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Cultural Olympiad brings West Africa art to Britain

Updated: 2012-08-09 10:28

Paintings, photography textiles, sculptures and sound works from West Africa have brought different atmosphere and cultures to Britain's old industrial city Manchester which is now hosting Olympic soccer matches, attracting big numbers of soccer fans and tourists.

"We Face Forward -- Art from West Africa Today" is part of the on-going London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival, the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements.

The event, including exhibitions, concerts, and community activities, is aimed to give better understanding of both the historic and contemporary links between Manchester and the various countries in West Africa, exploring ideas of economic and cultural exchanges, environment and stainability between the two sides, and the place of tradition in contemporary culture.

"This exhibition brings the dynamism of West African art today to Manchester, as the world comes to the UK for the Olympics," said Maria Balshaw, director of Whitworth Art gallery and Manchester City Galleries.

"Manchester's connections to West Africa are part of its industrial and trading history," Balshaw said.

The paintings, photography and art works display the life, culture and social activities of people in West African countries.

Romuald Hazoume, an artist from Benin, skillfully employs wide variety of media in his artworks, including painting, video, photos and sculpture, using every day found objects to create art works with his imagination. His works have strong sense of humor and also deeply seriousness.

Each of his mask made with discarded plastic bottles is a portrait suggesting an actual person or type, said Natasha Howes, curator of the Manchester Art Gallery.

At Whitworth Art Gallery, the street-trader's cart from the Benin artist is stocked with still-functioning goods discarded in the West Africa for the new thing, a form of art.

Hazoume's video film depicts Benin's illegal petrol smugglers who dangerously ferry contraband petrol between Nigeria and their local consumers.

The summer-long event puts on show art works from more than 30 artists from West African countries including Nigeria, Benin, Mali, Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana.

London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival is nationwide celebration of the London Olympic Games to bring together leading artists from across the world. It runs from early June to the end of the Paralympic Games on September 9. It is purported to have ordinary people across the UK involved in the Olympic gala.

Manchester, known for its two prestigious soccer teams, Manchester United and Manchester City, is hosting nine soccer matches during the 2012 London Olympic Games.

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