With a desire to create an inspiring support base for contemporary African artists, that also provided fundraising for the creative and artistic development of Africans and their community, Carina Bekkers formed Sanaa Afrika.
‘I wanted to provide these artists with opportunities to showcase their beautiful art and craft online, in galleries and at exhibitions,” says Carina.
Sanaa Afrika has been operating successfully since 2005 and were recent standouts at the recent Decoration + Design.
In June, Sanaa Afrika opened its first outlet in Terrigal NSW, specialising in a variety of artwork and high quality craft including stone and wooden statues, delicate porcelain bowls, digital limited prints, fine art and a range of contemporary versions of traditional items such as masks, gourds, drums, master weaver basketry and batik.
We caught up with Carina to ask her about the humanitarian side of Sanaa Afrika, the success of the brand, and running on ethical and fair trade principles.
A huge part of the company structure is the humanitarian side – can you please explain this and how you support the creative in Africa?
Only since the 1980s has Contemporary African art gained ground and then mainly in Europe and America with large exhibitions and dedicated galleries. The African art ‘appealing’ to the Western art market was and to a large degree still is that which represents ‘struggle’ rather than ‘art-for-art’. With hardly any culture infrastructure in place across Africa, artists [continue to] produce works to meet the taste of those who buy their work.
Things are changing albeit slowly and many African countries are taking the first steps to creating such a cultural infrastructure with artists setting up cooperatives, opening private art galleries and holding exhibitions. This is an exciting development and one I support by providing artists with an international platform to showcase their work.
I buy direct from the artist or cooperatives and I have a reliable network of people on the ground who are themselves artists or involved in art and just as passionate as I am about promoting African art.
I operate on fair trade and ethical business principles and give artists recognition for their work. Some artists live in remote areas with limited resources, others live in urban areas but all are trying to support themselves and their families through the sale of their art.
How successful has the brand been in Australia? Do you sell overseas also?
I am the only one in Australia focusing on genuine Contemporary African art and my exhibitions in Melbourne, Sydney and Newcastle have been very successful. I sell nation-wide online and have two exhibition spaces on the Central Coast. A recent art critique in the Newcastle Herald on the Rainbow Savannah Exhibition at the Newcastle Art Space recognised what I am trying to do for Contemporary African art in Australia, finding many similarities with the early struggle for recognition of Indigenous Australian art.
You recently exhibited at D+D Melbourne, what was the response/feedback to your brand/products?
Good reviews from stand visitors on the products, and positive response on the overall mission of Sanaa Afrika.