Learning Out Loud: Curating African Contemporary Art and Growing AfriKin Art Fair

My journey as a curator and organizer of the AfriKin Art Fair during Miami Art Week has been transformative, shaped deeply by my experiences, the diverse studio visits, galleries, and fairs that I visited throughout the years such as this past week’s 60th Venice Biennale. The Biennale was not just an event; it was a conduit for change, impacting my approach to art and curatorial practices profoundly.

The Power of Visibility

The Venice Biennale opened doors—some literal, many metaphorical. I’ve learned that my role extends beyond curating; it’s about creating spaces where African contemporary art can resonate and inspire. Each interaction, whether it was with strangers who felt familiar in the winding alleys of Venice or with enthusiasts who’ve followed AfriKin from across the globe, has reinforced the importance of visibility. Their excitement and engagement are testaments to the growing interest and importance of diverse voices in art. Meeting new people who knew who I was and knew all about AfriKin and were happy to engage in unpacking ways to work together gave me a huge boost in recognizing how to threads of life and becoming more visible.

Public Vulnerability and Accountability

Embracing public vulnerability has been a significant aspect of my curatorial journey. Being held accountable by peers and the audience ensures that the work transcends mere exhibition and becomes a dialogue—continuous and evolving. This level of interaction has been both a privilege and a pressure, fueling my drive to exceed expectations.

Feedback as a Tool for Growth

The real-time feedback received during live streams and through social media has been invaluable. It offers a direct line to the audience’s thoughts and preferences, guiding the curation process. This feedback has not just shaped the upcoming exhibitions but also helped refine AfriKin’s mission and methods.

Balancing Perspectives

Learning out loud means being open to criticism and different viewpoints without losing one’s curatorial vision. It’s about finding balance—absorbing feedback while maintaining a clear sense of direction. This balance is crucial as AfriKin continues to grow, aiming to not only showcase art but to foster a community around African contemporary art.

Looking Forward

As AfriKin prepares for the next art fair in Miami, the lessons learned from Venice will be instrumental. These experiences will help in curating a show that not only displays art but also embodies the spirit of community, learning, and mutual respect. The journey of growing AfriKin amidst the global stage of art continues to be a learning experience—a narrative of embracing every opportunity, every challenge, and every interaction that shapes this vibrant cultural endeavor.

Exploring the 60th Venice Biennale: A Journey in Art and Innovation

The 60th Venice Biennale, themed “Foreigners Everywhere,” has once again reaffirmed its status as a pivotal platform for global artistic dialogue and cultural exchange. The event featured a dazzling array of works from over 331 artists across various countries, emphasizing a diverse range of perspectives and disciplines.

Trending Highlights from the Venice Biennale

This year’s Biennale showcased a strong focus on themes of decolonization and decarbonization, which were vividly explored through various national pavilions and exhibitions.

African Highlights at the 60th Venice Biennale

This year’s Biennale showcased impressively and the highest participation of African countries, with 13 countries including Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Seychelles, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, each country presenting unique interpretations and contributions that reflect their rich cultural heritage and contemporary art scenes some in pavilions others in satellite shows. Noted there was a Moroccan exhibit as well although the country officially withdrew from the Biennale. Below are my views on the shows I made it to.



The Dutch Pavilion featured works by Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC), a collective of Congolese artists, highlighting the rich artistic output and unique perspectives of plantation workers in Congo.  This in my opinion was the most moving part of the Biennale. It was titled “The International Celebration of Blasphemy and The Sacred”. Created in collaboration with artist Renzo Martens and curator Hicham Khalidi, it highlights CATPC’s endeavor to reclaim the sacred forests of Lusanga, along with their broader mission of spiritual, ethical and economic reckoning.  CATPC created new artworks from the earth of the last remaining forests around the plantation, which were then reproduced in palm oil and cocoa.


Ethiopia’s inaugural participation in the 60th Venice Biennale is curated by the acclaimed author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay. The national pavilion, themed “Prejudice and Belonging,” is located at Palazzo Bolani and features the work of Tesfaye Urgessa. Urgessa’s art is known for its exploration of psychologically complex figures and addresses social, racial, and political issues through his painting. His artistic style integrates Ethiopian iconography and influences from German Neo-Expressionists and London School painters. This participation marks a pivotal moment for Ethiopian art, showcasing its evolution and the country’s dedication to cultural expression.


The Nigerian Pavilion focused on themes of decolonization and economic independence. It transformed one of the galleries in the Central Pavilion into a leafy, futuristic space that combines green technologies with Indigenous knowledge systems, portraying a future of low-impact, zero-emissions transport in Africa​. Titled “Nigeria Imaginary” This was part of Olalekan Jeyifous’s imaginative “All-African Protoport,” which envisions a future Africa free from colonial economic exploitation​.


Making its debut this year, the Senegalese pavilion, led by curators Marième Ba and Massamba Mbaye, centers on the theme “Bokk – Limites”. Artist Alioune Diagne explores significant themes such as gender roles, ecological issues, and cultural heritage through his paintings, offering a fresh perspective on societal issues


Tanzanian heritage was prominently featured through the works of Kapwani Kiwanga, a Canadian artist of Tanzanian descent, who presented new work at the Canadian pavilion, engaging with her African roots through contemporary art practices​.


Zimbabwe’s participation highlighted works that blend traditional African motifs with contemporary issues, particularly focusing on socio-political themes as showcased by Kudzanai Chiurai. Under the artistic direction of Raphael Chikukwa and Fadzai Veronica Muchemwa, the Zimbabwe pavilion features artists such as Gillian Rosselli, Sekai Machache, Moffat Takadiwa, Kombo Chapfika, and Troy Makaza. Their work offers a vivid exploration of Zimbabwe’s rich artistic landscape, contributing to the vibrant cultural fabric of the Biennale​.

These pavilions not only displayed the artistic richness of each nation but also provided a platform for engaging with crucial global themes such as sustainability, identity, and the redefinition of historical narratives. The diverse presentations at the Biennale reflect a collective endeavor to reshape the art and cultural narratives that are often dominated by Western perspectives. This event continues to be a significant platform for artists from Africa and its diaspora to engage with the international community, ensuring their voices contribute profoundly to the global dialogue on art and architecture.

Other notable mentions include:

The Golden Lion Winner of the 60th Biennale was the Mataaho Collective, a group of four Māori women from Aotearoa, who showed a memorable installation of luminous straps in the Arsenale, called Takapau, a word for woven Māori birthing mats. Additionally, a definite must-see visit to the Julie Mehretu exhibit for the Pinault Collection in the San Marco area. The Italian Pavilion presented “Spaziale,” which engaged with local communities across Italy to initiate community-driven projects. This approach not only highlighted social engagement but also pushed the boundaries of traditional architectural practices by incorporating elements from visual arts, performance, and even artificial intelligence.

The German Pavilion, titled “Thresholds,” curated by Çağla Ilk, featured works by Yael Bartana and Ersan Mondtag among others, which delved into the interplay between historical contexts and futuristic visions, creating a dynamic exploration of time and identity. Similarly, the U.S. Pavilion made a significant mark by featuring Jeffrey Gibson, an artist whose work invites reflection on collective identities and engages with Indigenous perspectives.

The Dutch Pavilion addressed urgent environmental issues with a focus on water management. It aimed to transform the pavilion space into a “water-resilient actor,” reflecting broader global concerns about sustainability and urban planning. Which France also delved into as well with a captivating under water world. Also from a video appeal and the current state of conflicts globally the UK’s “Listening All Night To The Rain” presentation was a very good reminder. I loved the Shamanic approach to the Peruvian works and the dance presentation of the Mexican pavilion. The powerful voice that the Saudi Arabian artist gave to the women there was compelling and very captivating with the sand dunes and the voices of the women in the desert. Was truly enjoying this until I was asked to leave as the crowned prince was entering to take in the exhibit, which I think would definitely give him food for thought. Lastly the Czech pavilion of the cut-up innards of giraffe Lenka whose untimely death in Prague after they captured and took her from her home in Kenya. Another tragic story of colonialism. Was very enlightening taking in the 60th Biennale de Venezia.

Degrees of Yes: A Conceptual Exploration

Beyond the spectacle of art and architecture, the Venice Biennale served as a fertile ground for exploring complex interactions and negotiations, exemplified by the concept of “Degrees of Yes.” This approach fosters a deeper engagement with ideas and perspectives, encouraging a more nuanced understanding and acceptance of diverse viewpoints. It allows for a space where initial agreement can lead to more profound discussions and explorations, enriching the dialogue between artists, viewers, and cultures.

Looking Forward: AfriKin 2024

As we reflect on the rich experiences and connections fostered at the Venice Biennale, we also look forward to the upcoming AfriKin Art Fair 2024 in Miami, themed “Threads of Life in Fragments of Time.” This event promises to build on the dialogues and partnerships formed in Venice, introducing new artists and narratives into the vibrant cultural landscape of Miami, further enriching the global art community.

The Venice Biennale not only highlights the transformative power of art but also demonstrates the importance of cultural exchange and dialogue in shaping a more inclusive and understanding world.

As we continue to navigate and appreciate this vast artistic landscape, the experiences and insights gained from Venice will undoubtedly influence and inspire future artistic endeavors worldwide. It was a joy hanging with my Moroccan family in Venice, seeing old friends and making new ones. Discovering palate-pleasing wines, hunting for vegan food, late night water taxis and calming gondola trips around the canal. I understand why Venice island is so sought after as a destination. Until next time my AfriKin — Mille Grazie…

With love from Venice,


Tell us your thoughts. Where do you hope to see AfriKin go? How do we move forward and evolve while holding onto the rich traditions that make us who we are?