Bags of attitude: African art at Maxxi in Rome

A gleaming white animal skull with twisted horns casts its shadow on the floor to suggest a hovering vulture; the beast’s body is a serpentine flow of stitched and slashed black leather and ribbon, rising, falling, collapsing in a heap, dying.

Self-assured, malevolent, determinedly exotic, Nicholas Hlobo’s “Waxhotyiswa engekakhawulwa” sprawls at the centre of African Metropolis, a multi-hued, cacophonous exhibition of work by artists from some two dozen African countries, just opened at Maxxi, Rome’s 21st-century art museum.

Talking its own language of sewing and cutting, junk and textiles, but evoking numerous allusions to the western canon — Francis Bacon’s seeping…

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