African encounter

Visual arts

Africa is a continent that has been ravaged through time — colonisation and slave trade are examples of cruelty of humankind.

To say that African painting is complex and diverse is an understatement. The region has produced some of the most visually stunning and emotionally moving pieces of art the world has ever seen.

Premila Singh, a self-taught artist, has spent 17 years in South Africa and travelled extensively in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar. She has been fascinated by the African culture and sees strong ties with the Indian sub-continent. The love for colourful clothes, intricate jewellery, vibrant music and dancing, the strong communal ties displayed at times of wedding, childbirth, funerals and other ceremonies. Premila’s paintings capture the various tribes of the region.

 A young mother with her two children stands at a doorway in Kenya, a Himba woman nursing her child and selling her simple wares on a street corner in Namibia, a young Ndebele maiden in South Africa smiling innocently, are all a part of this collection. A Tshwane maiden bathing in a river, or a Calabash carrier are unabashed in their nudity. Nudity is natural in African people where an unmarried girl bares her breasts and covers them only as a married woman. 

Modern African painting is also visually enchanting. While the choice of materials, techniques, and styles vary, there is one element that seems to tie many African artists together — that is a common use of iconography. 

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