Wednesday, September 25, 2013

For dele jegede

dele jegede, Abuja, 2009. Copyright dele jegede 

This  past weekend a conference (with a keynote by my friend Salah M. Hassan) and book presentation took place at the University of Texas, Austin, organized by the indefatigable and influential historian and scholar Toyin Falola. Though I really hoped to participate in the events, other commitments made it impossible for me to go pay homage to a man who has been, for many years, among the leading lights of the Nigerian art world, and an important voice of that country's conscience. He, in this sense, occupies--along with Gani Odutokun (1947-1995) and Obiora Udechukwu--a special place in the annals of Nigerian art: Artists who with nothing but their palette/shield and brush/sword assailed the sordid beast that was military dictatorship and its small-minded but fat minions at a time their contemporaries--artists and intellectuals alike--looked the other way, enthralled by the spectacular violence of the regime.

Obiora Udechukwu, Tycoon and Stevedores, 1980. Copyright Obiora Udechukwu

Gani Odutokun, King, Queen and the Republic, 1987. Copyright Estate of Gani Odutokun 

The history of art in Nigeria during those dark has yet to be written (it soon will!), but in the meantime, I want to thank Toyin Falola for making possible this occasion, this festival in honor of a most deserving man and artist. I have not seen the festschrift published in honor of jegede, but I hope that among the many essays therein a few at least will provide critical examination of an artistic life so rich and eventful, as well as reliable and compelling accounts of a man so prodigiously endowed with the power of creativity and a deep sense of what it means to be human.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Kofi Awoonor Killed in Nairobi

This unfolding tragedy in the Nairobi Mall, has claimed the leading Ghanaian and African writer Kofi Awoonor. Among his many books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction are Night of My Blood (1971); This Earth, My Brother (1971); The Breast of the Earth (1975). Awoonor also served as a UN Permanent Representative for Ghana, and was in Nairobi to participate in the Storymoja Hay Festival, an important literary event. Rest in Peace, Mr Awoonor; peace that triumphs over all violence.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

New York Times on exhibition of Simon Ottenberg's collection

Just in case you missed this, I recommend this ongoing exhibition at the Newark Museum and the review of it by Holland Cotter of the New York Times. Though a modest show, as far as exhibitions go, it is a gem (you might say I am biased, given that I am among the exhibiting artists; but so be it!) in terms of its scope and the installation design. Congratulations to Perrin Lathrop who curated it; to Christa Clarke who oversaw the process of gifting of the collection to Newark; and of course to Simon Ottenberg who quietly put together the collection since the 1960s when many of the now venerable artists (like Bruce Onobrakpeya, Twins Seven-Seven, and Uche Okeke) had yet to become the established names they are today. The interesting thing is that he collected much of this work while on fieldwork as an anthropologist known world over for his scholarship on Afikpo masking traditions. For me, the highlight of the show is unquestionably Akinola Lasekan's enigmatic history painting, Ajaka of Owo (1944), below.

Image courtesy of the Newark Museum

ANNOUNCEMENT: African Humanities Fellowship applications now open

**This is an excellent opportunity for scholars working in African universities.

The ACLS African Humanities Program is happy to announce that application materials for the 2013-14 fellowship competition are now available online. To download the application documents, and for further information on this year's competition, please visit

The application deadline is November 1, 2013. Applications should be submitted via email to Late applications will not be accepted.

The African Humanities Program, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, provides fellowships for scholars in the humanities who are nationals of sub Saharan African countries. Dissertation fellowships to support the final year of writing are available to scholars affiliated with institutions of higher education and research in Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda. Early-career postdoctoral fellowships are available to scholars who are eight or fewer years past the Ph.D. and who are affiliated with institutions in Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and South Africa. The African Humanities Program supports research in any humanistic discipline, and invites applications from scholars working in any field in the humanities.

We encourage everyone to spread the word about this year's competition and to contact ACLS with any questions about the application process. Queries can be directed to