Sunday, April 9, 2017

‘An Insistence on Not Being Discouraged’ with Chika Okeke-Agulu

Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Chika Okeke-Agulu

If you wish to learn a little bit about my story, about my life, art, politics, check out this new interview podcast with my fabulous colleague, Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., who is William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies, and Chair, Department of African American Studies, Princeton University. And oh, it is nearly an hour long. So, the question is this: Who has time to listen to this kind of stuff; this long story?!

If you do, then click here to listen: 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Photos from presentation of "Obiora Udechukwu: Line, Image, Text," March 21

Today was the public presentation of my new book, Obiora Udechukwu: Line, Image, Text, at the African Artists Foundation. Thanks to the Ford Foundation, Princeton University, and the African Artists Foundation. And thanks to my family, friends old and new, and the many guests that turned up. And to my publisher, Skira Editore. Here, are some images from the event. All images under copyright. 

His Royal Majesty, at Kola breaking rite, gives Kola to El Anatsui

With my mother, Joy Okeke-Agulu, El Anatsui, Innocent Chukwuma, His Royal Majesty, Igwe Achebe, The Obi of Onitsha, Obiora Udechukwu, and Alhaji Abdulaziz Ude
With Jahman Anikulapo, Olu Amoda, and Toyin Akinosho

Ori and Tony Okoro

Add caption

With George Nwadiogbu, Faridah Folawiyo, Sandra Obiago, Innocent Chukwuma, Awam Amkpa, and Jahman Anikulapo
Ndidi Dike, Uche Edochie, and Chinwe Uwatse

Obiora Udechukwu, Ada Udechukwu, El Anatsui, and Innocent Chukwuma

Faridah, and guests

Obiora Udechukwu, Ada Udechukwu, and El Anatsui

Remarks by His Royal Majesty, Igwe Achebe, The Obi of Onitsha (Agbogidi)

Tony Nsofor and Chike Nwagbogu

Ozioma Onuzulike, book reviewer

Kolade Oshinowo, Chinwe Uwatse

Toni Kan and Victor Ehikamenor

Obiora Udechukwu

El giving closing remarks

Friday, March 3, 2017

Remembering Biafra Conference, April 21-22, 2017

Image Courtesy: International Business Times, UK

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Biafra, that shortlived republic that was the southeastern Nigerian region a conference organized and hosted by George Washington University will take place on April 21-22, in Washington DC. Memory of Biafra remains strong in the hearts of many Biafran Children like me who were born on the eve of that war, and who survived the mass starvation used by the Nigerian government as a weapon of war, while most of the world looked away. It still hurts, as many of us who survived still carry a deep scar lodged in our souls these many years after.
For more on the Remembering Biafra Conference please check out the conference website.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Bona Ezeudu and family still waiting for Justice, in Nigeria

Lota Ezeudu

On September 26, 2009, my dear friend and colleague Bona Ezeudu lost his only son, Lota. Lota was a brilliant and enterprising second-year student in a university in Enugu, the capital of Enugu State, Nigeria. As it turned out, Lota had been murdered, and two men--former police officers in the city--were eventually accused as his murderers, along with the son of the chief of police in the town Sam Chukwu. The authorities eventually charged these men, including Sam Chukwu (in whose house the accused men lived and for whom they served as some kind of extrajudicial hitmen) for complicity in the murder of Lota Ezeudu. Sam Chukwu, "ran" from the law, was declared wanted, and never appeared in court. About two years later, he "surfaced," apparently promoted to a higher rank and transferred out of Enugu, despite that he was a fugitive of the law. Now he is a top police officer stationed in Lagos. This case is one more reason why that country Nigeria, sadly my homeland, remains a sorry, morally deficient place scarred by the culture of impunity. Frankly, this case, because it involved some people in power in Abuja (according to news reports), was one that I hoped the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari would have quickly resolved by compelling this man Sam Chukwu to face the charges pending in court.

For more on this story check out: Sahara Reporters latest report

Sotheby's London in the Game Too!

If you ever had any doubt about the marketability of modern and Contemporary Africa or about the fact that the fervid rise in prices of work in this area is no fluke or a temporary thing, the just-announced entrance of Sotheby's should tell you something. Since 2007 when the Lagos-based upstart Arthouse Limited and the veteran Bonhams established dedicated auctions for modern and contemporary African art--with major emphasis on Nigeria, nevertheless--we have seen record sales for many artists who until then fetched relatively small change in the even smaller secondary market there was for this art. It is no surprise, quite frankly, that Sotheby's, the world largest art business, has now decided to join the fun or fray, and we can only be sure that this will mean more keenly watched auctions and more acute trajectory for the price of African art. Good or bad, it means that this field is making sure and steady march to the mainstream. If it were real estate, you could say that is now undergoing gentrification. Come May 16, we shall see, for real, what signals Sotheby's inaugural auction will be sending to primary and secondary market for modern and contemporary African art.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Assistant Curator in African Art at Yale University Art Gallery

Position: Benenson Assistant Curator of African Art 
Department: Yale University Art Gallery
STARS Requisition #:  42078BR 

Yale University offers exciting opportunities for achievement and growth in New Haven, Connecticut. Conveniently located between Boston and New York, New Haven is the creative capital of Connecticut with cultural resources that include three major museums, a critically-acclaimed repertory theater, state-of-the-art concert hall, and world-renowned schools of Architecture, Art, Drama, and Music.

General Purpose:  
The Frances and Benjamin Benenson Foundation Assistant Curator of African Art is head of the department of African Art at the Yale University Art Gallery. The collections, currently numbering between 2000 and 3000 objects, are wide-ranging and include the historic Linton and Charles B. Benenson collections. The Assistant Curator is responsible for the
department's classical African art in all media, which includes objects associated with performance, ritual use, and a wide range of social functions. S/he will enhance the department's holdings through acquisitions, research, cataloguing, exhibitions, and publications; will supervise the care of the collection through conservation, storage, and display; will field public inquiries and oversee the department's presence on the Gallery's website; will assume stewardship and donor cultivation responsibilities; will lecture and mentor students and will serve as ambassador for the department to the Yale community, the broader public, and to colleagues and institutions world-wide. The successful candidate will demonstrate a strong commitment to connoisseurship at least equal to any other form of scholarship. 

The position reports to the Chief Curator. Responsible for the presentation of the permanent collection to the public and for access to the collection through exhibitions, installations,
publications, and lectures. Oversee the maintenance, conservation, orderly storage, cataloguing, and labeling of the collection. Conduct in-depth research into the collections using original source materials where appropriate. Responsible for assessing objects requested for out-going loan. Formulate and implement a strategy for developing the collection of African Art through acquisitions and strategic loans. Mentor undergraduate and graduate students and collaborate with Yale faculty. Contribute to the formulation and implementation of the Gallery's mission in teaching and general accessibility through active involvement in discussions with the Director and other curators. Manage the Department of African Art by supervising the department's assistant, bursary students, interns, and volunteers. Oversee and be responsible for the departmental and exhibition budgets. Manage African art databases in cooperation with the Yale University Library. Participate in fundraising projects both through contact with collectors and donors and through grant writing. Represent the curatorial department on Gallery and University committees; represent the Gallery and University to a local, national, and international community to
promote the institution and its collection. 

Review of applications will begin April 10, 2017.

Required Education and Experience:  Master's Degree in Art History and two years of curatorial experience or an equivalent education and experience.

  • online at Please be sure to reference this website
  • Developed skills in relevant European and African languages: reading, writing, and speaking.
  • Keen eye and broad knowledge of African art, as well as of professional museum practices.
  • Demonstrated success in leadership and in establishing and implementing policies and procedures to achieve objectives.
  • Desire and ability to build relationships and work effectively and collaboratively across departments.
  • Preferred Education, Experience and Skills: Ph.D. in Art History or Anthropology. Experience in field research.
We invite you to discover the excitement, diversity, rewards and excellence of a career at Yale University. One of the country's great workplaces, Yale University offers exciting opportunities for meaningful accomplishment and true growth. Our benefits package is among the best anywhere, with a wide variety of insurance choices, liberal paid time off, fantastic family and educational benefits, a variety of retirement benefits, extensive recreational facilities, and much more. Yale University considers applicants for employment without regard to, and does not discriminate on the basis of an individual's sex, race, color, religion, age, disability, status as a veteran, or national or ethnic origin; nor does Yale discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Video of My 2016 Conversation with El Anatsui

Photo copyright Launchpadart

On March 23, 2016 (nearly a year ago), I had this public conversation with El Anatsui who was in Princeton as the Sarah Elson, Class of 1984, International Artist-in-Residence. I knew that the conversation was recorded, but only just stumbled upon a Youtube video of it. It is an hour-plus conversation that, for students and admirers of Anatsui's influential work and illustrious career, might be worth seeing:

Click HERE for the video, courtesy of Youtube:

Plagiarism: Not Again!

Many years ago (mid 1990s), I was invited by the National Gallery of Art in Nigeria, along with a dear friend and colleague to organize an exhibition of the Art Society--the group of young artists at the Nigerian College of Art, Science and Technology, Zaria who, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, played an important role in the development of modernism in Nigeria. We began this project with all the enthusiasm it deserved. But it got stalled. And by the time it was eventually realized in 1998, I had moved to the US. To my horror, when the book published for this exhibition by the National Gallery of Art, Abuja came out, I found that a long chapter on Uche Okeke, the leader of the Art Society, supposedly written by a well-known Lagos-based Nigerian artist contained vast sections lifted directly from my text in a catalogue I edited for Uche Okeke's retrospective exhibition in 1993 (my very first curatorial project!). I felt utterly violated, especially because this person was held in high esteem in the Nigerian art world. In that messy terrain, it was impossible to figure how pressing charges for copyright infringement against the NGA and the perpetrator might have ended. So, to keep the peace of the graveyard, I let it go. It still maddens me.

So, you should pardon my calling out the fellow involved in a recent Nigerian exhibition project who has done something similar, though on a much smaller scale. I was just reading the interview with curator of the Nigeria architecture pavilion of the 2016 Venice Biennale, published in an online art magazine called JULIET: Contemporary Art Magazine Since 1980. Then I came across a statement by the curator that sounded so strangely familiar. Not again, I sighed.

Here is the offending material:

Alessia Cervelli: The presence of Nigeria has certainly an historical value. What does for this country mean to have a representation in an exhibition of international level like that of Venice? 

Camilla Boemio: We have truly made history with Diminished Capacity. Nigeria has long been, from the beginning of both independence from the British Empire in 1960 and the outbreak of civil war in 1967, in a continuous phase of socio-cultural development. It is the most populous nation of the continent and it is the so-called “pulsating heart of Africa”. At this stage the government’s priorities were not immediately expected the participation at the Venice Biennale although many young Nigerian artists inaugurated the postcolonial modernism, inspired by the rhetoric and ideologies of decolonization and nationalism in the mid-twentieth century, and, later, by supporters of negritude and pan-Africanism, translating the experience of decolonization in a typical “post-colonial modernity” which has continued to be the work of great Nigerian artist. According to the Nigerian High Commissioner of the Pavilion, George Nkanta Ufot (The Director of the International Cultural Affairs) of the Ministry of Information and Culture, the development of international cultural exchange is one of the main priorities of the new government. I am sure that the ambition of the Ministry of Information and Culture is to establish a solid foundation for the continued participation of Nigeria at the Biennale.

Here is the book description on the back cover of my Postcolonial Modernism book:

"Written by one of the foremost scholars of African art and featuring 129 color images, Postcolonial Modernism chronicles the emergence of artistic modernism in Nigeria in the heady years surrounding political independence in 1960, before the outbreak of civil war in 1967. Chika Okeke-Agulu traces the artistic, intellectual, and critical networks in several Nigerian cities during the decade. Zaria is particularly important, because it was there, at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, that a group of students formed the Art Society and inaugurated postcolonial modernism in Nigeria. As Okeke-Agulu explains, their works show both a deep connection with local artistic traditions and the stylistic sophistication that we have come to associate with twentieth-century modernist practices. He explores how these young Nigerian artists were inspired by the rhetoric and ideologies of decolonization and nationalism, and by advocates of negritude and pan-Africanism in the early and mid-twentieth century. They translated the experiences of political decolonization into a distinctive "postcolonial modernism" that had a far-reaching impact on subsequent Nigerian art."

Could you please, Ms. Camilla Boemio, Curator of the First Nigerian Pavilion in the 2016 Venice Biennale of Architecture please send a note of apology for this act of plagiarism. I am waiting to hear from you, Ms. Boemio.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

This, people, is an awe-inspiring, sublime sight! Called, in the Tonga language, Mosi-Oa-Tunya ("The Smoke-that-Thunders!"), and said to be the world's largest waterfall (twice the size of Niagara Falls in the US), this place needs to be experienced to be believed. How does one describe the sounds, and the waves of misty and torrential rains caused by the waterfall in the surrounding area? Anyways, here are some photos.

On the side of pedestal is the word "Liberator". Not sure who Dr. Livingstone liberated...