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Semaphore Gallery of African contemporary art

Gallery of African contemporary art

Semaphore, the first Swiss gallery entirely dedicated to exhibiting contemporary art by artists from Africa, will open its doors to the public on Thursday 17 November 2016.

The gallery is in Neuchâtel, a city located at the foot of the Jura Mountains, on the shore of the largest entirely Swiss lake, halfway between Geneva and Zurich.

The founder and director of the gallery is Marianne Fourie, a South African born in Johannesburg.

Semaphore will exhibit works of contemporary art in any medium by artists who are from Africa or who live and work on the continent. In conveying a great variety of experiences, ideas or beliefs that are personal as well as place and time-related, the artists’ visions will serve to counter simplistic projections of Africa, which are still ubiquitous.

On an international level, contemporary art by Africans has started to attract the attention it deserves and new art fairs, such as 1:54 and AKAA (Also Known As Africa), have come into existence in recent years.

As part of a worldwide movement offering exposure to African artists, Semaphore has created a platform within Switzerland for the talented at all stages of their careers.

Fourie selected Siwa Mgoboza, a rising star on the South African art scene, for the gallery’s first solo exhibition.

Africadia is the title of Mgoboza’s solo exhibition at Semaphore. Africadia brings together divergent socio-historical elements and fuses them into a reverie of unity.

Mgoboza uses Seshweshwe, a cloth that symbolises shifting identity in a world where conquest and domination exist alongside cultural exchange and trade. French missionaries presented bales of the material, printed in Manchester and brought to South Africa by Swiss and German settlers, to King Moshoeshoe I of the Sotho, and the cloth has been used for Sotho traditional wear since then. The indigo dye applied in the printing of the patterns was used as far back as the Bronze Age. Today the textile is printed in South Africa but risks losing its market to cheap imports from Asia.

Mgoboza lives and works at his studio by the sea in Cape Town and will travel to Switzerland for the opening of his exhibition at Semaphore.