LONDON — While the art scene is blooming in countries like South Africa and Nigeria, for some of the African continent, like Chad or Madagascar, many people lack the knowledge or resources to let art thrive. The African Arts Trust (TAAT), a grant making organization centered in London and founded by art collector Robert Devereux, hopes to change that. The Trust gives grants to emerging artists and art organizations working on the African continent.
Danda Jaroljmek, an administrator for The African Arts Trust, has been working at the organization for six months, after the Trust started funding her own grassroots arts organization in Kenya, Kuona Trust. She says TAAT is trying to fill the gaps that the art communities in Africa have.
“There’s a general lack of infrastructure in many countries,” she says. “There is in many places no government support for the arts. In places like Kenya there’s no art even in schools.”
She goes on to say that some countries in Africa don’t have national art galleries, and people simply don’t know much about art or have the resources to learn more. There is a lack of gallery spaces in much of the continent because galleries can’t sustain themselves on sales alone, and there is little funding available for arts organizations. This is where TAAT comes in.
TAAT focuses on giving grants to artists in Eastern and Southern Africa, where the grants are needed most. Some of its most recent grantees are the Dak’art Biennale exhibition in Dakar, Senegal and a residency and mentor-ship program at contemporary art space Nafasi in Tanzania. Jaroljmek says they choose organizations through networking and trying to understand what art organizations truly benefit the most artists.
As well as grants to try and help organizations get on their feet, they also provide grants that help artists travel around or outside the continent.
Jaroljmek says they are looking to fund “Organizations that are really helping artists develop and make good art and challenge themselves.”
Despite what some of the continent lacks in art and art resources, Jaroljmek is excited for what is happening now on the art scene.
“I think perhaps someone looking in from the outside might say, ‘oh Africa, it’s always doom and gloom’ but the art scene is burgeoning,” she says.
According to Jaroljmek there’s no lack of talent in Africa, and was particularly excited after viewing the Dak’art Biennale exhibition, which showcased 61 African artists among all mediums.
The exhibition aims to show art that is “able to take account of common aspirations, fears, hopes and struggles daily with the utmost sincerity,” according to Dak’art’s website.
The exhibition is held every two years, and Jarolimek says she thinks everyone who’s interested in African art should make the effort to attend.
“Art is important in any continent,” she says,“the work that artists make relates to their environment and the society in which they live in, so that enhances the people around them and brings attention to what’s happening.”
TAAT hopes to support the development of art schools in places where they don’t exist throughout Africa. Additionally, Jarolimek says she hopes they can help build local markets for art.
“In Nigeria for example,” she says, “the market seems to be increasing and doing very well. A lot of Nigerians are buying Nigerian art so we hope that that’s going to be a pattern that will develop in other countries where the art scene is quite small.”
Sources: African Arts Trust, Danda Jaroljmek