Thursday, April 25, 2013

Paul Stopforth, Wangechi Mutu, Ghada Amer and Jerry Buhari @ Princeton seminar

Today we concluded a series of presentations by four important African artists in my "Art and Politics in Postcolonial Africa" seminar here at Princeton this semester. First, on February 27, we had Paul Stopforth, the South African artist who mobilized figurative realism in the 1980s (anticipating Jane Alexander and William Kentridge) to lead the onslaught against the wounded, angry beast that was Apartheid, in what would eventually be called "Resistance Art" by the artist-art historian Sue Williamson. When Stopforth left South Africa on the eve of the end of Apartheid, he turned to abstraction, which was though often punctuated by dramatic passages of hyperrealism. Second, (on April 10) we hosted the Kenyan-born Wangechi Mutu, celebrated for her examination of the tenuous boundaries between the beautiful and the monstrous, between fantasy and obsession and between power and desire as they are channeled through the body of the black and African woman.  Third, on April 17 came the Egyptian-born Ghada Amer whose work began first as a response to the phenomenon of (re)veiling of women in the 1980s Egypt, but has since gone on to broach questions about female agency and desire. She spoke about her well-traveled embroidered paintings of homo- and autoerotic women, and about her ambitious flower garden projects and her most recent forays into sculpture. And today (April 24), we had in class Jerry Buhari--a leading Nigerian artist and professor at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria--who with the late Gani Odutokun became the fountainhead of a reinvigorated critical painting at Zaria, in the 1980s and 1990s. His lecture focused on his meditation, through painting, on the environment and on Nigerian politics during the age of the dictatorships.

This my way of saying a big Thank You to these distinguished friends and artists for their remarkable work, and for making this seminar a most memorable one for my students!
Paul Stopforth and Doyin Teriba (doctoral candidate, Princeton), Feb. 27, 2013

Wangechi Mutu speaking about her work, April 10, 2013

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Ghada Amer speaking about her work, April 17, 2013

Ghada's Q/A session: seminar members, second from left: Doyin Teriba, Kristen Windmuller-Luna, Priscilla Agyapong, Adaeze Okafor, Carolina Nunez, Cornellius Metto, Mary Kolbenschlag, Rashidat Emiola, Ashley Eberhart, Niels Henriksen 

Professor Jerry Buhari during the Q/A, April 24, 2013

Mary, Doyin, Ashley, Priscilla, Niels, Jerry, Carolina, Adaeze and Cornellius after seminar

Friday, April 19, 2013

Benefit Auction for South African Artist Diane Victor

Diane Victor, And all the books she had planned to read, charcoal on paper, 90 x 150 cm, 2010. Courtesy The Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

The Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg will hold a benefit auction on April 20, to support a vital medical procedure required by the ailing artist, Diane Victor. I do not know much about the artist's medical condition, but it does not matter. What is important is that this auction is for a noble cause, especially considering that Victor is such a very important artist known for her incomparably powerful draftsmanship and prodigious, haunting imagination. Several marquee artists, including William Kentridge, Kendell Geers, David Goldblatt, Sue Williamson, Sam Nhlengethwa, Penny Siopis, Clive van den Berg, Brett Murray, Kagiso Pat Mautloa, Mikhael Subtzky, Kudzanai Chiurai, and more have donated work. And there are also available works by Robert Hodgins, Norman Catherine, Willem Boshoff, Johannes Segolela, and others. Even if we forget for a moment that this is a benefit auction, it is still an incredible line up of some of the most accomplished South African artists. So, my hope is that this auction is successful, and that Ms. Victor will get the treatment she needs: contemporary African art will be the richer for it. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Welcome Reception @ Princeton

Last night here in Princeton we had a reception for newly admitted graduate students of color; rare sights in these parts--Du Bois's so-called "Talented Tenth"! Karen Jackson-Weaver, the energetic associate dean of Academic Affairs and Diversity for the Graduate School, was the host, and there were a few faculty on hand to cheer the new class. You see, I was there to welcome one of my own two new doctoral students: Jessica Bell, who is coming from Northwestern and will be doing research in the Caribbean. The ever-reliable Doyin Teriba who is completing his dissertation on Afro-Brazilian architecture in West Africa was there to show support, as was Jennifer Wilson, who is also finishing at Slavic Studies with a dissertation of the uses of Chastity in 19th-century Russian writing. To Jessica, and Perrin Lathrop who will also be joining Doyin, and Jonathan Fine, and Kristen Windmuller-Luna in September, a big welcome! I will be posting on Perrin's upcoming exhibition of Simon Ottenberg's gift of Contemporary Nigeran art works to the Newark Museum shortly.
Dean Weaver, Jessica Bell, Doyin Teriba, Jennifer Wilson @ the Carl A. Fields Center, Princeton Univ.