“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” wrote Pablo Picasso.

But more than blow away the cobwebs of routines and to-do lists, art also brushes away the dust from our lens on the world. It’s a perfect prism through which to judge the cultural vibrancy of a city; an ideal way to take the pulse of a country, to tap quickly into the issues of the day and, to an extent, the hopes, dreams and worries of its people.

For a glimpse into African culture through its art, the vibrant galleries and exhibition spaces in these African cities are the perfect place to let art wash away a little of that everyday travelling dust.


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@street_whyz9mil – Sandile Radebe ‘materiality can denote meaning and value in our conception of the city’ #nofilter A detail here of @landiraubenheimer 's 'Towards the N3 Freeway (parnorama)' are artworks that engage with the notion of the city and networks on various levels. Firstly the works are based on images of the city that have been translated into a grid format. This systematic manner of abstracting photographic images is overtly evocative of the digital and how one may think of the environment as something that is not only material but is also constituted in the digital networks that accompany it. #everardreadcirca #materialcity opens Thursday 27th @everard_read_cape_town_

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Since the inaugural event a decade ago, the Johannesburg Art Fair (8-10 September 2017) has become the premier art gathering in Africa. And little wonder, as the economic hub of the continent is home to a remarkable collection of art galleries and exhibition spaces.

Many of the finest galleries are centred on the leafy suburb of Rosebank. Start your discoveries at Everard Read, the oldest commercial art gallery in South Africa and still a trendsetter with its carefully-curated exhibitions of contemporary works. Nearby, the Circa on Jellicoe Gallery examines the intersection of art and architecture, while down the road in Parkwood Gallery MOMO takes a decidedly modern approach to its portfolio of local and international contemporary works. Also stop in at the Goodman Gallery, which has been challenging local perceptions of contemporary art since 1996.

The inner city also boasts a thriving arts scene. Don’t miss the excellent Museum of African Design, while the acclaimed Stevenson Gallery hosts works by the likes of Zanele Muholi, Wim Botha and Moshekwa Langa.


Photo: Núcleo de Arte
Photo: Núcleo de Arte

Travellers to Maputo often seek out the striking architecture of Pancho Guedes, but there’s no shortage of art and creativity on offer here. In the city’s iconic train station the charming Associacao Kulungwana is dedicated to showcasing local work, while the Tilandia gallery is the best place to discover the art of local celebrity Gonçalo Mabunda. The first Mozambican to exhibit at the Venice Biennale, Mabunda is particularly famous for his installations crafted from defunct weaponry. Also take a turn past Nucleo de Arte, a gallery, performance space, and incubation studio for young artists.


The downtown traffic in Lagos supplies more than enough of Picasso’s everyday dust, so it’s a city where you’ll soon yearn for the calm confines of an art gallery.

Start at the Nike Centre for Art and Culture in the heart of the Lekki Penninsula. Established by acclaimed local artist Nike Okundaye the Centre is far more than a gallery, but rather a hub for artists and artisans to hone their craft. The on-site gallery shows works in a variety of mediums and materials, from oil on canvas to sculpture.

The Red Door Gallery, one of the largest private galleries in the city, is also worth a visit. The gallery showcases both Nigerian and international artworks and holds regular special exhibitions. If you’re looking to purchase Nigerian art, make this your first stop.

For contemporary works, Art Twenty One holds a wonderful selection of modern art from local creatives. Situated at the Eko Hotel & Suites, this spacious exhibition space is focused on giving contemporary artists from the region a springboard into the global art scene. Although decidedly less on-trend, The National Museum holds an extensive collection of worthwhile Nigerian art and statuary.



The Circle Art Gallery

Although more famous for its wilderness reserves and sparkling coastline, Kenya’s buzzing art scene is centred in the capital, Nairobi. Whether it’s modernist works on canvas or traditional jewellery and brassworks given a 21st-century update, there’s no shortage of creativity on show in the city’s galleries.

The Circle Art Gallery is the best place to begin. Promising carefully curated exhibitions of contemporary art, it has become a hub for local creatives and visiting artists. Keep an eye on their website for ever-changing exhibitions and auction events.

While the Circle is all minimalist chic, the Godown Arts Centre is bright, brash and colourful. Graffiti-clad walls and live music events give this gentrified space a global aesthetic, but the art and inspiration is thoroughly local, with a number of Kenyan artists in residence displaying their work.

Other spaces worth a visit include the Kuona Trust; Banana Art Gallery; One Off Contemporary Gallery and the Nairobi Gallery, a national monument run by the National Museums of Kenya.

John Segar

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