The incredible artists showcasing Africa's urban scene

Updated 10th May 2016
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1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair 2
The incredible artists showcasing Africa's urban scene
Written by By Nosmot Gbadamosi
From digital LEDs that transport viewers into a cosmic world of Afrofuturism to ghostly figures derived from garbage bags, contemporary African art has never been dull.
A rising generation of local collectors, global enthusiasts, and diasporans are making sure the region's artists are hot property.
Amid this growing demand, 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, opened for its second edition at New York's Pioneer Works. Initially launched at London's Somerset House in 2013, last year's first U.S. edition of the fair saw around 6,000 visitors.
Amongst the 60 artists exhibiting, we've picked a few of the artists highlighting the continent's urban scene.
Omar Victor Diop's images are distinguishable for their vivid color. Often focusing on portraiture the Senegalese photographer, started out in corporate communications before deciding to pursue photography in 2012. His ongoing series "The Studio of Vanities" wants to showcase the young creatives shaping Africa's lifestyle, fashion, art and music industry. "These are the fresh faces of the continent's urban culture.", he writes on his website. "They are black, Arabs, Caucasian, Asian, it doesn't matter. They are creative and ambitious, but most importantly, they dedicate their everyday lives to making their dreams a reality".
In the series - young entrepreneurs stand against patterned backdrops - which often draw on the individual's cultural history or background. The objective is to portray "a generation which endeavor to showcase the African urban universe and its blossoming art production and exchanges," he writes, adding the overall intent "is to go beyond the strictly aesthetic depiction of a beautiful youth."

Afrofuturism - a science fiction Africa

The shift towards the urban in African cinema has also been slowly gaining pace, particularly within Afrofuturism, a concept that reimagines science and the future in an African context. Filmmaker and photographer Jim Chuchu is a Kenyan whose short film debuted as part of "African Metropolis" during 2013's Durban International Film Festival. The short film "Stories of Our Lives", looked at Kenya's LGBTIQ community.
At the 1:54 fair, the artist, is exhibiting his latest series, "Pagans", which reconstructs the past and future of forgotten African deities. The idea is to take viewers on a journey spanning "distant African pasts and potential Afro futures".
Angolan artist Edson Chagas' photographs of himself covered with carrier bags may seem bizarre and unusual to most, but there is a serious political point he is trying to investigate, says the artist. In the series "Oikonomo", the various plastic bags serve as a symbol for tracing capitalism in Angola. The mass produced bags leave behind a trace of city life and consumerism in Angola's capital Luanda.
Consumerism was also the starting point for Congolese painter J.P Mika. Hailing from Democratic Republic of Congo's densely populated capital Kinshasa, Mika began using his talents at the age of 13, painting the informal advertising boards well known around the continent to earn money. His images usually depict young Congolese men and women sporting the country's latest fashion trends.