The Vibrant World of Contemporary African Art - We Are Africa

The Vibrant World of Contemporary African Art

Africa, a continent rich in cultural diversity and vibrant traditions, has long been associated with traditional art forms such as wooden, stone and bronze sculptures, along with vibrant textiles. However, in recent years, there has been a growing international interest in contemporary African art and design. We explore the significant impact that contemporary African art and design have on the travel industry in Africa. From creating a sense of place to fostering cultural exchange and driving economic growth, the integration of contemporary African art and design into travel itineraries offers unique opportunities for both travellers and local communities.

The Rise of Contemporary African Art

Over the past decade, contemporary African art has gained significant recognition on the global stage. The launch of the 1:54 Contemporary Art Fair in London in 2013 marked a turning point in the visibility of African artists. This fair has since expanded to include four annual shows in London, Paris, New York, and Marrakech, providing a platform for African artists to showcase their work to international audiences. Additionally, top-tier auction houses have opened dedicated African contemporary art departments, further elevating the status of African artists in the art world.

The Appeal of Contemporary African Art in Travel Itineraries

Contemporary African art and design offer a unique and authentic experience for travellers. Incorporating contemporary art into travel itineraries creates a sense of place and allows travellers to connect with the local culture in a meaningful way. It provides an antidote to the homogeneity of international travel, allowing travellers to immerse themselves in the vibrant creativity of Africa. Moreover, contemporary African art and design enable travel advisors to offer unique and personalised experiences to their clients, standing out from the crowd and tapping into the growing demand for authenticity.

Exploring Contemporary African Art in Accommodation

One of the easiest ways to incorporate contemporary African art into travel itineraries is by including a stay at an art hotel. South Africa, in particular, offers numerous options for art hotels, such as Ellerman House, The Silo Hotel, Delaire Graaff, and Gorgeous George. These hotels not only feature curated collections of contemporary African art but also offer experiences tailored to art enthusiasts. Some hotels even have art concierges on site, who can provide in-depth information about the artworks and arrange special experiences, such as studio visits or meetings with local artists.

Safari and Contemporary African Art

While safari remains one of the main attractions for international travellers visiting Africa, there is also an opportunity to incorporate contemporary African art into the safari experience. Many design-forward safari camps and lodges have emerged, blending contemporary design with the natural beauty of the bush. These properties draw inspiration from local tribes, the natural world, or the local environment, creating a unique aesthetic that reflects both traditional African art forms and contemporary design.

Art-focused Activities and Tours

In addition to accommodation, travel advisors can incorporate art-focused activities into travel itineraries. This can include guided tours of museums, galleries, or street art, allowing travellers to explore the rich artistic heritage of Africa. To enhance the experience, it is advisable to engage the services of a specialist guide who can provide in-depth knowledge and insights into the artworks and artists. This adds depth and context to the art-focused activities, creating a more enriching experience for travellers.

Shopping for Contemporary African Art

Shopping for contemporary African art offers travellers the opportunity to support local artists and artisans while acquiring unique and meaningful souvenirs. Travel advisors can recommend visiting galleries, artist studios, or local markets showcasing the works of local designers. By promoting responsible shopping practices, travellers can contribute to the sustainability of the local creative industries.

Economic Impact of Contemporary African Art

The integration of contemporary African art and design into the travel industry has significant economic implications. The tourism industry fueled by cultural attractions contributes to GDP growth and generates employment opportunities across the continent. Travellers who engage with contemporary African art and design spend money on accommodation, transportation, food, souvenirs, and local services, directly injecting capital into local economies. This infusion of tourism revenue stimulates various sectors, including hospitality, transportation, handicrafts, and food industries, creating jobs for local communities and driving economic development.

Preserving Cultural Heritage and Identity

Contemporary African art plays a crucial role in preserving and celebrating the continent’s diverse cultural heritage. By showcasing traditional art forms and incorporating contemporary elements, African artists ensure the continuity of indigenous practices and knowledge systems. This preservation of cultural heritage not only benefits local communities but also attracts travellers seeking authentic cultural experiences. Through the integration of contemporary African art into travel itineraries, travellers have the opportunity to forge connections with local communities and gain a deeper understanding of the cultural identity of the places they visit.

Sustainability and Community Development

Promoting sustainable tourism practices is essential for the long-term impact of contemporary African art on the travel industry. Sustainable tourism ensures the preservation of natural and cultural resources, fosters community participation, and promotes the equitable distribution of economic benefits. By involving local communities in tourism planning and development, supporting community-based initiatives, and ensuring fair wages and working conditions, the integration of contemporary African art and design into travel itineraries contributes to inclusive growth and poverty reduction. It empowers local communities, preserves cultural traditions, and fosters a sense of pride and ownership.

The Role of Technology in Showcasing Contemporary African Art

Technology has played a significant role in promoting and showcasing contemporary African art to a global audience. With the rise of social media platforms and online art platforms, African artists have gained greater exposure and access to international markets. Artists can now share their work directly with a global audience, bypassing traditional gatekeepers of the art world. This has allowed for new and diverse narratives to emerge, challenging existing stereotypes and perceptions of African art. Moreover, technology has facilitated the creation of virtual exhibitions and online art sales, enabling artists to reach collectors and art enthusiasts around the world.

Collaboration and Exchange in Contemporary African Art

Collaboration and exchange are key drivers of innovation and growth in contemporary African art. Artists, curators, and collectors from different parts of the continent and the world are coming together to create collaborative projects, exhibitions, and residencies. These collaborations not only foster artistic exchange and dialogue but also contribute to the development of networks and infrastructures that support the growth of the contemporary African art scene. By encouraging collaboration and exchange, travel advisors can offer unique opportunities for travellers to engage with artists, participate in workshops, and witness the creative process firsthand.

The integration of contemporary African art and design into the travel industry in Africa offers a wealth of opportunities for both travellers and local communities. From creating a sense of place to fostering cultural exchange and driving economic growth, contemporary African art and design have the power to transform travel experiences and showcase the rich cultural heritage of the continent. By incorporating contemporary African art into travel itineraries, travel advisors can provide their clients with unique and authentic experiences that go beyond traditional tourist attractions. Moreover, by supporting local artists and artisans, travelers can contribute to the sustainability and growth of the local creative industries. As the global interest in contemporary African art continues to grow, Africa has the potential to position itself as a vibrant and dynamic hub of artistic expression, attracting travelers from around the world.

Adapted from: Dezeen, MOMAA, Africa the cradle of innovation, Exploring cultural expressions 


Melisa Harvey

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