How to remain relevant as an African artist

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African artistAfrican artist


How to remain relevant as an African artist

Over the past couple of months, the art industry in South Africa has boomed. Cape Town opened the very first contemporary art museum, Zeitz MOCAA, making the demand for talented, unique African artists bigger than ever before. This transition has made it possible for artists’ skills to be recognised and appreciated, but considering how quickly this transition has happened, it’s more important than ever for African artists to step up their game and be as dynamic as possible if they want to remain relevant.

Here are a few tips for adjusting your approach to stay relevant:


  • Your work should indicate the ‘here’ and the ‘now’

As much as artists like to speak from past experiences, it’s important for artists to also think in the “now”. While art is traditionally cultural-specific, new-age artists should look at new ways to evoke emotion and thoughts about situations and topics that are happening in the world right now. Many artists play on historical, societal and political situations, which could be more relevant if it occurred now. Take the time to tweak the seriousness with some sharp wit or popular culture that may positively influence the younger generations or attract more people in general. Take graffiti, for instance, it is extremely relevant now and it also has a background that does and will always resonate deeply with creative individuals. Regardless of the negative reputation graffiti has had over the years, it has the ability to tell a special and unique story.


  • Be wary of the art form you take on

While you might have an established theme or art form that you have been creating for years, you need to consider delving into other Africa art elements that could boost your reputation and attract more people to your work. Pop, conceptual and contemporary art all have their own unique features that are appreciated by people in different ways. If you play on your talents with something different, you will be able to create noise and compete amongst the already-successful artists in Africa. Look at incorporating thought-provoking stories or provocative art trends that will add value and keep your work relevant.


  • Keep up with the latest trends

Much like the previous point, the type of trend you decide to jump on can make or break your work. Whatever you choose, one thing is certain: you have to choose some type of trend to follow. That is how you can stay relevant in an ever-changing environment. Start taking #selfies with your art and allow others to do the same. This way, you can really get the public involved in your art by experiencing your art through their own ‘lens’. Of course, your love for art and your skills in certain areas will never change, which is understandable, but in order to fit in and gain attention, you need to embrace change.


  • Think digital art options

Digital technology is transforming African art in a big way. Traditional art forms are either adopting a digital spin or being advertised online. If you want to create awareness about your artwork, you need to think of ways to overcome digital barriers and make your work available to view and purchase online. The online space offers a variety of platforms that are not accessible for traditional artists. If you want to get your name out there, you need to see what your competitors are doing and adopt a similar approach.


  • Social media is your friend

On the back of the previous point, you need to harness the power of social media. Pay attention to the opportunities that social media can (and will) present to you, and leverage them as a business opportunity for your artwork. Facebook is an incredible medium to engage people and Instagram is a visual platform to show your ideas and work in a professional manner. Use these platforms to post updates, speak to your audiences and engage with influential artists in the industry. This is exactly what you have to do if you want to push your art, stay relevant and showcase the beauty of African art. In today’s art world, it’s important to be resilient. You need to be prepared to change if you want to stay relevant.

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