Sunday, July 10, 2016

Obiora Udechukwu Retrospective

The Richard F. Brush 
& Permanent Collection
St. Lawrence University

OJEMBA: A Fifty-Year Retrospective: Selected Paintings, Drawings, and Prints by Obiora Udechukwu, 1966-2016

August 17 - October 12, 2016

Painting by Obiora Udechukwu

The Richard F. Brush Art Gallery is pleased to mark 2016 with an exhibition to honor the 20-year anniversary of Obiora Udechukwu at St. Lawrence University, as well as the artist’s own 70th anniversary. “Ojemba,” which means “[A] traveller to distant towns/places/countries,” is taken from the Igbo adage “Ojemba e nwe ilo,” or “A traveler to distant lands does [or should] not have enemies.” A range of paintings, prints, and drawings spanning five decades will be included in the exhibition. In addition, a full-color exhibition catalogue will include over 40 photographs and details; an interview with the artist by curator Mark Denaci, Associate Professor of Art & Art History at St. Lawrence; and statements by the artist, Gallery Director Catherine Tedford, and Vice President/Dean of Academic Affairs Val Lehr. In conjunction with the exhibition, noted Nigerian art historian and artist Chika Okeke-Agulu, Associate Professor, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University, will come to campus to give a public lecture and meet with faculty and students.

  • Lecture by Chika Okeke-Agulu, Thursday, September 15, @ 7:00PM, in Griffiths 123

Obiora Udechukwu, artist, poet, and university professor, was educated at prestigious Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha; Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He was Professor of Fine and Applied Arts at Nsukka for many years before he moved to St. Lawrence University, as Charles A. Dana Distinguished Professor of Fine Arts in 1997. While at Nsukka, he played a prominent role in the resuscitation of interest in Igbo arts, but especially in Uli, the abstract and elegant drawing and painting on the human body and walls by women, and Nsibidi, the ancient pictographic writing associated with elite clubs in southeastern Nigeria. Arguably, no account of contemporary Nigerian art will be complete without mentioning the contribution of the artists associated with Nsukka.

Udechukwu’s interest in Igbo studies is wide. He has researched and published on Igbo minstrelsy and epics. In 1982, he edited with Chinua Achebe an anthology of Igbo poems titled Aka Weta. A founding member of the Aka Circle of Exhibiting Artists, Udechukwu has exhibited widely in Africa, Europe, USA, Asia, and the Caribbean, and his artworks are in public collections including Nigeria’s National Gallery of Art; the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Newark Museum; and Iwalewa Haus, University of Bayreuth, Germany.
Additional information about the exhibition will be posted when it is available.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

On El Anatsui and Peter Magubane's honorary doctorates at University of Cape Town

Group photo after a luncheon in El's honor hosted by the Vice Chancellor of UCT, Professor Max Price at his university residence. Seated left: Artist and UCT Professor, Bernie Searle. El seated 2nd left. Professor Price standing right; Deputy VC and art historian Professor Sandra Klopper standing 2nd right. 
It is no more fresh news that on June 15, just a week ago, El Anatsui received an honorary doctorate from University of Cape Town, the top-rated university on the African continent. This came in the heels of another doctorate last month from Harvard.
El getting his hood!
Photo: Chika Okeke-Agulu

Perhaps only a few in the South African art world also heard that the veteran photographer, Peter Magubane, was the other honoree. It was amazing to see Magubane, who has slowed a bit, deliver a moving speech about his life and work, accompanied by a well-edited film, based on his photographs, that sketch a visual history of anti-Apartheid struggle from the late 1950s through to the 1980s.
Peter Magubane takes the stage,
Photo: Chika Okeke-Agulu

In fact, that award ceremony on June 15, was also an occasion for celebrating the courage of all the school children and youths who rose in defiance of the Apartheid regime's educational policy on June 16, 1976 in Soweto (the day after the UCT graduating ceremony was the 40th anniversary and national holiday); an event burned into the world's consciousness through Sam Nzima's now legendary photograph of dying Hector Pieterson in the arms of distraught Mbuyisa Makhubo, his sister Antoinette by their side.

As the award ceremony carried on, I could not but wonder, looking at the extremely few number of black graduands, how long it might take before South African universities begin to reflect the nation's demographic: less than 10% white, and more than 70% black. In that impressive hall, seeing continuous lines of gowned white students, punctuated by the occasional black was a sobering experience. Then it struck me: no wonder the country's black youth, like in 1976, have now thrown down the gauntlet, demanding radical change in the status quo. Rhodes Must Fall. Fees Must Fall. Unfortunately, the ANC, now a sordid shadow of the political organization that spearheaded the campaign for democratic freedom in South Africa, is filled with self-serving fat cats too mired in their own cesspool to hear the anguished cry of the students and youths out in the streets and university campuses nationwide.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Modernisms Symposium in South Africa

On June 13 and 17, the Multiple Modernisms Project (MMP) to which I belong will have its final symposium, respectively at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and the University of Cape Town. At the Wits, the program is coordinated by Anitra Nettleton now emeritus professor and art historian at the Wits School of Arts; and at UCT, the art historian and depty Vice Chancellor, Sandra Klopper is the host. Nettleton and Klopper are part of the MMP.

Previous symposia of the MMP have taken place at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2012); Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge University, UK (2013); and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand (2014); in addition to a closed workshop at Princeton University (2015). The first two volumes originating from the Ottawa and Cambridge events are in preparing for publication by Duke University Press.

A highlight of the Cape Town symposium will be my public conversation with El Anatsui who, by the way, will be receiving an honorary doctorate degree from UCT on June 14! Actually UCT--arguably Africa's best university, is doing something noteworthy for contemporary African art: last year it also awarded an honorary degree to Okwui Enwezor.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

To University of South Florida, a Note of Thanks

I was in Tampa, Florida this past weekend to receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award for Outstanding Service in the Arts, from The College of the Arts, University of South Florida. It was such an nice event. Most of professors--David Wright, Brad Nickels, Lou Marcus, and Mernet Larson are now gone. Wally Wilson the chair then is now Director of the School of Art and Art History (my home program then), and Helena Szepe and Elizabeth Fraser are still in the art history program, among a cohort of newer faculty that includes Allison Moore who teaches African Art. Before the ceremony, I visited the MFA exhibition and can say that the program remains as strong as I found it in 1998-1999, when I was there. Some changes have taken place, such as the inclusion of Architecture in the College, and the merging of the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) and the legendary Graphicstudio (the nationally-acclaimed printmaking and print archiving facility) into the Institute for Research in Art headed by Margaret Miller who in my day was just the director of CAM. An oh, I reunited with a ceramic piece I made in 1998, thanks to Irineo Cabreros, who ran the kilns then. Finally, thanks to Dean Moy and Wally Wilson, and all the faculty for this award. USF, was generous to me; it gave me a place of refuge when home threw me out. It set me on my US sojourn and travels through art history. That was more than enough.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ramez Elias, artist, designer, RIP

It is with deep sorrow that we, the editors of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, mourn the death of Ramez Elias, who passed away on Thursday April 21st, 2016 in Paris, France. Ramez was the designer of Nka for the last 16 years. A remarkably talented artist, Ramez has left an indelible mark on the design of Nka, shaping its character, as not only a leading journal, but also an elegant one in the field of contemporary and African and African diaspora art. Ramez was not just a brilliant designer; he was a dear friend. He was generous, kind hearted, and a very caring human being. Words fail us about our loss and sadness. But here at Nka, we shall continue to build on the design vision you established and which has taken us this far.
          Ramez studied at the American University in Cairo (AUC), before moving to Ithaca where he had lived since 1994. He was a multi-talented and creative individual, who besides being a designer, was also gifted theater actor who performed with groups such as Al Warsha, an experimental theater company based in Cairo, Egypt. Ramez hailed from a prominent Egyptian family which played a pioneering role in the rise of the independent publishing industry in Egypt since the early part of the 20th Century. His grandfather Elias Anton Elias, a well known modernist intellectual and the author of one of the first Arabic-English dictionaries in Egypt, was the founder of the Elias Modern Publishing House in 1913, which has contributed tremendously to publishing in the fields of literature, art and children books.
         Our sincere condolences to our friend Natalie Melas, Ramez’s wife, and to his brother Nadim Elias and his wife Laura Elias, and to his nephews Sammy and Karim, his niece Nada El Omari, and to brother-in-law Majdi El Omari, and the extended family in Egypt. 
Rest in peace Ramez. Your memory and the beauty you brought to our lives will forever stay with us, and guide us to better horizons. 

Okwui Enwezor
Salah M. Hassan
Chika Okeke-Agulu
(Editors, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Invitation to Wole Soyinka's Toni Morrison Lectures @ Princeton

Please join us for The 2016 Toni Morrison Lecture Series featuring the writer Wole Soyinka. Wole Soyinka has been described as ‘Nigeria’s national conscience.’ He is a professor, activist, playwright, critique and poet. His work often tells stories of democracy, government, religion, and tensions around tradition and progress. He is concerned with "the oppressive boot and the irrelevance of the colour of the foot that wears it." He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1986. Soyinka is the first African laureate.

The series of lectures Wole Soyinka will deliver next week is called Commencement Rites at the Tree of Creativity. The talks take place Monday, April 18th; Tuesday, April 19th; and Wednesday, April 20th all starting at 5:30 pm. These lectures are free and open to the public, in McCosh Hall, Room 10. No tickets are required.

April 18th at 5:30 p.m.
‘In Praise – and Dread – of Trees’
Introduction by Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu

April 19th at 5:30 p.m.
‘Sweet are the Uses of Diversity’
Introduction by Professor Simon Gikandi

April 20th at 5:30 p.m.
‘As It Was in the Beginning’
Introduction by Professor Wendy Laura Belcher

The Toni Morrison Lectures are sponsored by the Department of African American Studies and Princeton University Press. The lectures are held annually and spotlight the new and exciting work of scholars and writers who have risen to positions of prominence both in academe and in the broader world of letters.

The lectures are published in book form by Princeton University Press and celebrate the expansive literary imagination, intellectual adventurousness and political insightfulness that characterize the writing of Toni Morrison.

The talks will be streamed live each night: and on the African American Studies website