London – Bonhams’ Modern and Contemporary African Art sale on 12 October features an exploration into womanhood in modern and contemporary African society. The sale puts a spotlight on artists from across the continent, including Nigeria, South Africa, Ivory Coast Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, and Ethiopia.

Born in South Africa in 1968, Lisa Brice’s A2, which has an estimate of £100,000-150,000, is a highlight of the sale. The painting was included in Brice’s first solo exhibition in 2006 which contained themes reflecting the precariousness of the artist’s childhood due to the political upheaval in South Africa towards the end of the century. Informed by the artist’s night photography practise, the monochromatic palette blurs the features of the female subject, who in turn looks off into the distance, suggesting she is unaware of this surveillance. Beyond a study of the female form, Brice works to criticise notions of the male gaze.

Since her first solo exhibition, Brice has had over 20 more solo shows, including at Tate Britain in 2018. Her highly sought-after works are held in museum collections around the world including the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and the High Commission of South Africa in London.

Lisa Brice (South African, born 1968) A2 signed and dated ‘Lisa Brice 2005’ (verso); further bares ‘The Goodman Gallery’ label (verso) oil on canvas 101 x 76cm (unframed).

Another highlight of the sale is Street Cadets with Harbinger: Wish, Walk/Loop, Long by Jane Alexander (South African, born 1959), which has an estimate of £120,000-180,000. A multi-disciplinary South African artist, Jane Alexander is recognised for her grotesque sculptures, which she often uses to present a social commentary on South Africa’s traumatic past. Growing up during Apartheid, Alexander reflects on themes of childhood amid societal segregation. Street Cadets with Harbinger is one of a number of works that refers to displaced children that Alexander observed on the streets of Cape Town near her home between 1990 and 2000 – a period of transition in South Africa from Apartheid to a democratically elected government. One of the most celebrated contemporary South African artists, Alexander’s work African Adventure 1999–2002 entered the Tate’s permanent collection in 2016.

The sale also features a curated selection of Abuja stoneware focusing on the women artists from the training centre, including Ladi Kwali, Kande Ushafa, Lami Toto, and Asibi Ido. A highlight of the section is a Water Vessel by Ladi Kwali, which has an estimate of £10,000-15,000. Already an established potter, Kwali joined the Abuja training centre in 1954. Even with the introduction of equipment designed to make the production of pottery easier, Kwali was known for remaining true to her traditional Gwari practise which centred around hand-coiling techniques. One of Nigeria’s most famous female artists, Kwali appears on the 20 Naira note.

Helene Love-Allotey, Head of Sale for the Modern and Contemporary African Art department, commented: “This year’s sale is incredibly varied. Women artists from Africa have been historically underrepresented in the art market, so we’re pleased to feature a wide selection of modern and contemporary African women artists, such as Brice and Alexander, as well as from across the continent, including Nnenna Okore (Nigerian, born 1975), Elizabeth Sekyiamah (Ghanaian, born 2002), Nedia Were (Kenyan, born 1989) and Bertina Lopes (Mozambican, 1924-2012).”

Other highlights include:

  • Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu (Nigerian, 1917-1994), Yoruba Woman in Blue, 1973, oil on canvas. Estimate: £250,000-350,000
  • Two paintings by Yusuf Adebayo Cameron Grillo (Nigerian, 1934-2021): Red Ayan, 1972, with an estimate of £150,000-200,000, and Head, 1966, with an estimate of £120,000-180,000.
  • Amoako Boafo (Ghanaian, born 1984), Self-Portrait, 2019, oil on card. Estimate: £80,000-120,000
  • El Anatsui (Ghanaian, born 1944), Spirits, 1996, carved and incised wood. Estimate: £80,000-120,000
  • Penelope Siopis (South African, born 1953), Cape of Good Hope: A History Painting, 1990, oil and mixed media on board. Estimate: £50,000-80,000


Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Yoruba Woman in Blue signed and dated ‘BEN ENWONWU 1973′ (lower right); numbered ’31’, ’24’, ’47’ (verso of stretcher) oil on canvas


Yaw Owusu (Ghanaian, born 1992) Places Without Borders, 2020 titled, signed and dated ‘PACES WITHOUT BORDERS, 2020 Yaw Owusu NY 2020’ (verso) pennies and metal sheets on wood panel 120 x 120cm


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