African Art & Architecture

Africa's contemporary art scene is grabbing global attention as the fastest growing and most exciting market. Across the continent, young, talented local and international architects are transforming its landscape with cutting edge, innovative designs that are uniquely African.

As Homo sapiens emerged out of Africa 300,000 years ago, creativity and ingenuity led to artistic expression, primarily through rock art preserved as ancient natural galleries around the continent. Botswana's Tsodilo Hils, home to 4,000 individual paintings created by San Bushmen 100,000 years ago, is called the ‘The Louvre of the Desert’.
Africa's art and architecture span over thousands of years yet modern Africa has, until recently, trailed behind the rest of the world. This has changed with Africa's contemporary art scene grabbing global attention as the world’s fastest growing and most exciting market. At the same time, across Africa, young, talented local and international architects are transforming the continent's landscape with cutting edge, innovative designs that are uniquely African.


African art still suffers from the outdated reputation of wooden masks and tribal paintings. Whilst they do exist and are happily snatched up by the masses at the tourist markets and shops, there is also an incredibly exciting and innovative contemporary art scene currently exploding throughout the continent, gaining international attention.

Emerging artistsThe modern art scene in Africa is about moving away from outdated ideas and generating new perspectives, whilst sending strong messages of pride and identity. Africa has a growing list of exceptional artists whose aesthetic innovation is causing global waves. Using their creations to interpret and portray Africa’s socio-economic realities, political challenges, rich traditions and diverse beauty, these artists influence the evolution of contemporary art in Africa.

South Africa is leading the charge with artists ranging from the world-renowned to the new and emerging, showcasing a wide range of visual arts including paint, sculpture, print, photography and installations. Local artists we recommend include William Kentridge, Dylan Lewis, Lionel Smit, Beezy Bailey, Wim Botha, Deborah Bell, Angus Taylor, Zanele Muholi and Mary Sibande. Many foreign artists reside in South Africa, drawn to its relatively open and liberal attitudes, such as exiled Zimbabwean artist Kudzania Chiurai, a multimedia artist and activist.

Ethiopia has also emerged as one of the continent’s burgeoning hubs of contemporary art, with a host of art galleries in Addis Ababa showcasing such artists as Julie Mehretu, Elias Sime, Tadesse Mesfin and Dawit Abebe. Other African artists to watch out for are the Congo's Cheri Samba, Uganda's Maria Naita, Kenya's Wangechi Mutu, and Rwanda's Innocent Nkurunziza.
Contemporary art galleries and museumsFrom Addis Ababa to Cape Town, the contemporary art scene is exploding, with a slew of new and established art galleries and museums showcasing the best that the continent has to offer.

South Africa: There is no doubt that South Africa is the main centre of contemporary art in Africa with both Cape Town and Johannesburg boasting a range of renowned galleries and museums. South Africa is home to many world-class galleries at the forefront of contemporary art promoting prominent artists and up-and-coming creative local and African talents.
The Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa) in Cape Town is the world’s largest museum showcasing African Art in a repurposed grain silo. The museum has over 100 gallery spaces exhibiting the works of artists from all over the continent. Cape Town's Everard Read and Goodman galleries, and the Norval Foundation museum are worth visiting and there are many boutique art galleries in town as well as around the Cape Winelands.
Ethiopia: In 2019, the New York Times named Addis Ababa as one of Africa’s most dynamic emerging art scenes. Hot on the heels of South Africa, Ethiopia’s capital should be top of mind for every art traveller.  ZOMA Contemporary Art Centre is a sanctuary that embraces nature while redefining contemporary art. It prides itself in having transformed the lives of artists, giving them an international platform. Other notable art galleries include Addis Fine Art and LeLa Gallery.

Kenya: Nairobi's Circle Art Agency was founded by a curator and ex-artist and is now an art institution in Kenya, boasting the title of East Africa’s first independent art gallery. Other notable galleries to explore in Nairobi are the Banana Hill Art Gallery and Art Lab Africa.
Cities such as Kigali (Rwanda), Kampala (Uganda), Arusha (Tanzania) and Harare (Zimbabwe) are also home to contemporary art galleries carrying an exquisite selection of local and African art from established and emerging artists.

Curated African art toursWhether you are a serious art collector who wishes to purchase that one special piece to remember your trip by, or are just interested in learning more about Africa’s dynamic art scene, we can arrange bespoke tours to meet your taste in art. We have an inventory of specialist guides and art curators who can assist with special access to local artists’ studios, after-hours private tours of leading galleries and museums, and access to local art dealers and curators who can set up private meetings with local artists.


Like all aspects of African culture, its architecture is diverse with a history that spans thousands of years from the great pyramids of Egypt and Sudan to the gleaming concrete and steel cities in sub-Saharan Africa and the uber-chic luxury safari lodges that are redefining how we travel.
For ancient and medieval architecture, look no further than Ethiopia. Spanning from the biblical to the modern, Ethiopia is a journey through time from the Great Temple of the Moon in Yeha, to the incredible churches of Lalibela, and the royal city of Gondar with its magnificent castles. For lovers of colonial architecture, explore the distinctive Dutch Cape architecture of South Africa, or for a taste of Bavaria, visit the town of Swakopmund in Namibia. The British left their mark in many landmark buildings in Kenya and Zimbabwe, particularly in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city. Finally, the Portuguese left an indelible mark on the architectural style of Mozambique, leaving touches reminiscent of Macau and Brazil.
Aside from Cape Town’s beautiful, beachfront modernist buildings, Africa gets little attention when it comes to contemporary architecture and design. Fortunately, in recent years, both local and international architects, as well as the occasional renowned “starchitect”, have shifted their attention to Africa and are redefining modern African architectural style. Contemporary African architecture is extremely varied and distinct with tourism being the driving force behind many of Africa’s most innovative new designs.
Here are some of our favourite architectural marvels to include in your itinerary:
Silo Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa: The Silo Hotel is a celebration of art, architecture, style, and design. This magical hotel has been built on top of a grain elevation portion of a historic grain silo complex above the Zeitz MOCCA, right in Cape Town’s iconic V&A Waterfront.

Shipwreck Lodge, Skeleton Coast, Namibia: Inspired by the survivors of the ill-fated ship Dunedin Star along the desolate and harsh Skeleton Coast landscape, the recreated wreckage fragments provide luxurious shelter against the relentless wind and searing sun, with the cabins spread out along the dune edge.​

Bisate Lodge, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda: Inspired by the iconic design of the King’s Palace at Nyanza, Bisate's luxurious spherical, thatched villas echo the thousands of hills that dot the Rwandan landscape, boasting sweeping views towards the nearby volcanoes.

Nay Palad Bird Nest, Segera Retreat, Laikipia, Kenya: Africa’s quirkiest safari accommodation is the Nay Palad Bird Nest. This double-level raised suite has been built with interwoven tree branches and a circular viewing platform offering spectacular 360-degree views over the surrounding plains of Laikipia.

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge, Botswana: Raised on stilts and with a wooden deck that weaves its way organically through the wild palms and gnarled fig trees, this lodge is designed in the distinctive form of the elusive pangolin, with its curved wooden rooftops inspired by nests of golden weaver birds.

Ellerman House, Cape Town, South Africa: Built in the 1920s for shipping magnate Sir John Ellerman, this elegant Sir Herbert Baker-style mansion has been restored to contemporary splendour. The boutique hotel is also home to one of the most valuable and extensive South African art collections.

The Highlands, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania: Combining cutting-edge design with an intimate setting within the lush forest that sprawls along the Olmoti Volcano, this luxury camp offers stylish canvas and glass domed suites that draw their inspiration from traditional Maasai bomas (villages).

Africa's art and architecture are as diverse as the continent itself, with subtle European influences on fresh African talent, resulting in unique art pieces to peruse and potentially collect, and magnificent structures to explore and admire.

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We do not subscribe to the ‘one-size-fits-all’ philosophy. Sample itineraries and cost estimates are meant purely as a guide. To find out more, please contact one of our expert travel consultants to plan a customized itinerary based on your budget and interests.