Cultural Olympiad Announces Manchester Festival Of West African Art

City-wide exhibition of leading contemporary artists from West Africa from 2 June to 16 September 2012

‘We Face Forward: Art From West Africa Today’ is a season of contemporary art and music from West Africa, celebrated across Manchester’s galleries, museums, music venues and public spaces, from 2 June to 16 September as part of London 2012 Festival. 

Ruth Mackenzie, Director, London 2012 Festival, said: ‘I am particularly delighted that this exceptional exhibition of art from West Africa will be part of the London 2012 Festival programme bringing once in a lifetime opportunities to experience culture to people across the north west.’

The title for the season is taken from a speech by Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, made in 1960. Stating his resistance to Cold War super powers, Nkrumah’s said; ‘We face neither East nor West: we face forward.’ The festival takes its direction from Nkrumah’s statement of independence, deriving inspiration from his sense of West African cultural dynamism.

The core of the season is a city-wide exhibition of contemporary art from the region, the first major collaboration between Manchester Art Gallery, Whitworth Art Gallery and Gallery of Costume, Platt Hall. It will feature painting, photography, textiles, sculpture, video and sound work from a wide range of internationally acclaimed artists, including Georges Adéagbo, Meschac Gaba, Romuald Hazoumè and George Osodi. The exhibition will also be the first major display in the UK of work by emerging artists such as Lucy Azubuike, Emeka Ogboh, Charles Okereke, Nyani Quarmyne and Victoria Udondian.

Dr Maria Balshaw, Director of Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester City Galleries, said: ‘Manchester’s connections to West Africa are part of its industrial and trading history.  This exhibition brings the dynamism of West African art today to Manchester, as the world comes to the UK for the Olympics.’

A music programme, curated by Band on the Wall and The Manchester Museum, will feature world-renowned acts including: AfroCubism (the new international supergroup formed by Eliades Ochoa of Buena Vista Social Club and Toumani Diabaté); a multi-media concert by Niger supergroup The Endless Journey (Mamane Barka and Etran Finatawa); Angelique Kidjo; Jaliba Kuyateh; Kanda Bongo Man and many more to be confirmed. Taking place in music venues and galleries across the city, the season will open with AfroCubism at Bridgewater Hall on Sunday 3 June.

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