Cultural commentator Ekow Eshun's top 5 books

Ekow Eshun's new book 'Africa Modern' takes the pulse of South Africa's cultural landscape. He tells us more about it and shares some of his other favourite books

29 October 2017 - 00:00 By Roberta Thatcher
Cultural commentator Ekow Eshun.
Cultural commentator Ekow Eshun.
Image: Yiorgos Kaplanidis

“As a British-born, London-based African, I’m excited and proud about what I see happening, culturally, on the African continent today,” says Ekow Eshun, after having delved deep into the South African cultural landscape while researching the publication Africa Modern: Creating the contemporary art of a continent.

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The book, published to coincide with the opening of the much-anticipated Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz Mocaa) in Cape Town, is edited by Eshun, and celebrates the design and build of the museum, as well as presenting a survey of the creative culture of South Africa and the continent.

“The aim of Africa Modern is to take a portrait, in a small way, of what seems to me to be a fantastically dynamic period in African contemporary art,” Eshun says.

“I wanted to use the book to both mark the opening of the first contemporary art museum in Africa, and also to give space to the breadth of extraordinary creative talent in the continent as a whole, but particularly in South Africa.”


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By Ben Arogundade

"During his time in office former US president Barack Obama amassed more front covers that any other president in history. This book gathers the most powerful and controversial of those images, which depict Obama in a kaleidoscope of guises from Superman, Messiah, and George Washington to feminist, communist and Islamic terrorist."

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Edited by Dieter Buchhart and Eleanor Nairne

"The first large-scale exhibition of Basquiat's work opened in London in September. This is the book of the show, and it profiles the artist's prodigious talent and the breadth of his influences, from graffiti and hip-hop, to bebop jazz and Hollwood cinema. I'm a huge Basquiat fan and this is a comprehensive and insightful survey of his work."

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"This is a wondrous book filled with some of the most spectacular, audacious, and irrational homes ever built. The grace and simplicity of the Eames House, designed by Charles and Ray Eames, stands out. But there's so much here, from the science-fiction-like Lagerfeld Apartment near Cannes, to architect Xavier Corbero's strange and magnificent Labyrinth Home."

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By Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison

"Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man is a dazzling and strange journey through race, identity, and the dark psyche of mid-century America. Around the time of the book's release, Ellison collaborated with the photographer Gordon Parks on two essays, including A Man Becomes Invisible, a 1952 piece for Life magazine that brings to life key scenes from the novel."

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By Joao Rocha

"This isn't a new book, but given the state of geopolitical affairs, it is a timely one. It's a collection of photographs that depict the former 'Dear Leader' of North Korea, surrounded by his flunkeys, looking at things. The images are from the North Korean news agency and the book is a brilliant, deadpan analysis of propaganda imagery." 

'Africa Modern' is produced by the KT Wong Foundation, presented in partnership with Wallpaper* magazine, and edited by Ekow Eshun. 

This article was originally published in The Edit Living, a complimentary magazine sent to select Sunday Times subscribers.