Tuesday, December 28, 2010

savvy | art.contemporary.african. -- Call for contributions

Call for Contributions for the bilingual art journal:
savvy | art.contemporary.african.
savvy | kunst.zeitgenössisch.afrikanisch.

Edition 0 of savvy | art.contemporary.african. and the storm of readers' affirmation confirmed the need for a sincere and independent criticism, as well as the majuscular cleft this journal is meant to bridge. The inaugural edition brought together instigations and directions as to “where do we go from here”, which provokes an inquiry into the status quo and thus the title of the subsequent edition. Edition 1 of savvy | art.contemporary.african. is dedicated to the theme “(Re-) Mapping the field: a bird’s eye view on discourses”. This edition will give an overview on the current academic discourses, aims at renegotiating and reflecting on terminologies, spaces, concepts and contexts at stake in the field of contemporary African art.

While the discourse on contemporary African art has undergone great changes in the last decades, with respect to the ways of perception and the rules of presenting or the tradition of talking about contemporary African art, the impact of the critiques in this field on a broader public still has to be investigated. The young but manifold schools of thought and critiques, their circumstances and consequences in both the academia and non-academia and the influences in subsequent practices will be elaborated in this edition. I.e. edition 1 will step back and take stock on, as well as (re-) map the field.

It is not by chance that this journal strides with huge steps - online and free - to reach as many readers as possible in this internet age in order to achieve the aim of this journal, which is to revitalise an open and academic discourse on contemporary artistic positions, movements and projects related to Africa and its diaspora.

We invite authors to send contributions related to the theme “(Re-) Mapping the field: a bird’s eye view on discourses”.

The articles should have a maximum length of 3500 words and be written in English.
German authors are asked to send their articles in German and English.
The deadline for submission is January 16th 2011.
E-Mail: editorial@savvy-journal.com
Homepage: www.savvy-journal.com

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sotheby's reverses decision on Benin art auction

On December 24, this announcement was posted on the website of the Sotheby's of London: 

“The Benin Ivory Pendant Mask and other items consigned by the descendants of
Lionel Galway which Sotheby’s had announced for auction in February 2011 have
been withdrawn from sale at the request of the consignors.”

This is very good news, if not for the descendants of Colonel Lionel Galway, at least for the Benin Palace, the Edo people, Nigerians and everyone else interested in seeking a just and equitable resolution of the fate of Benin art looted by British soldiers in 1897 during their invasion of the kingdom and destruction of the palace. As I indicated in my previous post, while--I hope--legal proceedings begin, popular pressure and mass action must be brought to bear on this question, if only to cause public relations problems for anyone or institution involved in or condoning future peddling of these stolen works. This Galway family cache must not be allowed to be sold until its ownership is settled by a court of law. And this is where the Benin Palace and the Nigerian government must act quickly. They must expeditiously sue the Galway family, and hopefully obtain a court order restraining them from disposing of these sculptures. They must not be allowed to squirrel the works into some godless private or public collection. In any case, I hope the outcome of this current campaign against the Sotheby's auction, should serve as enough warning to anyone who might want to buy these stolen objects from the Galway family.
To everyone who has been part of the media campaign against the Sotheby's sale, thanks! Let us now await the necessary court case(s).


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sale of Stolen Benin ivory mask by Sotheby's

On February 11, 2011 the Sotheby's, London will attempt to sell an extremely rare Benin ivory mask (representing the Queen Mother Idia) and five other important sculptures apparently consigned for auction by the descendants of Lieutenant Colonel Sir Henry Lionel Gallwey--the same soldier of fortune who participated in the plunder and destruction of the Palace of the Oba of Benin in 1897.  This sale must not be allowed to take place. And I hope the Nigerian government or the Oba's Palace will seek an order of injunction restraining the Gallway family and Sotheby's from going ahead with this auction, until the Gallways can prove in a court of law their rightful ownership of these Benin sculptures. Moreover, Aso Rock and the Benin Palace should communicate in unmistakable terms to both Downing Street and House of Windsor their total opposition to this sale. They should also publish a caveat emptor on these works, even as they pursue other options.  All legal and political pressures and popular action must be brought to bear to stop this sale.

It is one thing for the likes of James Cuno at the Art Institute of Chicago to continue arguing against the possibility of repatriating art works plundered by European powers in the age of colonialism but that have found their way into the so-called repositories of human civilization; it is another for the family of this plunderer to bring out the stuff their ancestor stole a few generations ago from wherever they hid them, in the hope of making a fortune. Do they think that waiting 103 years after the theft would make the works legally theirs?  Frankly, I see no logical difference between the fate of these works taken from the Oba of Benin's private collection, and the works seized from their Jewish owners by the Nazis. This Sotheby's auction should present a good test case for the long-awaited process of righting a terrible wrong done to the grandfather of the present Oba of Benin by the British imperial regime. See my post two years ago on the same question of the return of stolen Benin art works.

At the moment a signature campaign against the auction of the Queen Idia mask and five other sculptures from the Gallway family is on. Please join this effort by clicking here

For news about this sale by Artdaily, the online newspaper click here

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Children of Akwa-Ibom: Signature Campaign

I write to ask for a big favor from you, on a subject that is very dear to my heart. I have written severally about the continuing suffering of children in Akwa-Ibom State, Nigeria. Children who, having been accused of witchcraft by Christian Pentecostal pastors in collusion with their families, are routinely killed, doused with acid or boiling water, mutilated with razor blade or knives, branded with hot iron, impaled with nails, starved till near death, or just driven away from home. Many of these are children as young as a few months.

I have written also about the travails of the Mr. Sam Itauma the founder of CRARN, and Mr. Gary Foxcroft of Stepping Stones Nigeria, two men who have given everything to ensure the wellbeing of these surviving terrorized and traumatized children. Mr. Itauma and Foxcroft have been victims of government-orchestrated attacks, intimidation and prosecution for "fraud". The Children center along with its school--that is the only access these children have to life and succor, their only refuge--is now threatened with closure now that the State Government has hounded the founders into hiding.

The reason I am writing now, is that at the moment there is an international signature campaign with the goal of putting pressure on the authorities in Akwa-Ibom State to change course, and do more to save these children, or at least to allow CRARN and Stepping Stones Nigeria do the good work they have been doing for these children for the past seven years or so.
Please help with this initiative with your signature, but also spread the word; send this link below to anyone you know. For the sake of these children.
To sign the petition click here
OR copy this URL:

This is not WikiLeaks

For the past couple of weeks, the world's pastime has been Wiki Leaks. What new embarrassing comment did another US official make about the head of state of Vanuatu, or the defense minister of Lichtenstein; and what did the Sultan of Bahrain tell Hilary Clinton about the Nigerian president...real gripping stuff that diplomatic etiquette suppresses from reaching the global public squares. That is Wiki Leaks brand of whistle-blowing.

But when it comes to Nigerian government officials, forget about secrecy, or confidential memos. Nigerians don't deal in diplomatese. Left to them alone, Mr. Assange would still be some anonymous journalist from the Land Down Under, or just out of work. Take for instance the incident that happened during the just ended Achebe Colloquium at Brown University. During one of the panel discussions involving Mr. John Campbell, former US ambassador to Nigeria, and the current Nigerian ambassador to the US, Mr Adefuye, the Nigerian diplomat did not wait until he got back to his office to gossip about his feelings for the irreverent American who was going on and on with statistics about looted Nigerian funds (the kind of stuff corrupt folks in my dear country don't want to hear, anyway). He just simply announced to everyone in the room and all others watching realtime on the internet that: “I will deal with him [Campbell]... With friends like him, Nigeria does not need any enemies. We shall confront him in the next section and by the time we finish with him, he will see that Nigeria is not on the brink.”
This is not Wiki Leaks. Read Saharareporters account of the event here.