Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Author: Christabel Johanson

text: email

Strong Women: Zanele Muholi


By playing photographer and subject, Muholi keeps the authenticity of both roles and redefines the transaction between those roles. It is true to say that she is both (and neither) the dominant and submissive party. This is the traditional power dynamic examined through the styles she uses.

Christabel Johanson on Zanele Muholi
Somnyama Ngonyama II, Oslo, 2015 © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York.
First published: June 6, 2021

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Kwesi Botchway

Kwesi Botchway, Bald Head King, 2020. Acrylic on canvas. 31 x 31 in.Courtesy of Gallery 1957

Botchway’s exhibition seeked to unify the mercurial nature of human traditions and politics around what it means to be black. Be it beauty, fashion, identity or skin tone Botchway’s message isn’t just static, it isn’t just a state of being, it is a state of becoming something more.

Christabel Johanson on the work of Kwesi Botchway
Bold Head King, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 31 x 31 in. Courtesy of Gallery 1957, London
First published: December 2020
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International Week of Black Women in the Arts


The lack of representation is something that is returned to time and time again. Without representation we cannot accurately credit black women’s contribution to the art world. Whilst this barrier is in place, it will always be difficult to fully celebrate and praise their work. It will be a challenge to correctly document and archive their submissions into the artistic sphere.

Christabel Johanson on Black Women in the Arts
Simone Leigh, Facade, 2022, courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

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Africa Fashion, V & A, London


We aim to give our audiences a glimpse of the glamour and the politics of the African fashion scene. We hope that people come away with the view that African fashions are undefinable, always changing, always refusing to be pigeon-holed. We want audiences to come away inspired by the magnificence of African creativity and to want to find out more.

Christabel Johanson interviews the curator of Africa Fashion, till April 16 at V & A, London
Aso Lànkí, Kí Ató Ki Ènìyàn (‘We greet dress before we greet its wearer’) collection, 2021, Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos Space Programme. Photo: © Kadara Enyeasi

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Simone Leigh


By working with the energy of this truth in her work rather than historical fact, Leigh reclaims the narrative and space independent from the timeline of colonialisation. In this way she achieves the eponymous state of “sovereignty”.

Christabel Johanson on Simone Leigh
Last Garment, 2022.

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