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African Art: Contemporary  
page: 1  2  

Further, the over-the-top representation found in Mask challenges the validity of this stereotype. The two plant fronds that the figure holds in front of his face function as a mask, reminding viewers that they should look beyond stereotypes to discover complex personalities. By creating a brash, in-your-face image, Fani-Kayode forces the viewer to reconsider his understanding of race and sexuality.

Fani-Kayode's black and white photograph entitled White Bouquet (1987) also shakes the viewer's established worldview. The photo, a reinterpretation of Edouard Manet's famous painting Olympia (1863), shows a white man presenting a bouquet of flowers to a black male lounging on a chaise. Both nude figures turn their backs to the viewer. In Manet's work, a clothed black female servant gives flowers to a nude white female prostitute, and both women face the viewer.

White Bouquet's gender and racial reversal is echoed in its compositional inversion; even the presenter of the flowers is on the opposite side from that in Olympia. This undoing of the familiar results in an ambiguous image left open to many complex interpretations.


Although a few contemporary black African artists address issues of homosexuality, violent opposition to the gay lifestyle in Africa makes it difficult for them. While Bulelwa Madekurozwa cautiously exhibits her work in Zimbabwean galleries, Rotimi Fani-Kayode once stated that if he exhibited his works in Nigeria, riots would break out. Certainly Fani-Kayode would have been accused of spreading corrupt and decadent Western values.

Joyce M. Youmans

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arts >> Overview:  African-American and African Diaspora Art

Gay and lesbian artists of the African Diaspora have recently begun to explore issues specific to gender and sexuality; often relying on self-portraiture, they address homophobia and racism as well as desire and longing.

arts >> Overview:  African Art: Traditional

Many forms of ambiguous sexuality can be found throughout the traditional arts of Africa, including images of androgyny, hermaphroditism, and transvestism; and much of erotic sculpture and theater can also be seen as homoerotic.

arts >> Fani-Kayode, Rotimi

One of the most important black photographers of the late twentieth century, Rotimi Fani-Kayode explores important themes of racial and sexual identity.


Bailey, David A. "Photographic Animateur: The Photographs of Rotimi Fani-Kayode in Relation to Black Photographic Practices." Third Text 13 (Winter 1997): 57-62.

"Bulelwa Madekurozwa." Gasworks Gallery. (20 July 2001).

Chipunza, Linda. "Looking Closely." Gallery: The Art Magazine from Gallery Delta 16 (June 1998): 16-18.

Fani-Kayode, Rotimi. "Traces of Ecstasy." Ten.8 2.3 (Spring 1992): 64-71

Fani-Kayode, Rotimi, et al. "Rotimi Fani-Kayode and A. Hirst." Revue Noire 3 (December 1991): 30-50.

Hall, Charles. "Rotimi Fani-Kayode." Arts Review 43.1 (January 1991): 42.

Oguibe, Olu. "Finding a Place: Nigerian Artists in the Contemporary Art World." Art Journal 58.2 (Summer 1999): 30-41.

Mabanga, Thebe, and Bulelwa Madekurozwa. "The Male Commodity." Daily Mail and Guardian. 29 September 2000. (20 July 2001).

Mercer, Kobena. "Mortal Coil: Eros and Diaspora in the Photographs of Rotimi Fani-Kayode." Overexposed: Essays on Contemporary Photography. Carol Squiers, ed. New York: The New Press, 1999. 183-210.

Sibanda, Doreen. "Contemporary Maskings: Bulelwa Madekurozwa and Tendai Gumbo." Gallery: The Art Magazine from Gallery Delta 13 (September 1997): 12-15.

Taylor, Robert. "Gay Artist, Black Genius." Body Politic 5: Power Tools. (6 July 2001).

Vera, Yvonne. "Bulelwa Madekurozwa." Revue Noire 28 (March-April-May 1998): 10-13.

Wright, Kai. "Lesbians Admonished with 'Sew Them Up': Organizing Challenges for Zimbabwean Women Come from Outside, within Gay Community." The Washington Blade. May 5, 2000. (13 July 2001).


    Citation Information
    Author: Youmans, Joyce M.  
    Entry Title: African Art: Contemporary  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated March 16, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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