The 10 Most Influential People in Contemporary African Art - Afrikanizm

The 10 Most Influential People in Contemporary African Art

Contemporary African art is experiencing unprecedented growth, with artists from the continent and the diaspora gaining global recognition. This creative wave is being fuelled by extraordinary people who are shaping the art scene.

Meet the 10 most influential people in Contemporary African Art.

El Anatsui (Ghana) - Visual Artist

Considered one of the most acclaimed artists in African history and one of the world's leading contemporary artists. Anatsui is known for his unique approach to sculpture using often discarded materials such as liquor bottle caps, cassava graters and newspaper printing plates. Exhibited in prestigious museums and galleries around the world, his pieces challenge and delight viewers, inviting them to reflect more deeply on environmental impact and cultural interconnectedness.


Yinka Shonibare (Nigeria/UK) - Multimedia Artist

Known for his vibrant works that explore cultural identity, colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalisation, Shonibare uses coloured Ankara fabric to challenge concepts of race and class.


Julie Mehretu (Ethiopia/USA) - Painter and Graphic Artist

Mehretu is famous for her large-scale abstract paintings depicting the complexity of cities and urban landscapes, and is an influential voice in contemporary art.  


Njideka Akunyili Crosby (Nigeria/USA) - Visual Artist

Through her art, Akunyili Crosby negotiates the cultural terrain between her adopted home in America and her native Nigeria, creating collage and photo transfer-based paintings that expose the challenges of occupying these two worlds.


William Kentridge (South Africa) - Visual Artist and Filmmaker

William Kentridge is a South African cartoonist, performer and filmmaker. Best known for his cartoons, the central focus of Kentridge's work has been to examine the years before and after apartheid. The artist combines his autobiography with that of fictional characters to tell his narratives, featuring his characteristic expressive and gestural drawings in black charcoal and ink.



Koyo Kouoh (Cameroon) - Curator and Cultural Producer

Koyo Kouoh is one of the most important and influential figures on the international art scene. As a curator and critic, as well as a founder of cultural institutions, she has devised new ways of presenting and publicising art and has made a lasting contribution to bringing art from the African continent into a global context.


Touria El Glaoui (Morocco) - Founder of the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Founder of the 1-54 contemporary African art fair, which takes place every year in London, New York and Marrakech. She works to promote the emergence of a market and to promote contemporary African art internationally.



Sokari Douglas Camp (Nigeria) - Sculptor

Known for her steel sculptures depicting Nigerian life and culture, Douglas Camp has been an influential figure in contemporary African art. She recently began using recycled oil barrels in his works. These materials reflect her concern for the environment and the culture of her native Niger Delta region, an area rich in oil but affected by pollution and poor governance.


 Bisi Silva (Nigeria) - Curator

As one of Africa's most influential curators, Silva has played an important role in introducing contemporary African artists to the international stage. She created the Asiko Art School to fill gaps in art education in Africa, providing a vital space for development and critical discussion between artists, writers and historians. Known for her critical rigour and mentorship, Silva has left a lasting impact on the African and international art scene.

Zanele Muholi (South Africa) - Photographer and Visual Activist

Muholi is known for her photographic work that challenges the narratives surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa and beyond. Zanele Muholi is one of the most acclaimed photographers working today, and their work has been exhibited all over the world.

These artists and curators are redefining contemporary African art, ensuring that their unique voices and rich cultural perspectives are heard and celebrated around the world. Through their art, they are creating a lasting legacy that will continue to influence and inspire generations to come.


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