Monday, December 14, 2020

Highlights from the "Rethinking Africa" Symposium, Sept. 9, 2020




The Rethinking Africa virtual symposium organized by The Osasu Show took place on Sept. 9, 2020. Dr. Kingsley Moghalu and I gave the keynotes, whereas speakers included former Presidents of Nigeria (Goodluck Jonathan)  and Malawi (Joyce Banda), the Nigerian entertainer and politician, Banky W; the Nigerian educator and entrepreneur, Chike Ukaegbu; the South African entrepreneur Keorapetse Kalaote; Gayle E. Smith, CEO of The One Campaign; Benedict Oramah, CEO of Afreximbank; and Kenyan civil rights lawyer, Patrick L. O. Lumumba

Click HERE for the video

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Two teaching positions in Modern/Contemporary African/African Diaspora Art and Visual Culture at The Courtauld, London

"The Courtauld is advertising for two positions in Modern and Contemporary Art and Visual Culture with a specialism in Black studies, and/or the arts of Africa, and/or its global diasporas. Joining the permanent faculty of 35 academics, these new colleagues will enable The Courtauld to extend and deepen teaching and research in this thriving field of study.

We welcome applications from scholars working in the field of art history, or in the visual arts and culture in dialogue with one or more interdisciplinary areas such as: critical race theory; decolonial/postcolonial studies; film and media studies; gender/queer studies; architecture; ecocriticism; performance studies; visual anthropology, and curating. Areas of focus may include, but are not limited to, Black British culture, the Black Atlantic, Négritude, Pan-African movements, African-American history and exhibition histories.


These appointments offer an exciting opportunity to provide academic leadership in fields of critical importance to the discipline, within and beyond The Courtauld Institute of Art. We welcome applications from those at any post-doctoral (or equivalent) career stage, and encourage applications from early-career scholars as well as senior scholars with outstanding track records in research leadership, publication, curriculum design and/or reform, teaching and academic administration. The appointed faculty will have an important role in transforming teaching and research at The Courtauld with colleagues."


Full details can be found at: https://jobs.courtauld.ac.uk/Vacancy.aspx?ref=386  and applicants interested in discussing the role informally before submitting an application may contact Professor Jo Applin, Head of Art History at The Courtauld Institute of Art via email at jo.applin@courtauld.ac.uk.

We would be very grateful if you could circulate this to those who might be interested.  And please excuse us if you have received this information from other colleagues

With kind regards
Deborah 


Professor Deborah Swallow

Märit Rausing Director

 

Tel: 020 3947 7575

Email: deborah.swallow@courtauld.ac.uk

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Speech at George Floyd Candlelight Vigil, in Cranbury, NJ


This evening I spoke at a candlelight vigil co-organized by the Coalition for Peace Action, the Bayard Rustin Center and area high school students led by the amazing Princeton High junior Isabel Sethi. 


Here is the text of my speech:

Two nights days ago, another black man, Rayshard Brooks, was gunned down by the police in Atlanta. Someone had called the police on him. And when two white officers showed up, there was a rough up. Rayshard took one officer’s Taser and ran. Seconds later, they pumped bullets into his body and went about searching for the casings while Rayshard bled to death. What was his crime? Sleeping in his car in a parking lot.

For the past three weeks, we watched thousands, in cities large and small, take to the streets to express their outrage at the terrible incident in Minneapolis on May 25. We all watched in disgust as a white police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd, and for nine minutes squeezed the life out of him in broad daylight. What was his crime? They suspected him of using a counterfeit 20-dollar bill.

The loathsome murder of Floyd has rightfully awakened America to the ugliness of a history that reaches back hundreds of years. This history began with the sale, humiliation, dehumanization and exploitation of black people shipped from Africa to build, unpaid, the powerful nation that America is today. And, for long black people have cried out, begged, revolted, and campaigned against the regime of oppressive violence that marked their existence in the United States.

For long, white America, ignored the condition of black Americans, even after they were granted full citizenship and given the benefit of equal rights under the law. For long, black people have waited, prayed, and hoped that the transformation of the police—an institution that openly terrorized black people in the era of slavery and Jim Crow—would be complete, and that black encounters with the police, no matter how ordinary, do not end in injury, trauma or death. The murder of George Floyd by the police, it seems, has done what countless others could not do; it seems to have ignited the moral outrage of white America about an age-old black experience.

Yet, the murder of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor and countless other black men and women is not just an indictment on the police; it is an indictment on any town or county or state that hires the police, arms them and demands of them to maintain law and order by any means necessary. We do all this and not accept that the failures our police is on us?

Each American that excuses state-sanctioned violence, celebrates our gun culture, and ignores the transformation of police in black neighborhoods into occupying forces is responsible for the morbid outcome of America’s investment in a culture of forceful policing of black people and black communities.

Beyond ongoing debates about reforming or defunding the police, each one of us must ask ourselves tonight:

Am I willing to stop not only police killings of the George Floyds, Rayshad Brooks, Breonna Taylors, Eric Garners, and Sandra Blands but to actively seek the end of the systemic racism that undervalues black lives, black experience and black citizenship? Do I want retain an America in which white people’s comfort depends on the oppression and exploitation of black and other racial minorities? And, are we willing and ready to accept that racism in America was invented and maintained by white people; and that it is white people’s burden to end it?

When I see the unprecedented diversity of the people out in America’s streets demanding for justice for George Floyd; when I see the thousands of youths—including the co-organizers of tonight’s vigil—call for drastic change, I am hopeful.
The past and present failed black people in America; the youths of today, inspired by the irrepressible leaders of BlackLives Matter, must decide on a different and just future, for America’s sake.

Each of us, especially the white people here tonight, must be the change we want to see in our society, and that change starts with how we see and relate with black people in our families, neighborhoods, schools, towns, and counties. If we do not commit, in our daily lives, to the end of individual or systemic racism in America, no amount of candlelight vigils for George Floyd, or for the next black victim of police violence, will save us from the indictment of history.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Response to Christie's: June 29 Auction of Blood Art from Nigeria


Am I surprised that the response from Christie’s would be that they are going ahead to make some money from Biafran Blood Art, because they believe those objects were legally acquired? No. What else could they say, if, it appears, they are bent on going ahead with the sale?

Yet, I am unimpressed and frankly miffed by their miserable attempt to redefine the term “in situ” as applied to African Art. I believe I know this field. And, I want to ask Christie’s to name these so-called well-respected scholars that have redefined the term “in situ” to refer to objects “collected by an African dealer before being sold to a foreign collector outside of the African continent.” The time is long past when defining Africa was some kind of lethal sport by colonial foot soldiers and colonially minded scholars.

Christie’s can remove the “in situ” they already have in their auction catalogue, if they wish. Doing that does not matter, as there is no “confusion” to clear up. Mr. Kerchache acquired these objects from a war zone (as that war raged), and that is the point. Whether or not he—once described by Wall Street Journal as the “Gallic Indiana Jones for his insatiable wanderlust and thirst for adventure”--like a few Europeans like him were parked somewhere outside of the Nigerian-Cameroon border to receive these objects and ship them to Europe is not really important.  Moreover, which part of the UNESCO Convention of 1954 on Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (Accessioned by the Nigerian Government in 1961) protects the art works looted from Eastern Nigeria during that armed conflict?

Let me be clear. I write these notes for the record, as I only half-hoped that Christie’s would do the right thing. I might not have the energy or live long enough to pursue this matter to its logical conclusion. However, we are a people with long and persistent memory; we will not forget what happened to our cultural heritage during that war and who played what role in it then and now.
Christie’s and others in Europe and elsewhere can sit tight on their colonial high horse, and dismiss concerns about merchandizing these alusi figures, and Royal Benin works. After all Africa and Africans do not matter. Right? Christie’s and its ilk may cloak themselves in and even cite laws written to serve the powerful and the hegemon. Yet, profiting from Blood Art by its keepers and dealers, and mealy-mouthed justification for their actions, is not just arrogant and insolent; it is downright WRONG.

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the continuing global response to it, I sit here in my corner and watch the mea culpas and confessions of individuals and institutions who suddenly realize that they had participated in or benefitted from systemic racism and exploitation of black people in the US, Europe and elsewhere. I wonder if Christie’s have issued or will issues their own solidarity message before the June 28 auction of Blood Art another nation of black people.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Art and BlackLivesMatter Protests: Podcast of my interview by The New Arab


#BlackLivesMatter: How art is inspiring solidarity from the streets of America to the Middle East


Last week, I was interviewed by Gaia Caramazza, a producer at The New Arab for a program on the role and place of art in the ongoing anti-racist protest movement spurred by the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. I think she did a fine job of the podcast titled "#BlackLivesMatter: How Art is Inspiring Protests from the Streets of America to the Middle East." If you wish to listen to the podcast, click HERE. My segment begins at about 19:30 minutes.