A dream? Or a new art movement

Updated 1:48 PM ET, Tue November 25, 2014
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There is nothing niche about African art. Not these days. Once relegated to the dusty corners of the world's cultural institutions, art from the continent is finally stepping into the spotlight.

Need proof? Look no further than London's Somerset House, which recently hosted the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Europe's largest collection of African art. Artists hailed from every African country (there are 54, hence the exhibit's name) as well as the diaspora.

By Lauren Said-Moorhouse, for CNN.
"This year we are expanding the fair to feature a wider range of artists, each of the highest caliber. We aim to act as a catalyst for generating momentum in this exciting emerging market," said Touria El Glaoui, founder of 1:54, in an official statement. CARL COURT/AFP/GettyImages/File
A Moroccan Man, Omar Victor Diop, 2014

"For the very first time, I chose to use myself as object in my artistic expression. This was a tough exercise, as I had to be both narrator and character, which forced me to face my own insecurities," Diop reveals.

He used sports props to weave a modern narrative into his work.

"I didn't want to just shoot copies of these portraits," he says. "Hence I used references to sport, football in particular, to show the duality of living a life of glory and recognition while facing the challenges of being 'other.'"
Left: Courtesy of Magnin-A/Right: Omar Victor Diop
The Prowess of a Mutant Underdog, Adjani Okpu-Egbe, 2014

Cameroon artist Adjani Okpu-Egbe uses mixed media to reflect on his personal relationships. In The Power of a Mutant Underdog, he depicts his tumultuous relationship with his father, who disapproved Okpu-Egbe's choice to pursue an art over a career in business. Today, Okpu-Egbe uses profits from his art to pay for his ailing father's health and hospital stays, a subject that is also addressed in his paintings.
Lauren Said-Moorhouse/CNN
Homeless Hungry Homo, Adejoke Tugbiyele, 2014

"Activism helps me stay in touch with the issues and ideas I respond to in my work. My work in turn educates and empowers others who are suffering in Nigeria, Africa and beyond," she notes.

In "Homeless Hungry Homo," a sculpture made from palm stems, yarn, perforated metal, and dollar bills (the latter make up the African mask), she is making a statement about the link between homosexuality and poverty in Africa.

"(It) comments on how gay Africans are not exempt -- and often times more likely to end up -- in poverty because of the dual criminalization and demonization of same-sex love," she says. "It also comments on the fear of poverty as a result of coming out, and the notion that people will choose to remain 'masked' and in the closet for that reason."
Lauren Said-Moorhouse/CNN
Mohamed and Daughters, Maimouna Gueressi, 2009

Heavily influenced by the experimentation of body art in the 1970s, 63-year-old Maimouna Gueressi is a photographer, sculptor, video- and installation- artist who splits her time between Italy and Senegal.

Her work often addresses the subject of female empowerment. She tends to showcase different cultures to reveal aspects of the today's multicultural society.
Courtesy of M.I.A Gallery
The Night of the Long Knives I, Athi-Patra Ruga, 2013

If Athi-Patra Ruga's trippy photographs look like they could grace the cover of Vogue, it's because fashion has long been an inspiration for the South African artist. This particular work is connected to a series of performance pieces called "The Future White Woman of Azania," which examine race, gender and the African ideal.
"Untitled" (Demoiselles de Porto-Novo series), Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, 2012

Benin photographer Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou is one of the most celebrated names showcased at 1:54. The 49-year-old Porto Novo-based artist is continuing his ongoing portraiture project, which aims to capture life in the capital of the West African nation.

Set against a magnificent backdrop of colonial architecture owned by the Agbodjelou family, his most recent series of photographs, which focuses on the young women of the city, is perhaps his most intimate.
Courtesy of Jack Bell Gallery
Waxology serie #1, Fabrice Monteiro, 2014

Fabrice Monteiro is an emerging talent from Benin and Belgium. Somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades, Monteiro doesn't like to be shoehorned solely as an artist. He has a background in industrial engineering and has also worked as a model -- experiences that show through in his art, which is a cross between photojournalism and fashion photography.
Courtesy of M.I.A. Gallery
Missing, Peju Alatise, 2013

Nigerian Peju Alatise is a renowned artist, architect and author who draws inspiration from the world around her and her roots to create poignant works for the public.

Recently, her work has focused on the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls, who are represented in this series of silhouetted portraits.
Lauren Said-Moorhouse/CNN
Atlas Flower Barrel, Sokari Douglas Camp, 2014

Nigeria-born artist Sokari Douglas Camp likes to make drawings out of metal. Her work is playful and experimental. She describes the process involved in creating "Atlas Flower Barrel."

"I thought flowers would be light. I wanted something light about it. I thought daisies. But the bloody thing is heavy. It kept toppling over. The whole thing made me laugh because it's heavy. It all fitted quite well, and was quite spontaneous."
Lauren Said-Moorhouse/CNN
Microcron Begins No 17, Owusu Ankomah, 2013

Born in Sekondi, Ghana in 1956, Owusu Ankomah is a highly-regarded painter who often delves into the subject of identity by incorporating Adinkra symbolism in his work. In this piece, which explores the artist's own journey of self-discovery, a shadow version of Ankomah moves through the icons.
copyright, Joachim Fliegner Courtesy October Gallery
Composition de Plumes, Abdoulaye Konate, 2012

Mali-born Abdoulaye Konate is one of Africa's best-known artists. Konate often uses textiles -- which are more readily available than paint -- to make statements about West African politics. A former graphic designer, he has a fine eye for color and composition.
Courtesy Primo Marella Gallery
Abebe, J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, 1975

Presented by the Center for Contemporary Art, Lagos, founder and curator Bisi Silva has spent five years compiling the near-complete works of the acclaimed late Nigerian photographer J.D. Okhai Ojeikere.

"You're getting a sort of history of Nigeria at a very important, transitional period, just on the cusp of independence," says Silva about Ojeikere's work.

"(Then), there (was) a feeling of euphoria, feeling of liberation, the sense of 'now we can conquer the world, we can develop the nation; we are free, we are independent.'"
© J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere/Courtesy Galerie MAGNIN-A, Paris.
Le Salon Paris, Hassan Hajjaj, 2010

This is a mixed media installation from Morrocan-born artist Hassan Hajjaj showcasing a traditional souk scene using recycled materials. The 53-year-old artist splits his time between London and Marrakesh and has previously been recognized for his vibrant presentation of Islamic-inspired artwork and his North African heritage.
Courtesy of Rose Issa Projects