Saturday, December 28, 2013

Namadi Sambo’s Furniture, House Upgrade Gulp N2.1 Billion In Four Years-PREMIUM TIMES | Sahara Reporters

How is it possible to ignore this brazen and shameless looting of Nigeria's treasury by people in power? Since this government came to power it spends billions of Naira EVERY YEAR to "upgrade" the Vice President's houses. And it will continue to do so, as long as its tenure lasts--and then you'd hear that the government has SOLD off the houses to--guess who? So that the new government will build new "official" house and guest houses that will be upgraded annually for the VP. Otherwise, where did the previous VPs live, at least since the end of military dictatorship in 1999? WASTE, WASTE, WASTE, at every level of governance, from the lowly local government chairman to a first lady who--according to published government documents--received IMPORT WAIVER for 250 BMW cars simply because she was hosting other African first ladies in Abuja. Don't ask me what happened to the fleet of cars AFTER the jamboree. I have no idea.

Namadi Sambo’s Furniture, House Upgrade Gulp N2.1 Billion In Four Years-PREMIUM TIMES | Sahara Reporters

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

This threat Against SaharaReporters?

If Nigeria ever gets on the path to true and meaningful progress it will be because of the courage and commitment of the founder and staff of SaharaReporters and others like them who have refused to be sucked into the quicksand of corruption and impunity that has now carpeted the entire Nigerian landscape. Anyone who believes in that home of nearly 200 million people--or at least in its potential as the pride of black people everywhere--should not allow SaharaReporters to be brought down by forces terrified by daylight--the very network of powers that have continued to hold that country hostage for so long.


SaharaReporters Media Warned Of Planned ‘Major’ Assault By Abuja On Its Operators and Operations | Sahara Reporters

Ogbanje--a Poem

Christ is born today
For the one thousand
Nine hundred and
Ninety fifth time
Yet we live to die
Like Bethlehem’s star
Lost in the vast vault
Of the fiery heavens

© Chika Okeke-Agulu (Nsukka, December 25, 1995)


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Postwar Art Symposium at Haus der Kunst--Call for papers

Visitors to the Picasso exhibition in 1955 infront of the famous "Guernica", Stadtarchiv Munich

Postwar — Art between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945-1965

Symposium,  22–24 May, 2014 
The terms postwar, post-colonialism and post-communism describe the historical conditions under which the world has developed since 1945. As individual subjects of art historical inquiry and analysis they represent a three-part, long-term research and exhibition project that is being developed by Haus der Kunst and international institutional partners across eight years of research. The purpose of the research project is to bring together leading and emerging scholars, historians, artists, curators, theorists, and students to examine the artistic forces and cultural legacies that have shaped the production of art since 1945.
Conceived as an in-depth study of the postwar period, this first iteration of the project "Postwar — Art between the Pacific and Atlantic, 1945-1965," is planned to open at Haus der Kunst in early 2016 and subsequently at Tate Modern. The exhibition shifts the focus away from the Western/European vantage point and redirects attention to the polyphonic and multifocal examination of art since 1945. "Postwar" therefore seeks to understand the complex legacies of artistic practice and art historical discourses that emerged globally in the aftermath of World War II’s devastation. Through the vital relationship between art works and artists, produced and understood from the perspectives of international, regional, and local contexts, the research and exhibition will trace artistic developments in the first twenty years after the war by following the sweeping lines of the two oceans across Europe, Asia, the Pacific Rim, Africa, the Mediterranean, North America, and South America. Probing differing concepts of artistic modernity such as abstraction, realism, figuration, and representation, the project will explore how receptions and formulations of modernism informed the manifestation of specific variants of modern art. By following these lines, "Postwar" straddles continents, political structures, economic patterns, and institutional frameworks. Alert to the political and cultural implications of both the Atlantic and Pacific, the diachronic axis of the project’s research scope stretches from Germany to Japan as representatives of the Atlantic and Pacific hemispheres. 
As part of the research and exhibition project, a broad spectrum of events, conferences, and publications have been planned of which the "Postwar — Art between the Pacific and Atlantic, 1945-1965" symposium is the first. Convened at the Haus der Kunst in collaboration with the Tate Modern on 22-24 May, 2014, the symposium is an attempt to reconsider and re-examine the two decades following World War II. If we are to remap the cartographies of postwar modernism, what sort of methodologies might we deploy? How, we might ask, were radical aesthetics iterated and to what extent did the political exert pressure on the aesthetic, the cultural on the artistic? In turn, how did artists, critics, and intellectuals negotiate, resist, or even subvert political ideologies? How were artistic practices and aesthetic frameworks re-construed in dispersed political and cultural contexts, especially in response to hegemonic paradigms? Conversely, how did artistic and intellectual movements from the former colonial peripheries impact the terrains of modernism? How then did the circulation of art, objects, discourses, and ideas shape the global contours of postwar modernism? What, if any, were the connections between form and context in the postwar world? 
The project "Postwar — Art between the Pacific and Atlantic, 1945-1965" is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation and the Goethe-Institut.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Okey Ndibe's new novel, Foreign Gods Inc.

Okey Ndibe's second novel--following his powerful debut, Arrows of Rain--is out, and I cannot wait to read it! One of the best story-tellers writing today, the plot of Foreign Gods Inc., from the novel's synopsis is tantalizing. I am calling his publisher Soho Press for my copy today. --Chika

Foreign Gods, Inc., tells the story of Ike, a New York-based Nigerian cab driver who sets out to steal the statue of an ancient war deity from his home village and sell it to a New York gallery. 

Ike's plan is fueled by desperation. Despite a degree in economics from a major American college, his strong accent has barred him from the corporate world. Forced to eke out a living as a cab driver, he is unable to manage the emotional and material needs of a temperamental African American bride and a widowed mother demanding financial support. When he turns to gambling, his mounting losses compound his woes.

And so he travels back to Nigeria to steal the statue, where he has to deal with old friends, family, and a mounting conflict between those in the village who worship the deity, and those who practice Christianity. 

A meditation on the dreams, promises and frustrations of the immigrant life in America; the nature and impact of religious conflicts; an examination of the ways in which modern culture creates or heightens infatuation with the "exotic," including the desire to own strange objects and hanker after ineffable illusions; and an exploration of the shifting nature of memory, Foreign Gods is a brilliant work of fiction that illuminates our globally interconnected world like no other.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Kathleen Bickford Berzock joins Northwestern's Block Museum

* Congratulations to my friend Lisa Corrin for this major move! - Chika

The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University is pleased to announce that Dr. Kathleen Bickford Berzock, Curator of African Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, has accepted the position of Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs.
Dr. Berzock will assume her new role at the Block on January 20, 2013. Dr. Berzock will play a leading role in making the Block a dynamic site for exhibitions that look broadly at the visual arts across cultures and time periods and that draw on the unique resources of Northwestern University, including its collections, faculty and students.

Dr. Berzock says she is excited to be joining the Block Museum and Northwestern University. “The Block Museum is poised to play a major role as an ambassador for groundbreaking research and as a laboratory for the innovative work of its faculty and students. I bring the skills of an experienced museum professional and as an Africanist art historian to my new role at the Block, coupled with an openness to multiple perspectives and diverse voices that will enrich the Block’s approach to presenting art from around the world.”

The Block’s Ellen Philips Katz Director, Lisa Corrin, states, “Dr. Berzock will have a critical shaping role in the artistic program of the museum, advancing its new emphasis on a global perspective that considers the relations between art and cultures cross-historically. Her presence will also enable the Block to contribute to Northwestern’s significant legacy of scholarship in the field of African history grounded in research through its extraordinary Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies. Her international experience, strong commitment to collaboration, and her willingness to turn our galleries into a place for fresh, interdisciplinary thinking about art and ideas, will set a new standard for the Block’s programming. Known for her thoughtfulness and integrity, she will be a tremendous mentor to our students.”

In her 18 years at the Art Institute, Dr. Berzock guided the development and display of the museum’s African art collection. She has been responsible for the acquisition of major iconic works that have built on the collection’s strengths as well as broadened its scope, including significant purchases of work from Ethiopia and Morocco. In 2011, she conceived, developed, and implemented the new and greatly expanded permanent collection gallery for African art, bringing the collection to life by spearheading an innovative collaboration that produced three short films to contextualize the works on view more fully.

Dr. Berzock has presented internationally acclaimed exhibitions at the Art Institute, including the groundbreaking Benin-Kings and Rituals: Court Arts from Nigeria (2008), which set the museum’s record for attendance of an African art exhibition; Masterpieces from Central Africa: Selections from the Belgian Royal Museum of Central Africa, Tervuren (1999); and Baule: African Art/Western Eyes (1998). In 2005 she curated and wrote the scholarly catalogue for the exhibition For Hearth and Altar: African Ceramics from the Keith Achepohl Collection, which highlighted the ceramic arts of the African continent and celebrated the gift of 75 ceramic works to the museum’s collection. She has also curated exhibitions of work from the museum’s permanent collection, including African Artistry: Gifts from the Faletti Family Collection (2003); The Miracles of Mary: A Seventeenth Century Ethiopian Manuscript (2002); and Yoruba Masquerade (1999).

In 2010, her book Representing Africa in American Art Museums: A Century of Collecting and Display, which she conceived and co-edited with Christa Clarke of the Newark Museum, was published by University of Washington Press. In its thirteen essays the publication chronicles more than a century of building and presenting collections of African art in this country, including at the Art Institute of Chicago, and explores shifts in meaning and the public perception of African art.

Prior to moving to Chicago, Dr. Berzock was Research Assistant for African Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1993–1995), and she has served as adjunct curator to the Milwaukee Art Museum (2000) and the Indianapolis Art Museum (1989). She received her Ph.D. in African art history from Indiana University. Her dissertation, on factory-printed textiles in Côte d’Ivoire, has served as the springboard for articles in several journals and a catalogue essay for the University of Missouri–Kansas City Art Gallery (1997).

Last year Dr. Berzock was named a Fellow at the prestigious Center for Curatorial Leadership (CCL) and was awarded a residency at the British Museum in London. In reflecting on Dr. Berzock’s new appointment, Douglas Druick, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute of Chicago, stated, “While we are very sorry to see Kathleen leave the museum after nearly two decades of inspired curatorial endeavor, we are also heartened that her experience here and her professional development with the CCL are enabling her to move into a leadership position at another Chicago institution that will benefit greatly from her creativity, initiative, and collegiality.”

At the Art Institute, Dr. Berzock worked closely for nearly two decades with Richard Townsend, Chair of the Department of African Art and Indian Art of the Americas. Dr. Townsend has remarked, “She leaves the Art Institute with lively new African galleries, an expanded collection of international standing, and the example of ambitious exhibitions that have broadened our awareness of the breadth of African art and culture. Kathleen has notably attracted a wide and diverse public to African art, effectively asserting the role of the museum in acquiring and exhibiting the great range of African traditions. We are very proud of her singular contributions to the life of our city, region, and nation, as well as to the international community. We wish Kathleen every success in her new assignment and extend to her our heartfelt thanks for the contributions that have so enriched us during her years as Curator of African Art at the Art Institute of Chicago.”

Her long-time colleague Kate Ezra, the Nolen Curator of Education and Academic Affairs at the Yale University Art Gallery, says Berzock has made substantial contributions to the field of African art and the way that museums have shaped our understanding of it. “As associate director of curatorial affairs at the Block Museum, Kathleen will bring her unique perspective as an Africanist, which rather than restrict her focus has given her a broad understanding of the importance of global connections throughout history and in the contemporary world,” Ezra said.
For more information about the Block Museum, visit

Friday, December 6, 2013

Interview with Okwui Enwezor: Director of 56th Venice Biennale

My interview with Okwui Enwezor about his career and about his appointment as Director of the 56th Venice Biennale has been published on my Huffington Post Blog. To read please click HERE

Thursday, December 5, 2013

PRESS RELEASE Okwui Enwezor Appointed Director of the 56th International Exhibition of the Venice Biennale

It is with great pleasure that we share with you the news of the appointment, by the Board of Directors of la Biennale di Venezia, of our dear colleague and friend Okwui Enwezor as Director of the Visual Arts Sector and Curator of the 56th International Art Exhibition scheduled for May 9-Nov 22, 2015. There is no greater testament to Okwui’s stature as one of the most important curators and brilliant critical thinkers of our times. We note that by this appointment, he has accomplished a historic feat: he is the second person in history (after Harald Szeemann) to organize the Documenta and Venice Biennale.

As editors of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art we are proud to have shared with him the incredible journey that began with the first issue of the journal in 1994–a critical platform, which he initiated and has tirelessly championed.  We have absolute confidence that Okwui will produce a memorable exhibition in Venice. For we believe that it is his acute sense of history, his unflinching belief in the art exhibition as a platform for proposing new ways of imagining our world in all its artistic, cultural, political and ideological complexities, and his knack for making rigorously conceived, and spectacularly staged exhibitions that recommended his appointment as the director of the flagship of international biennales!

Please join us in extending our heartfelt congratulations and warmest wishes to our dear friend as he begins the necessary work on this thrilling project.

We share with our friends, colleagues and readers the press announcement from the Venice Biennale Foundation:
Congratulations Okwui!

Salah M. Hassan (Cornell University)
Chika Okeke-Agulu (Princeton University)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Okwui Enwezor appointed Director of the 56th Venice Biennale!

 Munich and Venice, December 4, 2013

The Board of Directors of la Biennale di Venezia, chaired by Paolo Baratta, after thanking and expressing its gratitude to Massimiliano Gioni for the excellent results of the 55th International Art Exhibition, appointed Okwui Enwezor Director of the Visual Arts Sector. Enwezor has been granted the specific responsibility of curating the 56th International Art Exhibition, to be held in 2015 (Venice, Giardini and Arsenale, May 9 - November 22, 2015).

At the end of the meeting of the Board, President Baratta stated: "We have closed an extraordinary research exhibition, which was brought to term with great success by Massimiliano Gioni, and had the record number of visitors, particularly young visitors. This success demonstrates the ever-widening range of people that directly enjoys the cultural and the emotional experience that the Biennale can provide. For the next edition, we now turn to a person who has a great many experiences to his name, with an ample history of activities and studies in a wide range of topics concerning art. Enwezor has investigated, in particular, the complex phenomenon of globalization in relation to local roots. His personal experience is a decisive starting point for the geographic range of his analysis, for the temporal depth of recent developments in the art world, and for the variegated richness of the present."

In response, Okwui Enwezor has stated: "No event or exhibition of contemporary art has continuously existed at the confluence of so many historical changes across the fields of art, politics, technology, and economics, as la Biennale di Venezia. La Biennale di Venezia is the ideal place to explore all of these dialectical fields of reference, and the institution of la Biennale itself will be a source of inspiration in planning the Exhibition."

"I congratulate Okwui Enwezor on his appointment, which is an extraordinary recognition of his work, and which reflects on the international value that Okwui Enwezor's activities and influence bring to Haus der Kunst," said Ludwig Spaenle, the Bavarian State Minister for Education, Science, and the Arts, commenting on the appointment.

The Haus der Kunst team congratulates Okwui Enwezor on this new challenge.

Portraits of Okwui Enwezor can be downloaded on our press area, at the top of the landing page ("Aktuelles/News").
For information on la Biennale please get in touch with
Press Office of la Biennale di Venezia
Tel. 041 - 5218846/849
Fax 041 - 2411407
FB: La Biennale di Venezia

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact
Elena Heitsch  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Photos from "Crossing Archives" Symposium @ Goethe-Insitut, Lagos (December 1, 2013)

Director of Goethe-Institut, Lagos, Marc-Andre Schmachtel

Consulate General, Federal Rep. of Germany, Lagos, Michael Derus

Hanna Hayduk, Curator of Research, Scientific Cooperation and Dev., Museum Folkwan, Essen, Germany

Kerstin Meincke, convener of symposium and curator, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany

Artists Osahenye Kainebi, Victor Ekpuk, Victor Ehikhamenor, and Okwui Enwezor

Behind Okwui: critic and publisher Toyin Akinosho with art historian Frank Ugiomoh

Panelists: Berlin and Johannesburg-based curator Storm Janse Van Rensburg, and Bisi Silva of Center for Contemporary Art, Lagos

Storm with photographer Santu Mofokeng

Okwui with gallerist Oliver Enwonwu (2nd L), and performance artist Jelili Atiku (2nd R)

Art historian Frank Ugiomoh

Sculptor Ndidi Dike and artist-entrepreneur Anaele Iroh

Osahenye and Onyema Offoedu-Okeke

Okwui and Michael Derus

Okwui, Uche James-Iroha, and Jelili

Okwui and architect John Godwin

Okwui, John and Gillian Hopwood

Moi, Okwui and Victor

Writer Toni-Kan Onwordi, Moi, Okwui and Victor

Marc-Andre and Frank

Photographers, Uche Okpa-Iroha and Adeola Olagunju with Marc-Andre  and Michael

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"CROSSING ARCHIVES" Symposium, Lagos, December 1, 2013

One-Day Conference and Panel Discussion
Venue: Goethe-Institut, Lagos, City Hall
Date/Time: December 1, 2013 / 10:00AM-6:00PM

J.D. ’Okhai Ojeikere
Sister Bushwell at the Trade Fair, Lagos, 1961
Inkjet Print
© J.D. ’Okhai Ojeikere. Image, courtesy of Folkwang Museum, Essen

Photographic archives in African countries lying south of the Sahara have for some years been a focus of attention not only in international academic discussions but also for the global art market. At the same time, cultural collective visual memory in the period between the colonial era and the “postcolonial age” is increasingly being dealt with in artistic and curatorial practice. As the archives find their way into these different realms, the existing systems for organising and categorising them are not only being examined but in many cases energised too. This has given rise to new archives that conform to their own political and aesthetic parameters.
In light of these processes and perspectives, Crossing Archives will hold three panel discussions to address the photographic archives of various geopolitical areas in African countries south of the Sahara. Aside from discussions tackling the larger picture, there will be a specific thematic focus on the situation in Nigeria. This will be addressed in its own panel and complemented by presentations drawn from archival and conservatorial practice in state institutions and private initiatives.

The conference is organised by the Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany, in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut, Lagos, and supported by the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Lagos
This event is free.
Contact for further information and admission:
Goethe-Institut Nigeria
City Hall, Lagos Island, Lagos, Nigeria
Tel. +234 1 7746888
Receptions by
Michael Derus, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Lagos
Marc-André Schmachtel, director, Goethe-Institut, Lagos
Hans-Jürgen Lechtreck, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
Introductory remarks: Kerstin Meincke, curator of VoyageRetour, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
Keynote: Okwui Enwezor, director, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany
Mathieu Zana Aziza Etambala, historian, University of Leuven, Belgium
Chika Okeke-Agulu, art historian and curator, Princeton University, USA
Bisi Silva, curator, Lagos, Nigeria
Santu Mofokeng, visual artist and collector, South Africa
Storm Janse Van Rensburg, curator and researcher, Johannesburg, South Africa/ Berlin, Germany
Etim Eyo, Nigeria Nostalgia Project, Lagos
Frank Ugiomoh, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Kerstin Meincke, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
Kerstin Meincke, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
Panel discussion: Photography, archives and international Relations 
Michael Derus, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Lagos
Hans Hielscher, picture editor, Deutsche Welle, Nigeria/ Der Spiegel, Hamburg, Germany
Marc-André Schmachtel, director, Goethe-Institut, Lagos
Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Lagos and the Goethe-Institut, Lagos
Follow-up event: Drinks and snacks in the Voyage Retour exhibition space

Monday, November 18, 2013

A toast

To Okwuchukwu,
Who force-opened
Whitecountry doors
And set Harmattan
On Hegel's lips

I offer this toast
This glass of upwine

Sunday, November 17, 2013

African Art from MoMA to Newark and Brooklyn Museums

African Art Class @BrooklynMuseum: L-R: Kristen Windmuller-Luna (Teaching Assistant); Cameron Bell, Mimi Pichette, Gabriella Ravida, Margot Yale, Kosaluchi Nwokeneche-Mmegwa,Dina Murokh, Moi, Natthamon Wutilertcharoenwong
Phew! It has been two days of museum visits. Yesterday, my "Art, Apartheid and South Africa" seminar group went to the Museum of Modern Art, New York print study room (thanks to Collections Specialist Katherine Alcauskas, who was a grad student during my time at Williams College) to view their modern/contemporary South African works that were included in the Impressions from South Africa: 1965 to Now exhibition organized by Judith Hecker in 2011. From MoMA we went to my favorite museum, Newark Museum--which alas is going through a difficult time. I hope they find the right, dynamic and visionary director to turn things around and scrub the rust from what is really a gem of a museum. There we saw Sue Williamson's video work Better Lives, 2003--a pwerful commentary on black immigrant lives and experiences in post-Apartheid South Africa.
Ndop (royal portrait figure, from the Kingdom of Kuba) in Brooklyn Museum. Photo by Kristen Windmuller-Luna

Owusu Ankomah's Movement #36, 2002, Newark Museum. Photo by Kristen Windmuller-Luna

Then today, with my African Art class, I was back to New York, this time to the Brooklyn Museum's African gallery, and of course, to see Wangechi's show (again, for me!). Brooklyn's gallery of African art, which begins with sculptures and pottery from the upper Nile (Napata, Meroe), and Nok, but also Ife, Benin, Sapi-Portuguese and Tellem/Dogon, is always useful in speaking about the deep history of artistic traditions in Africa. Very few collections give that opportunity. From Brooklyn we of course went Newark to view their African gallery proper. There, the gallery is still--as with old or unfortunately standard permanent installations of African art--organized into thematic rubrics, with no sense of time, no gesture at African art's historicity. OK, yes, the Brooklyn returns to themes for everything in between that first section and the last where you find work by contemporary African artists (Shonibare, Odundo, Tshibumba, etc), but at least they tried to place datable objects within some kind of soft chronological order. Whatever, Newark still has some great stuff, like that Yoruba Man with Bicycle (which Kwame Anthony Appiah famously wrote about in his book In My Father's House) at the gallery entrance, and Sokari Douglas Camp's monumental Naked Gelede (1995).

At the end of the two days, I started seeing Art by African artists in my peripheral vision. How long will this last, doctor?