Contemporary African art regarding the environment

Contemporary art reflects the complex issues that shape our diverse, global and rapidly changing world.

Contemporary African art regarding the environment
  • PublishedJune 10, 2022

Contemporary art is art made today by living artists. It reflects the complex issues that shape our diverse, global and rapidly changing world. Contemporary artists often reflect and comment on modern day society.

Since the early 20th century, some artists have moved increasingly toward abstraction (freedom from representational qualities in art) turning away from realistic depiction of human figure.

Artist from different disciplines find their inspiration from nature or use it as raw material, transmitting its beauty and encouraging us to take care of it. Art and environment appeal to reason and feelings.

Thus, Arte Povera (poor art) as a movement is characterized by the use of raw materials that are easy to obtain such as plants, rocks, plastics, earth and so on. Its purpose is to provoke thought by working with the materials and observing its specific qualities.

These works reject the commercial side of art that requires public intervention and are transformed over time as the materials used break down. Ecoart makes use of this work.

Main aims of environmental art include:

. Raising awareness of dangers facing the planet and promoting its conservation.

. Encouraging community and citizen participation in protecting nature.

. Incentivizing political commitment to fight global warming and its impact.

In African contemporary art, plastic, for example, evokes many things, from the continent’s history of finding something rich in a poor material, to political statements; from the aesthetic, to calls to action to reduce the damage to the continent and its surrounding seas and oceans.


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Below are some African artist who address the environment through photography, painting, sculpture and other forms of art.

A Senegalese-based photographer, Fabrice Monteiro, in his series The Prophecy captures a photograph that features a giant jinn(a supernatural creature present in West African spiritual cultures) wearing a costume fashioned from waste. It towers over a smoking rubbish pile as toxic fumes rise into the air.  Its purpose was to educate West Africans about the dangers of pollution and the effects of plastic waste in particular.

Photo by Fabrice Monteiro

Ifeoma U. Anyaeji (Nigeria) identifying as a Neo-traditional artist, uses waste plastic by treating them as “high art” materials and giving them a new lease on life as part of a work of art. She creates conceptual sculpture, furniture, clothing and artist-made accessories.

Using waste materials and objects found in landfills, Evans Ngure (Kenyan) also produces everything from jewelry to postmodern animals, from abstract sculptures to large illustrations.

Pascale Marthine Tayon’s (Cameroon) work involves reusing and recycling disposable materials from his travels such as train tickets and plastic razors.

Creating art that defies viewers’ expectations and artistic conventions is a distinctly modern concept. However, artists of all eras are products of their relative cultures and time periods.

Ultimately, nature is the perfect art to learn from.


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Written By
Diana Rachel