The launch of Afripedia Art sets out to reshape the Nordic art scene
We speak to the team behind Afripedia Art, together with one of the artists curated for the venture, on the demand for inclusivity and accessibility within the art world.
by AYLIN FRANZON
November 06, 2023
While both having long, illustrious careers within the film and media industry, Teddy Goitom and Senay Berhe early on became aware of the lack of spotlight shone on creatives of African descent and their stories. With what began as a conviction to highlight the nuanced tapestry of the creative scene on the African continent, they set out to capture stories that inspired them. The fruit of their labour being the Afripedia documentary series that launched in 2014 — a series of five short films, shot in South Africa, Angola, Ghana, Kenya and Senegal.
The project made to illustrate the artistic field in Africa evolved into a prolific selection of creative talents of African descent, collected in a digital index, also titled Afripedia, and released in 2019. Now the Afripedia team are gearing up for their next big venture: Afripedia Art. The platform’s aim is to reshape the creative industry and to facilitate opportunities for artists by selling their original prints.
Scandinavian MIND talks to one of the founders, Teddy Goitom, his co-worker Rahwa Dagnew and one of the artists curated for the project, Saba Tadele on how this venture could be a progressive beacon within the industry, changing its dynamics and leveraging an open and inclusive space for its players.
Tell us more about this new project.
— I was studying art market economics in 2020, and when they were talking about how the field was getting more transparent regarding sources and prices, it caught my interest and led me to think about the potential of E-commerce, Teddy says. With my experience, I knew about the many challenges artists have when trying to reach out with their art and the complexities of the art world. I also thought about the reasons why young people couldn’t buy art and that Afripedia could play a part in solving that problem.
— I brought these ideas to the team and we noticed that there were many companies selling prints, but finding prints produced by artists of African descent was still a major challenge.
— The art scene can be quite exclusive and this is a response to that. — we want to help creatives and their art to be made more accessible to the community. Our community has expressed a demand for this type of art and ways for it to be made accessible. It’s our job to listen to that demand, and it’s our mission to enable it, Rahwa explains.
How did you choose the artist roster?
— The website features both established artists alongside emerging ones. It lines up with our values of inclusivity and it’s also to inspire others through this type of representation as well, Rahwa says, adding:
— For the launch of Afripedia Art, we’ve curated a selection of artists who are based here in Sweden, one of them being Saba Tadele and the other is Afripedia co-founder, Senay Berhe. We see this roster of creatives expanding well into the future.
How has the Swedish art world progressed in terms of inclusivity and diversity?
— I grew up in a household where art has always been present through my father, who was an artist, and the various art exhibitions and fairs that he took us to in order to enter the creative space, Saba says. I recall his struggles to establish himself as an artist here in Sweden, having come from Ethiopia in the late eighties. I can see progress since then, although it’s been slow. The space allowed for artists like myself is very limited and it leads to us almost having to climb on top of one another at times, to be among the few who could get a seat at the table. We need to take the matter into our own hands and show the way forward.
What efforts would you like to see the creative industries make in order to help drive change?
— A crucial aspect of the Afripedia philosophy is to make sure that inclusivity and representation are taken into account with roles that are behind the camera as well as in front of, states Rahwa. And more efforts overall are being taken by allowing more different perspectives. I want creatives to be able to be free in their own creativity and not to be put in a folder simply because they’re of African descent. Their art doesn’t need to be political, it can just be art in itself.
— Much of it lies in power dynamics, notes Teddy. If there is no interest from the ones in a position of power to participate in change and enabling opportunities, we need to create those spaces of opportunities ourselves and shift that dynamic.
What does your core community look like?
— It varies in that sense that different projects have different target audiences, Rahwa explains. But more so than that, it’s something we’ve gathered throughout the years. It’s for the people who feel the need to see themselves represented, and those who share those values. It doesn’t matter what you look like. The community is for all of those who think something is important and worthwhile.
Saba, what does Afripedia Art mean to you and what do you think it could mean to other artists?
— Art to me is a basic human necessity, states Saba. Being able to feel represented and to identify with art is something that is essential to a person. And even though I’m one of the creators featured, I think it’s a beautiful space where I can support art created by artists within my own community. This platform is the way forward for us as a community to enrich the creative field in Sweden.
Any reflections and observations on the art world that you’d like to share?
— I’ve seen a huge change from just five years ago, comments Teddy. How young people are creating and selling their art with the help of social media and creating their own communities through their audience in the process.
— I’m very inspired by the younger generation of artists, Rahwa says. How they’re taking charge of their own art and creativity. They’re paving their own way. Social media as a tool to create your own platform, where you can inspire a community of your own and where it doesn’t have to be as competitive as the art world and the creative industry usually has to be
— As we artists are now creating our own platforms, it leads to more varied connections on the art scene, Saba highlights. Although, today there are so many different roles that an artist must take on for them to be able to gain traction and it can be difficult to reach out with your art. That’s why I truly appreciate that my work is a part of a project where there is a shared vision for art to be made more accessible to people.