Ibrahim El-Salahi

10 Contemporary African Artists You Should Know
The Culture TripLilian Diarra

Africa’s contemporary art scene is characterized by a myriad of remarkable artists who have paved the way for  the next generation, and a fast-growing number of promising young artists. Using their artwork to interpret and portray Africa’s socio-economic realities, political challenges, rich traditions and diverse beauty, many African artists go beyond aesthetics, and dive deep into concept. These leading and emerging artists continue to influence the evolution of contemporary art in Africa.


Ibrahim El-Salahi, Born Sudan (1930)

Often referred to as the godfather of African modernism, Ibrahim El Salahi has created over five decades of visionary artwork, a sort of surrealist split between Arab and African origins. Former diplomat and undersecretary of the Sudanese Ministry of Culture in the 1970s, El Salahi was imprisoned for six months without charge, having been accused of anti-government activities. An articulate and avuncular figure, El Salahi has developed his own unique art history, pioneering on many art fronts such as being one of the first artists to elaborate Arabic calligraphy in his paintings and the first African artist to get a Tate Modern retrospective. Elementary forms and lines dominated his early artwork, and over the years his work has taken a meditative and abstract turn, with a strong emphasis on lines, and use of black and white.