Artist Biographies

Indigo Waves and Other Stories: Re-Navigating the Afrasian Sea and Notions of Diaspora

Kelani Abass (b. 1979, Nigeria)

Kelani Abass studied painting at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos. His recent work explores material inheritance and interrogates the coalescence of the past and present. Abass investigates the possibilities inherent in painting, photography and printing to highlight personal stories against the background of social and political events. Kelani exhibited his work at New Photography in Museum of Modern Art in New York in May 2023. Recent solo projects include exhibitions at ART X Lagos (2021), 31 PROJECT, Paris (2020), National Museum Lagos (2019) and Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (2016). He lives and works in Lagos.

Malala Andrialavidrazana (b.1971, Madagascar)

Malala Andrialavidrazana graduated from the National Architecture School of Paris-La Villette (1996) and began her career by extending her investigations of Madagascan burial structures to other cities of the Global South, earning the HSBC Prize for Photography (2004). Her practice is driven by an ethical commitment to reversing problematic gazes. Her latest photocollage series reframes misconceptions derived from colonialism. By subverting and repurposing biased norms, and reinstating unsung figures, her approach resolutely turns towards history, opening the possibility of alternative narratives while evidencing a profound engagement with contemporary issues. She lives and works in Paris.

Shiraz Bayjoo (b. 1979, Mauritius)

Shiraz Bayjoo is a contemporary multi-disciplinary artist who works with film, painting, photography, performance and installation. His research-based practice focuses on personal and public archives addressing cultural memory and postcolonial nationhood in a manner that challenges dominant cultural narratives. Bayjoo has exhibited with the Institute of International Visual Arts, London; New Art Exchange, Nottingham; 5th Edition Dhaka Art Summit; 14th Sharjah Biennial; 13th Dak’Art Biennial of Dakar; and 21st Biennale of Sydney. Bayjoo is a recipient of the Gasworks Fellowship and the Arts Council of England. He was an artist in residence at the Delfina Foundation in 2021, and was recently awarded the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship. In 2022, Bayjoo presented a solo exhibition at the Diaspora Pavilion for the 59th Venice Biennial and has been invited to the 15th edition of Sharjah Biennial.

Rossella Biscotti (b. 1978, Italy)

Rossella Biscotti uses montage as a gesture to reveal individual narratives and their relation to society while simultaneously revealing the supports that create these narratives. In her cross-media practice, cutting across filmmaking, performance and sculpture, she explores and reconstructs social and political moments from recent times through the subjective experiences of individuals often posed against the backdrop of violent institutionalised systems. Biscotti graduated from the Accademia di Belle Arti in Naples in 2002 and attended the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam in 2010–2011. Biscotti has shown at major international exhibitions, including the 55th Venice Biennale (2013), the 13th Istanbul Biennale (2013), documenta 13, Kassel (2012), and Manifesta 9, Genk (2012). She lives and works between Rotterdam and Brussels.

M'barek Bouhchichi (b. 1975, Morocco)

M'barek Bouhchichi graduated with a bachelor’s degree in visual arts from the Centre Pédagogique Régional, Rabat, and has taught art since the mid-1990s, first in Tiznit and now in Tahannaout where he lives. Through installations, paintings, drawings and video, his work makes space for oppressed existences. He also archives traditional craft practices and foregrounds the act of making as a way to question cultural hierarchies and established divisions of labour and value. His work has recently been exhibited at Dak’Art Biennale, Dakar, Savvy Contemporary, Berlin, Kulte Gallery & Editions, Rabat, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, Centre Pompidou, Paris, Mu.Zee, Oostende and Selma Feriani Gallery, Tunis, among others.

Nikhil Chopra (b. 1974, India)

Nikhil Chopra interweaves live art, drawing, photography, sculpture and installation. In his work, daily acts such as eating, resting, washing and dressing, drawing and making clothes become the process of making an artwork. Between 2014 and 2017, he performed at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Bienal de la Habana, the 12th Sharjah Biennial and documenta 14. In 2019 he presented the nine-day-long solo performance Lands, Waters and Skies for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Chopra recently finished a residency at Cité International des Arts in Paris. He lives in Goa, where he runs HH Art Spaces with partners.

Dhow Countries Music Academy (founded 2001, Zanzibar)

The Dhow Countries Music Academy Zanzibar (DCMA) is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation established in March 2001. In September 2002, it opened Zanzibar’s first music school in Stonetown, providing lessons and instruments at low cost to aspiring musicians and music students. It preserves and promotes music heritage of Zanzibar in the Dhow region, which includes countries such as Zanzibar, Comorros, Oman, Kuwait, Iran, U.A.E and India. Particular emphasis is placed on teaching traditional music styles, such as Taarab, Kidumbak, Beni and Ngoma. Dhow Countries Music Academy took its name from traditional sailing vessels from the Indian Ocean region that have long travelled between the East African coast, the Arabian Peninsula and western Asia.

Tishani Doshi (b. 1975, India)

Tishani Doshi publishes essays, fiction and poetry. Her first collection of poems, Countries of the Body, won the Forward Poetry Prize in 2006. For fifteen years worked as the lead dancer with the choreographer Chandralekha in Chennai. Her most recent books are a novel, Small Days and Nights (Norton), which was shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize. A God at the Door (Bloodaxe Books), her fourth full-length collection of poems, was shortlisted for the Forward Poetry Prize 2021. She is a Visiting Associate Professor of Practice, Literature and Creative Writing at New York University Abu Dhabi and otherwise lives in Tamil Nadu.

Köken Ergun (b. 1976, Turkey)

Köken Ergun is an artist with a background in performing arts. His films often deal with communities that are not known to a greater public and the importance of ritual in such groups. Ergun collaborates with ethnographers, historians and sociologists and, since 2020, Ergun has collaborative projects with other artists. He has exhibited internationally at documenta 14, Paris Triennale, Jakarta Biennial, Kathmandu Triennale, Salt Galata, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Para Site, Hong Kong, Artspace Sydney, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, Digital Art Lab, Tel Aviv, Casino Luxembourg and Kunsthalle Winterthur. He received the Tiger Award for Best Short Film at the 2007 Rotterdam Film Festival and the Special Mention Prize at the 2013 Berlinale.

Adama Delphine Fawundu (b. 1971, USA)

Adama Delphine Fawundu is a photographer and visual artist of Mende, Krim, Bamileke and Bubi descent. Her visual language centres around themes of indigenisation and ancestral memory. Fawundu co-published the critically-acclaimed book MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally. Her awards include the Anonymous Was A Woman Award, New York Foundation for The Arts Photography Fellowship and the Rema Hort Mann Artist Grant, among others, and she is a 2022 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition finalist. Fawundu was commissioned by the Park Avenue Armory to participate in the 100 Years | 100 Women Project / The Women’s Suffrage NYC Centennial Consortium (2019–2021). She is an Assistant Professor of Visual Arts at Columbia University, New York.

Haji Gora Haji (1933–2021, Zanzibar)

The writer Haji Gora Haji is considered one of Zanzibar’s greatest poets and has made significant contributions to Swahili poetry and the language itself. He has worked in various genres of Swahili literature, from songs, stories and lengthy epics to three-line riddles, from folk tales handed down by oral tradition to a full-length novel. His early works are inspired by the quiet island Tumbatu and the vibrant Stone Town. His debut Kimbunga was published in 1994, followed by six more books all released in the early 2000s. In 1999, he was invited to represent Swahili poetry at the Poetry International Festival, Rotterdam. In 2006, he developed the first Kitumbatu dictionary, the dialect spoken on Tumbatu, the island where he was born.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami (b. 1993, Zimbabwe)

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami’s work reveals a deeply personal vision of Southern African life. Drawing on her experiences of geographical dislocation and displacement, her paintings combine visual fragments from a myriad of sources such as online images and personal photographs. In 2016, Hwami graduated from Wimbledon College of Arts and was awarded the Clyde & Co. Award, the Young Achiever of the Year Award at the Zimbabwean International Women’s Awards and was shortlisted for Bloomberg New Contemporaries. In 2019, Hwami presented at the 58th Venice Biennale as part of the Zimbabwe Pavilion. In 2022, she showed in The Milk of Dreams at the 59th Venice Biennale. Recent solo exhibitions include Kunsthaus Pasquart, Biel, in 2022, and Gasworks, London, in 2019. Hwami lives and works in the UK.

Clara Jo (b. 1986, USA)

Clara Jo is a Berlin based graduate of Bard College and the Institut für Raumexperimente / Universität der Künste Berlin. Jo works with film, photography and installation to reengage socio-political understandings of the world in ways that entangle the senses. She plays with speculative narratives to offer alternative readings of the terrain through their material imprints and deep erasures, and questions how these stories feed into collective imaginations and fictions during moments of crisis. Her work has been shown at ARKO Art Center, Seoul, Edith-Russ-Haus für Medienkunst, Oldenburg, Spike Island, Bristol, Royal Academy of Arts, London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, and Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin.

Jasmine Nilani Joseph (b. 1990, Sri Lanka)

Jasmine Nilani Joseph is an artist, thinker and critic. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at the University of Jaffna in 2015. Group exhibitions include Human Rights Arts Festival (2017), Colombo; Serendipity Arts Festival (2017), Goa; Dhaka Art Summit (2018); Colomboscope Arts Festival (2019), Colombo; Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Colombo (2019–2020) and Manifesto for artists in a strong state, 2020, Weimar. In 2019 she realised her first solo exhibition at the Art Circle, University of Jaffna. Her works have been shown at 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane. She won the DBF Art Future Award 2022 by Asia Society. She lives and works in Jaffna.

John Njenga Karugia (b. 1980, Kenya)

Dr. John Njenga Karugia is a researcher, lecturer and documentary filmmaker based at the Institute for Asian and African Studies at Humboldt University Berlin. He researched and lectured at the University of Leipzig and Goethe University Frankfurt. He has intensively researched on China-Africa relations, Afrasian interactions, transregional Indian Ocean memory politics and transregional memory ethics. He was a visiting scholar at Duke University and Shanghai Maritime University. His current research focuses on transregional politics, memory politics and memory ethics of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with, amongst other aims, to contribute to Area Studies and Transregional Studies scholarship.

Khải Đơn (b. 1987, Vietnam)

Khải Đơn is a Vietnamese poet, journalist and nonfiction writer born in the Mekong Delta. Her poetry has been published in The Orion Magazine, POETRY Magazine, Cha-Asian, and diaCRITICS. She holds an M.F.A from San Jose State University and won The Academy Of American Poets / Virginia De Araujo Prize in 2021 and 2022. Khải Đơn is pursuing a poetry project about women's bodies fractured by visible and invisible borders in climate crises. Khải Đơn is based in Saigon.

Jeewi Lee (b. 1987, South Korea)

Jeewi Lee is a Berlin-based artist whose multidisciplinary practice examines memory, time and decay. Lee studied painting at the Berlin University of the Arts and at Hunter College University in New York. She has received numerous grants and artist residencies, such as Villa Romana in Florence (2018), and was part of the Festival of Future Now at the Neue Nationalgalerie (2014) and the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum (2017), Berlin. Other institutional group exhibitions include exhibitions include Ruhr Ding: Klima, Urbane Künste Ruhr (2021), Scratching the Surface at Hamburger Bahnhof Museum in Berlin (2021), Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg (2022), Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU (2023) as well as a solo exhibition at Deutsches Architektur Zentrum, Berlin (2023).

Lavanya Mani (b. 1977, India)

Lavanya Mani harnesses traditional Indian craft and textile techniques such as kalamkari, embroidery, tie and dye, appliqué and batik in conjunction with painting on cloth. Whilst re-envisioning the histories of colonial power dynamics and trade in her unique textile language, she powerfully creates a new narrative with the cloth as the storyteller. Questioning the ideas of the “Orient”, she has recontextualised Victorian travellers’ stories through her lens of discovering dye-making. Mani fearlessly embraces the politics of a self-taught contemporary artist using a traditionally male dominated art form of kalamkari to create wider statements in her artistic journey.

Oscar Murillo (b. 1986, Colombia)

Oscar Murillo emigrated to the UK where he graduated with a BA (Hons) in Fine Arts, University of Westminster and an MA from the Royal College of Art, London. In 2019, Murillo was one of four artists to collectively be awarded the Turner Prize. The artist’s distinct works investigate notions of community, informed by cross-cultural personal ties, as well as constant transnational movement. He has created a visual language encompassing recurring elements and motifs which play out across a wide range of media, including painting, video, room-sized installations and actions. He lives and works in various locations.

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (b. 1968, Kenya)

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor is an author, essayist, public thinker, traveller and creative content developer. Owuor has an MPhil in Creative Writing from the University of Queensland, Brisbane. She won the 2003 Caine Prize for African Writing for her story Weight of Whispers. Her first novel, Dust (2007) was translated into several languages. Her next book, The Dragonfly Sea (2019) explores the long historical entanglement of East Africa and China mediated by the seas and a dared oceanic imaginary. She has written for numerous publications worldwide, including National Geographic. She is presently writer-in-resident for the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin where she is working on a new project.

Dominic Sansoni (b. 1956, Sri Lanka)

“Travels with no agenda” is how Dominic Sansoni describes his interest in architecture, people, “sacred space”, festivals and travel. After attending the West Surrey College of Art & Design in the UK he returned to Sri Lanka in 1979. Since the early 1980s he has travelled to and documented the Maldives. Recent projects document the vernacular architecture of South India, community life in North Colombo, and study sacred spaces in Sri Lanka. Sansoni has published several books on these topics. In 2019 he participated in Seas of Change, Colomboscope. He was invited to produce a collection for the Geoffrey Bawa Trust Centenary Celebration in 2020. In the same year he was commissioned to document the work of architect Minnette de Silva for M+ in Hong Kong. Sansoni lives and works in Colombo.

Sim Chi Yin (b. 1978, Singapore)

Sim Chi Yin’s research-based practice uses photography, moving image, archival interventions, performance and book-making to interrogate history, war, memory and extraction. Currently based in New York at the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program, she is also completing a visual practice-based PhD at King’s College London. Her multidisciplinary project on colonialism and memory, One Day We’ll Understand, has been shown in solo exhibitions and biennales in Europe and Asia, and was acquired by the Singapore Art Museum and M+ Hong Kong. Sim has done commissions for the Nobel Peace Centre, Oslo, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary and Autograph London, and is expanding her practice into theatre and VR.

Dan Archer (b. 1980, UK) is the founder and director of Empathetic Media. Since 2015, he has created and overseen several computer-generated non-fiction VR experiences for the Oculus Rift/Quest, HTC Vive and Google Cardboard headsets from the US to Colombia and Bangladesh. He has also directed many 360° videos and written a white paper for the Tow Center for Digital Media on the links between empathy and virtual reality content, which was featured in the Columbia Journalism Review, Nieman Lab and Immerse newsletter. He has contributed to panels, conferences, curriculum and classes on VR/AR/Immersive storytelling at NYU Parsons, the Magnum Foundation, MIT, Tisch, Columbia, i-Docs and the Future of Storytelling. Archer is based in London and is currently a fourth-year PhD student in Computer Science at UCL, writing his thesis on behavioural change, bio signals and embodiment in virtual reality.

Jennifer Tee (b. 1973, Netherlands)

Jennifer Tee gives form to the intangible through material experimentation and performative gestures. Her work responds to experiences of cultural hybridity, identity and language, and trade routes between people, commodities and objects from nature. She was awarded the Amsterdam Prize for the Arts (2020) and the Cobra Art Prize, Amstelveen (2015). Recent solo exhibitions include Kunstinstituut Melly, Rotterdam (2023) and Secession, Vienna (2022). She participated in Busan Biennale (2022) and exhibited at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2021). Tee lives and works in Amsterdam.

Jack Beng-Thi (b. 1951, La Réunion)

Jack Beng-Thi studied sculpture, ceramic design and photography at the École des Beaux Arts Toulouse from 1970–1975. He was awarded the Grand Prix de la Sculpture of the city of Toulouse and was subsequently based at the Cité internationale des Arts de Paris. At the Université de Paris VIII, his research focuses on the history of enslavement and marronage. His sculptures and installations made with clay, plant fibres, photography, sound and light and suggest a connection between body and landscape. In 2010, together with art critic Britto Jinorio, he realised his first retrospective in his native town of Le Port, Cartographie de la mémoire. His 2021 exhibitions La Sagesse des Lianes, Vassivière and Mutual Core, Artothèque, Saint-Denis, touch on issues of memory, syncretism, insularity and mythologies.

Abdourahman A. Waberi (b. 1965, Djibouti)

Novelist, poet and essayist Abdourahman A. Waberi has published several books of fiction (including In The United States of AfricaTransit), non-fiction, poetry and a screenplay, Sankara. His work has been translated into several languages. Waberi has received many awards and fellowships, including a Académie de France à Rome – Villa Médicis fellowship, a DAAD Berliner Künstlerprogramm and La Grande Médaille de la Francophonie from L’Académie française. Waberi teaches French and Francophone Literature and Creative Writing at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Waberi lives in Washington, D.C. and Paris.

Belinda Zhawi (b. 1990, Zimbabwe)

Belinda Zhawi is a Zimbabwean literary and sound artist. She is the author of Small Inheritances (ignitionpress, 2018) and South of South East (Bad Betty Press, 2019), co-founded literary arts platform BORN::FREE and experiments with sound-text performance as MA.MOYO. Her work has been broadcast and published on various platforms including The White Review, NTS Live, Boiler Room and BBC Radio 3, 4 and 6. She has held residencies with Triangle France, Serpentine Galleries and ICA London, amongst others. Belinda hosts Juju Fission (RTM FM), a monthly radio broadcast. She lives and works in South East London.