Dennis Osadebe thinks the term “African art” is lazy

The Nigerian artist created a new series of masked sculptures for a project titled “Stand for Something.”

What is “African art”? Who are the creators? Who are the subjects? What is the aesthetic? If you ask Nigerian-born mixed media artist Dennis Osadebe, he’d tell you there’s no such thing as “African art” and there never has been. “African art is a very lazy term,” said Osadebe over the phone from his home in Lagos, Nigeria. “I think it just sets expectations that limit the growth, the expression, and the real artistic dialogue of artists from the continent and it doesn’t represent everybody and their diversities.”

For his latest project “Stand For Something,” Osadebe collaborated with Unique Board, a New York-based creative platform, to reimagine his signature masks in 3D as sculpture. The limited edition collection features yellow, pink, blue, and black 3D iterations of the glossy masked man usually found in Osadebe’s work. He inserted contemporary elements like a durag and racer jacket to provide a contrasting element that differentiates the masked sculptures of past centuries from his remixed contemporary version. For this project, he spent months researching traditional Yoruba masks, which he particularly sought out because of the expressiveness their features portrayed. He also pulled inspiration from contemporary sources like New York-based clothing brand and durag aficionados, L’Enchanteur.

The 28-year-old artist, who grew up in Nigeria’s Anambra State and now resides in Lagos, is one of many young African-born creatives working to reshape the media- and critic-driven narratives that currently mischaracterize their work. Osadebe has used his skills as a post-pop artist to not only creatively express his personal experiences but to proudly show the artistic variety the continent has to offer. Continue reading…

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