Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Modernisms Symposium in South Africa

On June 13 and 17, the Multiple Modernisms Project (MMP) to which I belong will have its final symposium, respectively at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and the University of Cape Town. At the Wits, the program is coordinated by Anitra Nettleton now emeritus professor and art historian at the Wits School of Arts; and at UCT, the art historian and depty Vice Chancellor, Sandra Klopper is the host. Nettleton and Klopper are part of the MMP.

Previous symposia of the MMP have taken place at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2012); Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge University, UK (2013); and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand (2014); in addition to a closed workshop at Princeton University (2015). The first two volumes originating from the Ottawa and Cambridge events are in preparing for publication by Duke University Press.

A highlight of the Cape Town symposium will be my public conversation with El Anatsui who, by the way, will be receiving an honorary doctorate degree from UCT on June 14! Actually UCT--arguably Africa's best university, is doing something noteworthy for contemporary African art: last year it also awarded an honorary degree to Okwui Enwezor.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

To University of South Florida, a Note of Thanks

I was in Tampa, Florida this past weekend to receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award for Outstanding Service in the Arts, from The College of the Arts, University of South Florida. It was such an nice event. Most of professors--David Wright, Brad Nickels, Lou Marcus, and Mernet Larson are now gone. Wally Wilson the chair then is now Director of the School of Art and Art History (my home program then), and Helena Szepe and Elizabeth Fraser are still in the art history program, among a cohort of newer faculty that includes Allison Moore who teaches African Art. Before the ceremony, I visited the MFA exhibition and can say that the program remains as strong as I found it in 1998-1999, when I was there. Some changes have taken place, such as the inclusion of Architecture in the College, and the merging of the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) and the legendary Graphicstudio (the nationally-acclaimed printmaking and print archiving facility) into the Institute for Research in Art headed by Margaret Miller who in my day was just the director of CAM. An oh, I reunited with a ceramic piece I made in 1998, thanks to Irineo Cabreros, who ran the kilns then. Finally, thanks to Dean Moy and Wally Wilson, and all the faculty for this award. USF, was generous to me; it gave me a place of refuge when home threw me out. It set me on my US sojourn and travels through art history. That was more than enough.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ramez Elias, artist, designer, RIP

It is with deep sorrow that we, the editors of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, mourn the death of Ramez Elias, who passed away on Thursday April 21st, 2016 in Paris, France. Ramez was the designer of Nka for the last 16 years. A remarkably talented artist, Ramez has left an indelible mark on the design of Nka, shaping its character, as not only a leading journal, but also an elegant one in the field of contemporary and African and African diaspora art. Ramez was not just a brilliant designer; he was a dear friend. He was generous, kind hearted, and a very caring human being. Words fail us about our loss and sadness. But here at Nka, we shall continue to build on the design vision you established and which has taken us this far.
          Ramez studied at the American University in Cairo (AUC), before moving to Ithaca where he had lived since 1994. He was a multi-talented and creative individual, who besides being a designer, was also gifted theater actor who performed with groups such as Al Warsha, an experimental theater company based in Cairo, Egypt. Ramez hailed from a prominent Egyptian family which played a pioneering role in the rise of the independent publishing industry in Egypt since the early part of the 20th Century. His grandfather Elias Anton Elias, a well known modernist intellectual and the author of one of the first Arabic-English dictionaries in Egypt, was the founder of the Elias Modern Publishing House in 1913, which has contributed tremendously to publishing in the fields of literature, art and children books.
         Our sincere condolences to our friend Natalie Melas, Ramez’s wife, and to his brother Nadim Elias and his wife Laura Elias, and to his nephews Sammy and Karim, his niece Nada El Omari, and to brother-in-law Majdi El Omari, and the extended family in Egypt. 
Rest in peace Ramez. Your memory and the beauty you brought to our lives will forever stay with us, and guide us to better horizons. 

Okwui Enwezor
Salah M. Hassan
Chika Okeke-Agulu
(Editors, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Invitation to Wole Soyinka's Toni Morrison Lectures @ Princeton

Please join us for The 2016 Toni Morrison Lecture Series featuring the writer Wole Soyinka. Wole Soyinka has been described as ‘Nigeria’s national conscience.’ He is a professor, activist, playwright, critique and poet. His work often tells stories of democracy, government, religion, and tensions around tradition and progress. He is concerned with "the oppressive boot and the irrelevance of the colour of the foot that wears it." He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1986. Soyinka is the first African laureate.

The series of lectures Wole Soyinka will deliver next week is called Commencement Rites at the Tree of Creativity. The talks take place Monday, April 18th; Tuesday, April 19th; and Wednesday, April 20th all starting at 5:30 pm. These lectures are free and open to the public, in McCosh Hall, Room 10. No tickets are required.

April 18th at 5:30 p.m.
‘In Praise – and Dread – of Trees’
Introduction by Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu

April 19th at 5:30 p.m.
‘Sweet are the Uses of Diversity’
Introduction by Professor Simon Gikandi

April 20th at 5:30 p.m.
‘As It Was in the Beginning’
Introduction by Professor Wendy Laura Belcher

The Toni Morrison Lectures are sponsored by the Department of African American Studies and Princeton University Press. The lectures are held annually and spotlight the new and exciting work of scholars and writers who have risen to positions of prominence both in academe and in the broader world of letters.

The lectures are published in book form by Princeton University Press and celebrate the expansive literary imagination, intellectual adventurousness and political insightfulness that characterize the writing of Toni Morrison.

The talks will be streamed live each night: and on the African American Studies website

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Wole Soyinka Delivers Toni Morrison Lectures @ Princeton, April 18-20

Three Lectures in Three Days, by Nigeria's Nobel Laureate and literary giant, Wole Soyinka. This should be a memorable event!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Seminar with Claudette Schreuders @ Princeton

Seminar class (l-r): Robia Amjad, Zeena Mubarak, Claudette Schreuders, Zach Feig, Jessica Lu, Fitsum Petros, Vincent Karuri. All photos: Chika Okeke-Agulu

Yesterday, the South African artist Claudette Schreuders, whose latest exhibition, Note to Self, opened last week at Jack Shainman Gallery, in New York City, participated as a guest in my "Art and Politics in Postcolonial Africa" undergraduate seminar. Previous guests have included Ibrahim El Salahi, Jerry Buhari, El Anatsui, Wangechi Mutu, Julie Mehretu, Ghada Amer, and Paul Stopforth, Next week, Victor Ekpuk, and in April, Lara Baladi. The idea of having this caliber of artists, whose work I could never learn enough about, in a small, intimate seminar with undergraduate students, is one of the reasons teaching still makes sense to me. And this is all thanks to the artists for accepting my invitation. Anyways, here are some pictures from yesterday: