Manchester is about to be bombarded with some serious West African vibes. The rainy city will be injected with some much needed vibrancy, rhythm and flavour through the arrival of the We Face Forward season. The season of contemporary art and music from West Africa, will be celebrated across Manchester’s galleries, museums, music venues and public spaces, from 2 June to 16 September as part of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival.

Acknowledging the city’s historic links with West Africa, Dr Maria Balshaw, Director of Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester City Galleries, states:

“Manchester’s connections to West Africa are part of its industrial and trading history. This exhibition brings the dynamism of West African art today to Manchester, as the world comes to the UK for the Olympics.”

Barthelemy Toguo - Judgement

We Face Forward: Art from West Africa Today is a spectacular celebration of contemporary art, showing the work of over 30 artists, including Barthélémy Toguo, Pascale Marthine Tayou and Romauld Hazoume. It features painting, drawing, photography, textiles, sculpture, video and sound work, and includes new commissions. Manchester Art Gallery, Whitworth Art Gallery and the Gallery of Costume (Platt Hall), will collaborate for the first time to stage a single exhibition across all three venues.

The exhibitions, concerts, events and community activities recognise both the historic and contemporary links between Manchester and the various countries that make up West Africa. They will explore ideas of economic and cultural exchange, environment and sustainability, and the place of tradition in contemporary culture.

Pascale Marthine Tayou

The core of the season is a city-wide exhibition of contemporary art from the region, the first major collaboration between Manchester Art Gallery, Whitworth Art Gallery and Gallery of Costume, Platt Hall. It will feature painting, photography, textiles, sculpture, video and sound work from a wide range of internationally acclaimed artists, including Georges Adéagbo, El Anatsui, Romuald Hazoumè and George Osodi. The exhibition will also be the first major display in the UK of work by emerging artists such as Lucy Azubuike, Emeka Ogboh, Charles Okereke, Nyani Quarmyne and Victoria Udondian. Original large-scale installations have been commissioned from Barthélémy Toguo at Manchester Art Gallery, and from Pascale Marthine Tayou at Whitworth Art Gallery.

Nnenna Okore - Heavens

George Osodi - Voodoo Dancers

The music programme, curated by Band on the Wall and The Manchester Museum, will feature world-renowned acts including: AfroCubism (the new international supergroup  formed by Eliades Ochoa of Buena Vista Social Club and Toumani Diabaté); a multi-media concert by Niger supergroup The Endless Journey (Mamane Barka and Etran Finatawa); Angelique Kidjo; Jaliba Kuyateh; Kanda Bongo Man; Femi Kuti & Positive Force; Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra; DJ Irfan and many more. Taking place in music venues and galleries across the city, the season will open with AfroCubism at Bridgewater Hall on Sunday 3 June.


The title for the season is taken from a speech by Kwame Nkrumah, made in 1960. Stating his resistance to Cold War super powers, Nkrumah’s full quote is

“We face neither East nor West: we face forward.”

The festival takes its direction from Nkrumah’s statement of independence, deriving inspiration from his sense of West African cultural dynamism. Exhibitions and events will also take place at The Manchester Museum and the National Football Museum. The city will play host to nine football matches during the 2012 Olympics and the National Football Museum will present African artists for whom football gives a means to explore protest, politics and social engagement. To draw the different locations together, artist Meschac Gabahas been commissioned to design an artwork which incorporates the flags of all the West African nations. This colourful motif will be on display at participating galleries and venues.

Meschac Gabahas

Ruth Mackenzie, Director, London 2012 Festival, said: “I am particularly delighted that this exceptional exhibition of art from West Africa will be part of the London 2012 Festival programme bringing once in a lifetime opportunities to experience culture to people across the north-west.”

For further details and continued updates please visit the website here.


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One Response


    Hmmmm…I hope we get to see what this was about here at fabmagazineonline


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