African artists about the Diaspora

March 2005 -

The exhibition Looking Both Ways brings work by twelve African artists from the Diaspora together in the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon. Three of the artists explain what it means to work outside of the African continent while simultaneously looking at 'home'.

'Moving to Germany has been fundamental in the development of my art: here I studied and was confronted by art forms that I never would have seen in Kenya,' says Ingrid Mwangi. 'And it continues to be important to show my work outside of Africa, in order to establish my name, to gain experience and to be inspired by other artists.'


The Diaspora was the point of departure for her fellow countryman Allan de Souza. 'I am more interested in working within the space of the Diaspora than under the umbrella of a country or even a continent. My work is about migration: it investigates the questions that I probably never would have asked if I had stayed in one country. We cannot avoid carrying the tracks of the places where we have lived. But the dialogue between artists from various parts of the world is important. In Africa as well as Los Angeles, where I am currently living.'

Ingrid Mwangi regularly visits Nairobi, where she gives video art workshops and exhibits her work. 'The Kenyan people need to be exposed to newer types of art, such as video, digital equipment and machinery, and to develop an understanding of contemporary art and encourage artists to go farther.'

The artist is not considering returning to her homeland. 'According to legend, the Diaspora will show a sign that heralds the end of the journey. For me, that sign was paper,' says Hassan Musa. 'I understood that on the day that I discovered a pile of aquarelle paper in a shop in Lille. I touched the beautiful sheets, smelled them and even felt the need to chew them, I was so enchanted! In Sudan I always recycled paper by washing it with soap and iron until it was white enough to paint again. A virgin sheet of aquarelle paper is still seldom seen at the art academy in Khartoum.'