the convulsions of their strife-torn countries like that of the 83-year-old Sudanese artist. For more than half a century he pursued his visionary practice, often in the face of adversity. Mr el-Salahi was imprisoned after a 1975 coup for "anti-government activities.”

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