Sunday, July 27, 2014

On Gaza's tragedy

Jon Snow, one of UK's Top Journalists Says Gaza Has Left Him 'Deeply Scarred'

I cannot fathom why on earth the world can see what is happening to the Stateless people of Palestine and keep quiet. Nothing, absolutely nothing justifies the maiming and killing of other people's children. NOTHING. The other day, President Obama said it "breaks my heart". About the same time the US Senate passed resolution S. 498 which read:

Expressing the sense of the Senate regarding United States support for the State of Israel as it defends itself against unprovoked rocket attacks from the Hamas terrorist organization.
Whereas Hamas is a United States-designated terrorist organization whose charter calls for the destruction of the State of Israel;
Whereas Hamas continues to reject the core principles of the Middle East Quartet (the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia)--recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence, and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements;
Whereas Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis and dozens of Americans in rocket attacks and suicide bombings;
Whereas, since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Hamas and other terrorist groups have fired thousands of rockets at Israel;
Whereas Hamas has entered into a unity governing arrangement with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority;
Whereas the unity governing agreement implies Fatah's and the Palestinian Authority's support for Hamas' belligerent actions against Israel, potentially contributing to a false perception of legitimacy for Hamas' belligerent actions;
Whereas, since June 2014, Hamas has fired nearly 300 rockets at Israel;
Whereas Hamas' weapons arsenal includes approximately 12,000 rockets that vary in range;
Whereas innocent Israeli civilians are indiscriminately targeted by Hamas rocket attacks; and
Whereas 5,000,000 Israelis are currently living under the threat of rocket attacks from Gaza: Now, therefore, be it
    Resolved, That the Senate--
        (1) reaffirms its support for Israel's right to defend its citizens and ensure the survival of the State of Israel;
        (2) condemns the unprovoked rocket fire at Israel;
        (3) calls on Hamas to immediately cease all rocket and other attacks against Israel; and
        (4) calls on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the unity governing arrangement with Hamas and condemn the attacks on Israel.

Notice that throughout this resolution, the Senate of the United States did not see the need to acknowledge the carnage and utter destruction of Gaza, the killing by Isreali War machine of hundreds (the figure has since topped 1000), a majority of them, according to the UN, civilians. And yes the deaths of many, any children a few of whom Jon Snow visited at Gaza's Shifa Hospital. Not one single acknowledgment of the destruction of human lives by their ally. Yes, the US has every right to support their ally; but to ignore the disproportionate "Israeli ruthlessness" (as Max Hastings calls it on Mail Online), is nothing short of astonishing, and unconscionable. Do these politicians, and their Israeli counterparts believe that whoever among the people of Gaza survives this massacre will forget what happened to their families and community this summer of hell? What does History tell us?

Watch Jon Snow's account of reporting from Gaza

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

For Two Nigerians, the Wonders of Senegal!

        Ecole National des Arts, Dakar

Yesterday, I was in a taxi with my dear friend and artist Jerry Buhari who was here in Dakar for the just-ended "Artistic Education in Africa" conference organized by Raw Material Company. We were headed to Lalibela, the Ethiopian restaurant in Rue A. At some point, the taxi, driven by a man who must be in his 70s, made a turn to join another road and, just then, a military vehicle driven by a young uniformed soldier blocked our way. The soldier apparently had knowingly made the wrong turn and would not reverse. Jerry and I know, the Nigerians we are, had seen the unfolding script play out many many times before back home. Anxiety. But what happened reminded us how far away Dakar/Senegal was from our Nigeria. Our driver rolled down his window, repeatedly yelled out "what the hell are you doing?! And then proceeded to order the soldier to reverse his car. The soldier, knowing full well he was wrong, hesitated a bit, mumbled some kind of apology, reversed and went on his way! Miracle in Senghor's land! The script Jerry and I had read back home would have had the soldier descend from his truck, pull out the bloody civilian driver, and maul him right there for disrespecting a military man. If he were inspired he would even flog the occupants of the taxi for having the bad judgment to patronize such insolent cab driver. And nothing, absolutely nothing, would have happened to the uniformed Nigerian mad dog.

We mourned Nigeria, again. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

world spirit, 
lyrical giant,
Voice of the Deep

Soul searcher
Radical light
Singer Tremulous 

Has gone

To the Milkyway

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Photos from Yve-Alain Bois' Garden Party

Every year for the past five years, Yve-Alain Bois--the Institute of Advanced Study and Princeton University-based art historian--organizes a spring Garden Party for the New York-area art world folks at his home deep in the woods of New Jersey. The setting in the NJ farm country reminds you why this place is called the Garden City State. Beautiful. Nature. Fundamental! (How do you survive the concrete jungle after spending time here? I don't know). Anyways, he treated his many guests--adults, children, pets--to an afternoon of "buffet lunch, drinks, frolicking in the grass, ping pong, pétanque, whatever." The "whatever" in fact included the "weather", because it was manifest in all its verdant spring glory. Ah, one more thing: Yve-Alain has these stacks of cut seasoned cherry wood that have now compelled me to want to return to my first love--wood carving. I left with two hefty logs in my trunk. This is serious! Anyways, here are a few photos from the party:

Yve-Alain (c) chatting with guests

Controversy: On the South African National Gallery Director's job

Raison Naidoo, the director of South Africa's premier art museum, the Iziko: South African National Gallery for the past five years has written a public statement in response to the refusal of the authorities to renew his contract. Kendell Geers, the internationally-renowned South African artist has weighed in: he will not join forces with Naidoo's sympathizers, and wishes to see him gone, based on what he describes as an bad experience working with the "unprofessional" Naidoo and the SANG on a failed Kendell's retrospective. Naidoo, having listed the museum's accomplishments during his tenure, threatens to fight for his job. But, given that this matter will quite likely become a flaming platform for racial politics in the post-Apartheid Rainbow Nation's art world, how it plays out calls for our attention.

Dakar Symposium on Artistic Education in Africa


International Symposium
Condition Report (2)
On Artistic Education in Africa

Raw Material Company is pleased to announce Condition Report (2), a three-day international symposium on artistic education in Africa organized in collaboration with Dakar’s Ecole Nationale des Arts, and convened by Mamadou Dioum, Director Ecole Nationale des Arts, Koyo Kouoh, Artistic Director, Raw Material Company, and Chika Okeke-Agulu, Associate Professor, Princeton University. The symposium takes place in Dakar, Senegal from 26-28 June 2014. It follows on the first program in January 2012, which focused on emergent independent art institutions in Africa.

Formal art training in Africa began more than a hundred years ago either as a part of nationalist program of cultural development, or as an ancillary component of colonial education. In the wake of political independence by mid-20th century, new African states vigorously pursued autonomous national cultural programs, including the establishment new art and cultural institutions, or expansion and reorientation of existing, colonial ones. However, the Structural Adjustment Programs of the 1980’s and 1990’s severely impacted culture and education industries; in the ensuing turn to the so-called productive sectors of the devastated economies, art education for the most part witnessed dramatic decline in quality, scale and ambition. The symposium will consider how art schools in Africa might be reinvented and retooled to become sites of new trans-disciplinary pedagogical approaches and ambitious experimental projects and methods. It will also consider how to sustain the role of art schools as sites of knowledge production and sharing, research and archival practices and as catalysts for new strategies of international artistic networking.

The main objective of this second international symposium is to provide a platform and opportunity for examining artistic pedagogies and practices, institutional policies and traditions, and how these contribute to the production, transmission and perpetuation of artistic and visual knowledge in African academies. Participating thinkers, faculty, artists, and cultural practitioners working in the educational and academic field will reflect on crucial and urgent matters relating to systematic revitalization of artistic education in African countries. Invited participants will provide analyses of the current situation as well as articulate possible futures for academic art teaching in Africa given the changing contours of national imaginaries and the shifting global economic and political landscape.

Among some case studies that will be presented during the symposium, particular attention will be given to the lack of funding that leads on the one hand to a steady decrease of the teaching quality as well as access to contemporary tools of artistic and intellectual production. One of the core aim of the symposium is to look closely at certain artistic and curatorial projects that influenced the formation of cultural connections among African countries and stimulated the rise of non-degree based workshops, artists collectives and related educational initiatives. How might art schools, despite their need to fulfil set curricular and academic mandates draw on the vitality of non-degree programs? What collaborative possibilities exist between formal and informal art schools, especially given the changing dynamics of the art world, the need for broadening the spaces of artistic, aesthetic and socio-cultural transaction and exchange in Africa?

The symposium will consist of closed and public sessions. Presentations and discussions will address following themes:
  • Faculties & Narratives: Histories of art academies in Africa
  • Curriculum & Syllabus: Content and orientation of teaching
  • Alternative Education: Workshops and artists collectives
  • Comparative global contexts of art pedagogies

Speakers among others include Mara Ambrožič, Alioune Badiane, Roger Buergel, Jerry Buhari, Ana Paula Cohen, Elsbeth Court, Mamadou Dioum, Bassam El Baroni, Meschac Gaba, Seyni Gadiaga, Raimi Gbadamosi, Amal Issa, Abdoulaye Konate, Steven Henry Madoff, Mathilde Moreau, Patrick Missassi, Willem de Rooij, Issa Samb and Pooja Sood.

Attendance is open to a limited number of forty participants selected on the first come first served basis. Interested international participants are requested to contact the coordination for registration and travel information.

Marie Hélène Pereira:
Marie Cissé:

About Raw Material Company

Raw Material Company is a not for profit center for art, knowledge and society. It is an art initiative unfolding within the realms of exhibition making, creative residencies, knowledge sharing, and archiving of art theory. It works to foster appreciation and growth of artistic and intellectual creativity in Africa. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Questions for Professor Jean Herskovits--on Boko Haram

In early 2012, Professor Jean Herskovits, a well-known historian who has written much about Nigeria for nearly half a century, wrote a most interesting Op-Ed in the New York Times. Titled, "In Nigeria, Boko Haram is not the Problem," the good professor--to whom many governments and NGOs go for advise on Nigerian matters--not only announced authoritatively that "there is no proof that a well-organized, ideologically coherent terrorist group called Boko Haram even exists today," she went on to claim that the world was being misled by the media into thinking that the BH is anything more than a bunch of unformed, criminal gangs produced by incessant poverty in the Muslim north, and insensitivity of a Christian-led government. According to her, "Someone who claims to be a spokesman for Boko Haram — with a name no one recognizes [I guess "no one" refers to specialists like her] and whom no one has been able to identify or meet with — has issued threats and statements claiming responsibility for attacks. Remarkably, the Nigerian government and the international news media have simply accepted what he says." 

Her final advise--which was later adopted in a letter to the then Secretary Clinton by a bunch of US-based specialists, including Herskovits--was that the Obama Administration must not declare the BH a terrorist organization, and that the US must not wade into a "Nigerian war on Terror." Fine.

BUT,  Professor Herskovits, in the wake of the large-scale murders of school children (in secondary and tertiary schools) in Born0 State before and since you wrote your Op-Ed, and considering the present abduction of nearly 300 school girls, all claimed by Boko Haram through their leader who you doubted his existence in 2012, what advise do you and your fellow Nigerian specialists have? Is the Boko Haram now a problem, in Nigeria? Do you now recognize or know the name Abubakar Shekau who has been leading BH since 2009?