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Pippy Houldsworth Gallery’s first presentation at 1:54 will look at the ways in which textiles are used in contemporary African art to explore notions of place and identity. The booth will include new works by Somali-Swedish artist Ayan Farah and a selection of Meschac Gaba’s iconic, architectural wigs.

Somali-Swedish artist Ayan Farah records the physical and ephemeral traces of distant geographical locations, treating swatches of fabric with natural pigments and organic materials sourced from around the world before stitching them together and stretching them as one piece. Drawing upon historic modes of fabric production such as Bogolanfini mud-cloth making, recent work has incorporated mud from the Dead Sea, terracotta from Mexico and clay from Sweden. Farah's practice reveals the underlying significance of the Somali diaspora within her family history by demonstrating how travelling has become a way of life for the artist in order to produce her work. Farah was born in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates in 1978 to Somali parents and grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. The artist received an MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art, London in 2012. Her work can be found in the permanent collections of the David Roberts Art Foundation, London and Saatchi Gallery, London.

Since the mid-1990s, Meschac Gaba has investigated differences between Africa and the Western world in the construction of cultural identity. Addressing the politics of museum display, Gaba is best known for his Museum of Contemporary African Art, a project in which he installed 12 'rooms' of a nomadic museum in various institutions over a period of six years starting in 1996, culminating with the presentation of a 'Humanist Space' at Documenta 11 in 2002. The entire work now belongs to the permanent collection of Tate, London. Gaba is also well known for his architectonic wigs that reconstruct famous landmarks out of woven hair, looking at the way in which architectural forms are imbued with cultural meaning. Solo exhibitions include those at Tate Modern, London (2012); Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2009); Studio Museum, New York (2005); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2002); Witte de With, Rotterdam (2001) and S.M.A.K. Gent (1999).

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Meschac Gaba
Blaaktoren (The Pencil), 2016
synthetic hair, metal and textile
Photo: Krijn van Noordwijk