Artwork by Athi-Patra Ruga

Africa State of Mind

Discover a new generation of photographers from across the African continent.

Africa State of Mind presents the work of a new generation of photographers from across the African continent. Curated by the eminent writer and broadcaster Ekow Eshun, this major exhibition features 13 artists who collectively interrogate ideas of ‘Africanness’.

The exhibition features artists working in numerous fields from fashion to film, architecture to literature. The artists are: Emmanuelle Andrianjafy, Neil Beloufa, Girma Berta, Eric Gyamfi, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Lebohang Kganye, Namsa Leuba, Michael MacGarry, Sabelo Mlangeni, Musa N Nxumalo, Ruth Ossai, Athi Patra Ruga and Michael Tsegaye.

Their work is inspired by wide range of subjects: urban nightlife in Johannesburg; Afrofuturism; construction projects in Ethiopia; vodun (voodoo) religion in Benin; and Ghana’s LGBT+ community, among others. What unites these diverse approaches is an emphasis on subjectivity to explore life and identity on the continent, by its inhabitants and diaspora. Together, the artists reveal Africa to be a psychological space as much as a physical territory; a state of mind as much as a tangible location.

The exhibition is curated around three main themes.  Hybrid Cities documents the modern African city in all its dynamism and contradictions. Zones of Freedom addresses the fluidity of gender and sexual identity through compelling portraiture, as well as the legacy of history, from slavery and colonialism to apartheid. Inner Landscapes draws on the artists’ memories and fascinations to conjure individual interpretations of the African past and present.

Curator Ekow Eshun says, “popular Western views of the continent remain distorted. Ethnographic imagery of the colonial period presented Africans as the primitive people of a dark place. Today, contemporary news reports still portray the continent as a place of chaos, corruption and disease. By contrast, Africa State of Mind features photographers that seek to address the complexity of what it means, and how it feels, to live in Africa today”.

Africa State of Mind is a touring exhibition by New Art Exchange, Nottingham, curated by Ekow Eshun, in association with touring partner Impressions Gallery.

Artwork by Athi-Patra Ruga
Athi-Patra Ruga, Night of the Long Knives I, 2013, Photographer Hayden Phipps
Artwork by Kiluanji Kia Henda
Kiluanji Kia Henda. The Last Journey of the Dictator Mussunda N'zombo Before the Great Extinction Act I, 2017
Artwork by Lebohang Kganye
Lebohang Kganye, Ka 2-phisi yaka e pinky II, 2013
Artwork by Sabelo Mlangeni
Sabelo Mlangeni, Xolani Mngayi, eStanela, 2009
Artwork by Girma Berta
Girma Berta Moving Shadows II, VIII, 2017. Courtesy of the Artist & Addis Fine Art
Artwork by Michael Tsegaye
Michael Tsegaye, Future Memories X, 2009


  • Portrait of Ekow Eshun

    Ekow Eshun

    Ekow Eshun (born London, 1968) is a writer, broadcaster and curator. He is Chairman of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, overseeing London’s public art programme in Trafalgar Square, and Creative Director of Calvert 22 Foundation, a leading arts space dedicated to the contemporary culture of Eastern Europe. He was the Director of the ICA, London, from 2005–2010. Eshun’s writing has appeared in publications including The New York Times, Financial Times, The Guardian, The Observer, Granta, Vogue, New Statesman and Wired. He is the author of Black Gold of the Sun: Searching for Home in England and Africa, nominated for the Orwell prize, and the editor of Africa Modern: Creating the Contemporary Art of a Continent. He appears on BBC Radio 4 shows Saturday Review and Front Row and has been a regular contributor to BBC 2’s Newsnight Review.

Africa State of Mind at Impressions
Visitors to Africa State of Mind
Visitors viewing work by Ruth Ossai

"Sensational images. Challenging stereotypes and preconceptions. One of the best exhibitions Impressions has ever hosted."

"Stayed for more than four hours on first visit."

"Appreciated! Too much negativity surrounds our Motherland."

"Another exhibition at Impressions to offer space to reflect on and learn about other cultures and ways of seeing."

Exhibition visitors
Africa State of Mind — Impressions Gallery