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.

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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.

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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.

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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".

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