Wednesday, March 15, 2023

EMOWAA Appoints Chika Okeke-Agulu and Aindrea Emelife

To strengthen the focus on Modern and Contemporary Art, the museum appoints Chika Okeke-Agulu as senior advisor and Aindrea Emelife as curator.

The EMOWAA (Edo Museum of West African Art) Trust announces the appointments of Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu, Nigerian art historian and Professor of African and African Diaspora Art at and Director of the Program of African Studies at Princeton University and Slade Professor of Fine Arts at Oxford University, as Senior Advisor, Modern and Contemporary Art and Nigerian-British curator Aindrea Emelife as the new Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Speaking on the need to support West African contemporary art as well as cultural heritage, EMOWAA Executive Director Phillip Ihenacho said, “One of the key challenges for museums and heritage institutions in Africa is relevancy to contemporary African society. We need to build infrastructure and programming to celebrate the rich traditions of the past, but also connect to the present arts scene and invest in the skills and knowledge that enable opportunities for contemporary creatives and heritage professionals.”

The appointments of Emelife and Professor Okeke-Agulu support EMOWAA’s goal of creating a world-class museum, research, and education complex connecting West Africa’s ancient heritage to its thriving contemporary culture.

As EMOWAA’s Modern and Contemporary team, Professor Okeke-Agulu and Emelife will focus on:

advancing the field of academic research in contemporary and modern West African Arts
developing the collection strategy for EMOWAA
building the curatorial framework for the creative district EMOWAA is developing in the heart of Benin City
and generating new, multi-faceted narratives and interpretations of West African art and history.
Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu is an artist, critic and art historian who specialises in indigenous, modern, and contemporary African and African Diaspora art history and theory. Born in Umuahia, Nigeria, Professor Okeke-Agulu earned an MFA (Painting) from the University of Nigeria and a PhD (Art History) from Emory University. He has spent much of his career working at several institutions around the world and currently serves as the Robert Schirmer Professor of Art and Archaeology and African American Studies as well as the Director, Program in African Studies and Director, Africa World Initiative at Princeton University. He is also the current Slade Professor of Fine Arts at Oxford University 2022/23.

Professor Okeke-Agulu has co-organised a number of exhibitions, such as Samuel Fosso: Affirmative Acts at the Princeton University Art Museum (2022) and (with Okwui Enwezor) the travelling survey El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale at the Haus der Kunst, Munich (2019). His many other exhibitions include Who Knows Tomorrow (Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2010); the Fifth Gwangju Biennale (2004); The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994 (Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, 2001); Seven Stories About Modern Art in Africa (Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1995); and the Nigerian section of the First Johannesburg Biennale (1995). He is on the curatorial team of the Sharjah Biennial (2023).

Chika Okeke-Agulu said, “A project like EMOWAA is long overdue. It has become imperative that we find a way to study, appreciate and celebrate contemporary and modern art from the African continent, on the African continent. It is exciting to join EMOWAA and play a part advising on how we can develop new institutional infrastructure to support advanced knowledge and appreciation of the role of art and artists in connecting our rich cultural histories to who and where we are today.”

Emelife, prior to joining EMOWAA, studied History of Art to post-graduate level at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London. As a curator and art historian, she has led a number of high-profile projects with a focus on modern and contemporary art, dedicating her focus to questions around colonial and decolonial histories in Africa, transnationalism and the politics of representation. Recent exhibitions include Black Venus, a survey of the legacy of the Black woman in visual culture, which opened at Fotografiska NY in 2022 and will tour to MOAD (San Francisco, USA) in early April and Somerset House (London, UK) this July. Emelife’s first book, A Brief History of Protest Art, was published by Tate in March 2022 and she is currently working on her second book with Thames & Hudson, which debuts in 2024. She has contributed essays to several publications, most recently Revisiting Modern British Art (Lund Humphries, 2022). In 2021, Emelife was appointed to the Mayor of London’s Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm. Emelife is a Trustee of New Curators.

Aindrea Emelife said, “One of my principal goals as EMOWAA’s newly appointed Curator, Modern and Contemporary is to build on the efforts to tell our stories and the intricate connections and links that exists – starting with Nigerian Modernism and boldly reaching to the many corners of West African Modern and Contemporary Art history, yet to be developed and yet to discover. I am honoured to be part of building the legacy of Modern and Contemporary African and Diaspora Art.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Slade Lectures 2023: Lecture 4: Prison Drawing: Ibrahim El Salahi in Al Nimeiry’s Sudan, 1970s

Two years after its political independence from Egypt and Britain in 1956, Sudan witnessed the first of many military coups that have been a recurring feature of the country’s postcolonial history. In this lecture, I focus on the calligraphic figuration of Ibrahim El Salahi (b. 1930), the country’s leading modernist and one-time political prisoner. I show how the sophisticated formalism of Salahi’s drawings constituted a meditative critique of General Jaafar Al Nimeiry’s dictatorship (1969-1985), which survived multiple coups d’état, by stoking religious and ethnic crises, and systematic suppression of all political opposition.

To listen, click HERE:

Slade Lectures 2023: Lecture 3: "To speak in Parables: Dumile Feni in Hendrik Verwoerd’s South Africa, 1960s"

In this lecture I examine art and politics in 1960s South Africa, paying particular attention to Hendrik Verwoerd, the self-styled “Great Induna,” and architect of Apartheid, whose assassination in 1966 slowed the triumphant march of Afrikaner racist ideology. I consider how Verwoerd’s total control of the political space and violent suppression of black resistance created the environment for the emergence of Dumile Feni (1942-1991) who was called “Goya of the Townships” because of his enigmatic, disturbing, and supposedly apolitical drawings.

To listen click HERE:

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Slade Lectures 2023: Lecture 2: "Gazbia Sirry and Egyptian Artists in The Nasserite State, 1950s-1960s" podcast


In this lecture, I focus on the work of Gazbia Sirry (1924-2019), to illustrate how leading modernist artists were, in the wake of the 1952 Free Officers Revolution, swayed by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s charisma, putting their art in the service of his brand of Egyptian nationalism and Pan-Arabist ideology. But how did Sirry respond to Nasser’s increasingly strongman regime and the devastating outcome of the 1967 War? We follow the formal and tonal shifts in Sirry’s work as it responded to, and was shaped by Nasser’s and post-revolutionary Egypt’s political fortunes.

Click HERE to listen to the Lecture

Slade Lectures 2023: Lecture 1: "African Artists in the Age of the Big Man" podcast


African Artists in the Age of the Big Man

In these lectures, I present five artists whose work exemplifies the difficult relationship of art and power as Africa's decolonization gave way to the emergence of undemocratic polities ruled by charismatic and repressive strongmen, in the second half of the twentieth century. I argue that these artists developed new artistic forms through which they established themselves among the most articulate critical voices of their day. Moreover, by examining the relationship of art and strong-man politics, I reflect on power and critical culture, and I juxtapose art’s imaginative ambitions with its limits and possibilities as a platform for a critique of and resistance to regimes of domination in late 20th-century Africa. In the introductory lecture, I explore the concept of the “big man” as the pervasive figure of power in Africa decades after political independence. I also trace the diverse resonances and manifestations of the big man figure in the work of contemporary African artists and writers. Finally, I consider the shift among modern African artists during this same period from articulating positive national culture to analysis and critique of emergent forms of autocracy and illiberal governance".

Click HERE to listen to the lecture

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Assistant Director, Africa World Initiative @ Princeton University


Assistant Director, Africa World Initiative

Requisition #2022-15993
Date Posted2 weeks ago(11/22/2022 12:10 PM)
Academic Administration
Job Type


Africa World Initiative (AW) seeks a highly motivated and committed professional to join its office. The Assistant Director will work under the leadership of the Director of AW to support and establish African Research and programing on campus. The Assistant Director will oversee the administrative and logistical needs of this newly established unit. This position will be responsible for managing as many as five research hubs, budgets, communications, annual reports, Advisory Council meetings, web development, marquee events, fellowships, and research opportunities.


The primary purpose of the position is to facilitate the mission of AW as defined by its Director. The Assistant Director will provide excellent service to a variety of constituents (i.e., students, alumni, faculty, staff, and guests) while coordinating logistics, assigning and managing projects, and supervising and evaluating three or more AW staff members. The Assistant Director will develop, monitor, delegate and review specific projects and events. AW programs and activities on Africa range across science, technology, social sciences, arts and humanities, entrepreneurship and digital humanities.


This position provides a unique opportunity to positively impact a broad range of new and established programs and services offered by the African World Initiative. This role requires deep and current knowledge of University policies, and priorities to best represent the University and assist campus personnel and external partnerships engaging in Africa-related work. This position requires a proactive attitude with problem-solving skills.


Managing the AWI Administration and Logistics:


Provide leadership and supervision of staff members and fellows.

Act as a liaison to faculty and visiting faculty administration.

Oversight of the budget for AWI.

Producing annual reports for the Director of AWI.

Organizing the logistics for the advisory council, marquee lectures and conferences for AWI.


Collaboration and relationship management

Manage relationship with PAS and PIIRS

Manage Research Initiatives and opportunities, including AW research hubs.

Assist director in strategic plans, new programs and general success and growth of AWI.


Coordinating campus-wide and external partnerships.  

Oversee funding and sponsorship initiatives.

Oversee AWI communications and public engagement.



Essential qualifications


Bachelor’s degree and 7+ years of related experience.

Extensive knowledge about and experience with managing Africa-related program and initiatives in research universities or equivalent institutions.

Strong organizational and project management skills, analytical and problem-solving skills, and attention to detail partnered with the ability to think strategically.

Ability to communicate clearly, effectively, and persuasively, especially in writing.

Ability to build and maintain effective relationships; influence and persuade without direct authority; and establish collaborative partnerships within and outside the University.



Princeton University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to age, race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Repatriation Movement Heats Up!

 There is no question that the Repatriation Movement is heating up. The campaign for the return of African cultural heritage looted from the continent during the colonial era by rapacious agents of empire took decades to gain steam. Now there is no going back! Little by little, one crucial step at a time, led in significant ways by the government of Germany in Europe and the Smithsonian in the US. Those who think that this campaign will simply fade away, as did earlier ones, are in for a different reality: the campaigners are in for the long haul, and there is enough air in their lungs to keep calling out the defenders of Empire's crimes 70 x 7 years to come. 

In the meantime, I appreciate the gestures and actions of colleagues and officials in France, Germany, the UK, and the US who have steered their institutions to commit to the return of looted artifacts in their holdings, like the staff at Horniman. This includes frankly folks at the British Museum who must have to deal with the politics of Britain's new culture-warriors-in-government, like its former Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden MP who in this interview with BBC4 claims that he "loves Benin Bronzes", while defending, with a tremulous voice, why the looted Benin artifacts detained by the British Museum will not be returned. 

Despite the position of these government types and their sympathizers in the art industry, one thing is certain. They are on the wrong side of history, stricken by the disease of colonial nostalgia. Time will tell.