Curatorial Voices: Modern and Contemporary Art from Africa

Live Virtual Auction, 28 February 2023

Curatorial Voices: Modern and Contemporary Art from Africa
About the Session

Curatorial Voices: Modern and Contemporary Art from Africa is a dynamic collaborative project conceived by Strauss & Co to address the need for diversified representation of artists from across the African continent in the secondary market. Curated by Strauss & Co Heads of Sale, Kirsty Colledge and Kate Fellens, with input by seven international art experts with embedded knowledge of Africa; Serge Tiroche, Valerie Kabov, Heba Elkayal, Danda Jaroljmek, Anne Kariuki, Dana Endundo Ferreira, Kimberley Cunningham. Curatorial Voices presents collectors with a broad selection of work by leading contemporary artists alongside select pieces by important historical artists.

  • Serge Alain Nitegeka; Fragile Cargo II; Studio Study II, diptych
  • Serge Alain Nitegeka; Fragile Cargo II; Studio Study II, diptych
  • Serge Alain Nitegeka; Fragile Cargo II; Studio Study II, diptych
  • Serge Alain Nitegeka; Fragile Cargo II; Studio Study II, diptych
  • Serge Alain Nitegeka; Fragile Cargo II; Studio Study II, diptych

Lot Estimate
ZAR 300 000 - 500 000

About this Item

Burundian/South African 1983-
Fragile Cargo II; Studio Study II, diptych
acrylic on wood, two panels
each: 227 by 119 by 6cm, unframed


In 1993, Serge Alain Nitegeka fled the conflict in Burundi for Rwanda with his family. After periods in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Kenya, he settled in Johannesburg in 2003. Nitegeka is interested in the poetics of displacement, and repeatedly uses industrial wood and black paint to create abstract formalist works that address notions of fracture, adaptation, and survival in the context of forced migration. This lot was first exhibited in a room dominated by a large-scale installation composed of interlocking lengths of wood. Operating both as threshold and obstacle, Nitegeka’s archi-sculptural interventions demand the active participation of viewers. They spatialise in three dimensions the artist’s formal concerns in his paintings, while making palpable the physical experience of displacement.

Notwithstanding the emphasis placed on his refugee status in appraisals of his work, Nitegeka’s hard-edge paintings operate in a context, South Africa, where formal innovation has long been matched by flagrant copying. South African critics have consistently drawn comparisons between Nitegeka’s meticulously fabricated compositions and Piet Mondrian’s grid paintings.1 Kazimir Malevich is also referenced. While his kinship with these ancestors is self-evident, Nitegeka's work is better viewed in relation to Erik Laubscher’s abstract compositions from the late 1950s, which featured interlocking forms in a reduced palette of black, red, and yellow.

Curator and art historian Adrienne Edwards’s recent writing about blackness as material, method and mode in abstraction are also pertinent.2 Nitegeka has used black throughout his career. The colour dominates his work, and is its meaning. Nitegeka credits the soil in a refugee settlement near Mount Nyiragongo, near Goma in the DRC, with initiating his fascination. Wandering barefoot around the encampment, Nitegeka would marvel at how the grey-black volcanic soil covered his limbs like a sock, hiding wounds and wear. Nitegeka’s paintings metabolise the raw information of experience into an allusive visual poetry.3

1. Percy Mabandu (2014) ‘Review: Serge Alain Nitegeka at Stevenson in Johannesburg’, Artthrob, 20 August:
2. Adrienne Edwards (2015) ‘Blackness in Abstraction’, Art in America, 5 January:
3. Sean O'Toole (2020) ‘Crisis of Identification’, ARTnews, Summer. Page 99.

Johannesburg-based, Burundian-born artist Serge Alain Nitegeka works in painting and sculpture – including large site-specific installations that promote participation. His art references issues of identity, culture, and politics as influenced by forced migration, which he experienced as a refugee from Burundi. Nitegeka’s works are minimalist and abstract, often featuring bold black lines and geometric forms.

Nitegeka achieved his BFA in 2009 from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. His accolades include a grant award from The Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation (2019); the Villa Extraordinary Award for Sculpture from the Claire and Edoardo Villa Will Trust (2018); and the Tollman Award for Visual Arts (2010). He has exhibited extensively since 2008, most recently a solo exhibition, Finding Black (2022), at Stevenson, Cape Town, and a group exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, France, entitled Ubuntu, a lucid dream (2021 to 2022).


Stevenson, Johannesburg, 2012.

Cotton Tree Collection.


Stevenson, Johannesburg, Black Lines, 1 to 30 March 2012.

View all Serge Alain Nitegeka lots for sale in this auction

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