Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Nnenna Okore's solo exhibition debuts on the 16th Oct 08 at October Gallery, London

I am happy to share the information about Nnenna's forthcoming London solo exhibition Ulukububa- Infinite Flow on Thursday 16th of October 2008, 6.00-8.30pm at The October Gallery, London. I met Nnenna about 8yrs ago at an group exhibition she had organised in Lagos. I was on one of my holiday visits from the UK. Her works in that exhibition were not very exciting paintings but on a visit to Nsukka, Prof El Anatsui took me to her house where I saw her tentative but experimental sculptural pieces. They signal interesting developments for the future and I made a mental note to keep up with her work. At that time she was trying to decide what to do for her MA - go into curating as she enjoyed organising exhibitions or continue with her art. I remember it was during the period of the Lecture series I organised in 2000/2001 and Katy Deepwell, the British feminist art historian who was the guest speaker also visited her (somehow our visit was separately) and encouraged her to continue with her art as more young African women artists needed to be encouraged. True but I was more interested in encouraging her to do an MA in curatorial practice as they were few trained or established African curators. I guess in her confusion she chose her art. I am glad she did.

Finally I had the opportunity to work with during the 2006 Dakar biennale of which I was a co-curator. I add below the short artist text i wrote about her work for Dakar.

Nnenna Okore manipulates discarded paper by weaving, braiding, twisting, dying and roping to create intricate sculptural installation. Her preoccupation with recycled materials developed as she watched children transform scrap metal into playing objects, such as miniature cars and dolls’ houses, and market women wrapping their goods in found newspapers. These impoverished communities recycling habits have become part of their unconscious existence.

Childhood fascination with the use of fabricated and found material in her community has developed into experimentation with process and material in her art. Bridges of Communication comprises stacked waxed pages and sticks, which from a distance looks like a bed of reddish plastic materials grouped on top of a bunch of vertical sticks. A closer look reveals the red materials as yellow phonebook pages, stained with Nigerian indigenous dyes, and evenly covered in red wax. Currently based in America, Nnenna Okore is appalled by the amount of waste produced in relation to the scarcity in Third World countries. Her interest in highlighting the abuse and misuse of resources practiced by wealthier societies results in stimulating visual and textural effects that not only celebrate the material but also entice viewers to unravel the composition and assemblage of her work.

Nnenna Okore was born in 1975 in Australia.She graduated from the University of Nsukka, Nigeria, with a BA (first class) in painting and as the Faculty of Fine and Applied Art Valedictorian in 1999. She received her MFA in sculpture in 2005 from the University of Iowa, USA.

Ulukububa- Infinite Flow solo exhibition in London is an important landmark in her career after what I learnt was a successful solo outing in New York in 2007. Nnenna next destination - Nigeria please.
The press information from October Gallery states that:
Nnenna Okore
is a shining new talent at the forefront of Nigeria’s emerging generation of conceptual artists. Working with clay, wire, wax, rope and newspaper, she creates highly tactile wall sculptures. Her organically textured installations create intimate architectural spaces and shelters, encouraging the viewer to ‘inhabit’ and socially engage with the object. Okore first studied at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, under celebrated sculptor El Anatsui. She is currently Assistant Professor of Art at North Park University, Chicago. Her work was recently exhibited at Channel 4’s headquarters and is included in the inaugural exhibition 'Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary', at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York.

The exhibition will be opened by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, at 7.15pm.

October Gallery
24 Old Gloucester Street

, WC1N 3AL
(t) 020 7242 7367
(f) 020 7405 1851

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi-Adiche wins MacArthur 'genius' award

Over the past two years its seems that I enter somewhere as Chimamanda has just left, especially when i visit Quintessence or Jazzhole (gift/bookshops). Only last week when I popped into Bogobiri (art boutique hotel) to meet photographer George Osodi, he was working on portraits of the writer and mentioned she just left with her Nigerian publisher Muhtar Bakare. Maybe it is all well and good. I have read Purple Hibiscus and literally 'forced' some of my non-art friends to read it, but I have yet to read Half of a Yellow Sun. I have a 20hr flight coming up soon so it will be part of my hand luggage. Then I can congratulate her properly without the corny Congratulations, I haven't read it yet but it is on my priority reading list.
The MacArthur Foundation has announced that Chimamanda is one of 25 individuals selected for the prestigious 2008 MacArthur Fellow. The $500,000 fellowship is paid over a 5 years period with no strings attached. This is an important encouragement for any artist at a critical time in their career. Other notable visual artists who have received the award include David Hammons, Martin Puryear, Fred Wilson, Kara Walker and Julie Mehretu.

The Foundations's release states that

Chimamanda Adichie is a young writer who illuminates the complexities of human experience in works inspired by events in her native Nigeria. Adichie explores the intersection of the personal and the public by placing the intimate details of the lives of her characters within the larger social and political forces in contemporary Nigeria. Dividing her time over the last decade between the United States and Nigeria, she is widely appreciated for her stark yet balanced depiction of events in the post-colonial era. In her most recent novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), Adichie unflinchingly portrays the horror and destruction of the civil war following the establishment of the Republic of Biafra. Using multiple narrative voices, a precise movement back and forth in time, and prose that is at once witty and empathetic, she immerses the reader in the psyches of her characters, whose loyalties to each other and their ideals are tested as their world gradually falls apart. In humanizing the Biafran tragedy, Adichie’s novel has enriched conversation about the war within Nigeria while also offering insight into the circumstances that lead to ethnic conflict. A writer of great promise, Adichie’s powerful rendering of the Nigerian experience is enlightening audiences both in her homeland and around the world.

Chimamanda Adichie received a B.A. (2001) from Eastern Connecticut State University, an M.A. (2003) from Johns Hopkins University, and an M.A. (2008) from Yale University. Her additional works include the novel Purple Hibiscus (2003) and short stories that have appeared in such publications as the New Yorker, Granta, and the Virginia Quarterly Review.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Soundbites From ARESUVA, The First African Regional Summit and Exhibition on Visual Art

I was unable to attend this pioneering event but I got a balanced feedback from friends and colleagues within the country and from the rest of the continent who attended. In spite of the many shortcomings - to be expected of any big event being organised for the first time - the positives outweighed the deficits. The African artists and art professionals appreciated the efforts made singlehandedly and without recourse to constraining international funding (an important point) by the Nigerian government and Nigerian corporate sponsors to bring over 30 African artists and cultural practitioners from over 15 African countries and the Diaspora together. For long we have said that we need to find multiple platforms within the continent where we can come together at regular intervals to discuss issues, exchange ideas, develop our practice - artistic and curatorial, articulate a discourse and create a framework that reflects our contemporaneity. Events are mushrooming all over the continent and with its stupendous oil wealth and its unparalled rich cultural heritage there is no reason why Nigeria should not be at the forefront of the development of cultural infrastructure - physical and intellectual on the continent.

My good friend and cross-continental soundboard, the Zambian artist William Miko who came with 3 other young Zambian artists said the younger ones were amazed at how many Profs (notwithstanding the fact that we just luvve titles) specialising in the field of visual art and culture came up to present papers. Nobody doubts the artistic and intellectual capacity of Nigerians in the country or in the diaspora but we need to find a way to work more together, harnessing our resources collectively to create a critical mass in the cultural field. The National Gallery of Art, Nigeria with its recent project Aresuva is taking that bold step which will be built upon in coming years.

I just returned from a seminar in Germany for African cultural organisations and during one of the presentations my colleague from Ouagadougou began with phrase by his former minister of culture who said something like If Africa is behind in grabbing economic power, then it has everything it needs to be a powerful leader in culture.

I am not convinced that economic development will result in Uhuru for Africa but I do BELIEVE that cultural power will get us closer to the promised land. Aresuva signals that possibility.

I am sure more debates and discussions will surface in the coming days and I still have 1 or 2 things i would like to add. In the meantime I post this communique I received in my mailbox which can be used as a starting point to flesh out issues.



ARESUVA 2008 drew participants from all walks of life: Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana, Uganda, Senegal, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Benin republic, Cote D’Ivoire, Togo Ethiopia and Nigerian artists in the Diaspora. The event also drew participants from the media and the general public. The theme of the event was “Promoting the Visual Arts for Sustainable Economic Growth and Development in Africa.” On display at ARESUVA 2008 exhibition were two hundred and one pieces of artworks in a variety of media. The event was organized to bring together artists, scholars, and culture experts from Africa and the Black Diaspora. A total of seven well-researched and thought-provoking papers were presented. The titles and presenters are as follows:

(a) “Awaiting prospecting: Visual Arts and Economy in Africa.” (Professor Ola Oloidi, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.)
(b) “A Critique of the Idea of Arts as Luxury: Art and the Architecture of Politics.” (Professor Ikem Stanley Okoye, University of Delaware, USA.
(c) “African Regional Summit and Exhibition on Visual Arts: The Cultural and Economic Viability of Monumental Sculpture in Public Places.” (Agbo Folarin, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.)
(d) “Structures and Strictures in the Nigerian Art Space.” Professor dele jegede, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, USA.
(e) “The Visual Art Sub-Sector: A key Industry in Poverty Alleviation in Africa.” (Professor S. R. Ogunduyile, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State.)
(f) “Monetizing Nigerian Art and Production in the Global Economy.”Professor Sylvester Ogbechie, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA.
(g) “‘What Africans are Producing is not African Art.’” (Claudine Pommier, Arts in Action Society Toronto, Canada.)

The event also witnessed various dramatic performances, a round table, and a live performance of the ARESUVA theme song by students of the Government Secondary School, Garki, Abuja, Nigeria. On the last day of the event participants were conducted round some notable tourist centres within the Federal Capital Territory. Participants also experienced Nigerian hospitality as well as local cuisine.

Installation view, Aresuva
photo by Lucy Azubuike


At the end of the events, participants resolved that:

1. In order to engender appropriate awareness for African art and culture, African governments should have cultural attaches in their respective embassies and establish cultural centers to promote African art and culture.
2. African countries should develop and implement cultural policies.
3. Greater collaboration in the valuation of African art should be encouraged among artists in Africa and the African Diaspora.
4. All African governments should make funding of the arts a priority at all educational levels.
5. All African governments should ensure that statutes against illicit acquisition of intellectual property should be enforced.
6. African schools should create relevant art curricula for 21st century global economy.
7. The culture of art auctioning should be encouraged for the development of an appropriate climate within which appropriate valuation of art can flourish.
8. African governments should make the establishment and implementation of National Endowment for the Arts an essential aspect of cultural policies.
9. African governments should commit a good percentage of their budget to the embellishment of public buildings and spaces.
10. ARESUVA should be hosted in a period that will also enable participants to attend Abuja Carnival.
11. The summit is seriously concerned with NUC’s directive that the acquisition of Ph.D is a pre-condition for promotion for lecturers in studio art. The M.F.A. is the recognized terminal degree in studio art, and this should be the measure of promotion to any level in tertiary institutions. Appropriate organisations such as the Society of Nigerian Artists should work with the NUC on resolving this issue expeditiously.

The summit applauded the visionary work of the Director General of the National Gallery of Art, Chief Joe Musa, for making ARESUVA 2008 a forum for “Promoting the Visual Arts for Sustainable Economic Growth and Development in Africa.”

Installation view, Aresuva
photo by Lucy Azubuike

R. F. Wilcox, Asst. Director Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture & National Orientation;
Barr. Ramjul Voncir, National Gallery of Art Abuja;
Professor dele jegede, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, USA;
Professor Ola Oloidi, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Installation view, Aresuva
photo by Lucy Azubuike

More information www.aresuva.com

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Zina Saro-Wiwa brings her film This Is My Africa to CCA,Lagos.

In September CCA,Lagos in collaboration with AfricaLab presents the first of future arthouse film screening in our programme, the acclaimed film This is My Africa by Zina Saro-Wiwa on Saturday Sept 13th at 2pm.

Saturday 13TH September 08 2pm.

Zina Saro-Wiwa will be present to give a talk about the film and conduct a Q&A session.

This Is My Africa

What is Africa to you? This is a question Zina Saro-Wiwa has explored in her latest film This Is My Africa. A delightful, thought-provoking and utterly unique film This Is My Africa seeks to create an alternative image of Africa created out of the memories, tastes and opinions of 20 London-based Africans and Africaphiles. "I wanted to make a film that used private reminisces to challenge the way Africa is talked about publicly - which is often negative, reductive and wholly defined by the current affairs and NGO sector" says Zina.

A 50-minute crash course in African culture, This Is My Africa offers glimpses of African food, books, artists, music and films that have personally resonated with the interviewees who are: artist, Yinka Shonibare MBE; film-maker, John Akomfrah OBE; Channel 4 news anchor, Jon Snow; actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor; actor, Colin Firth; author, Biyi Bandele; fashion designer, Bayo Oduwole; writer, Mazzi Binaisa; DJ, Duncan Brooker; cultural historian, Nana O. Ayim; This Is My Africa comes at an important time. "Africa is still very much The Dark Continent in the eyes of the world,' says producer/director Zina Saro-Wiwa.

About the director:
The producer/director Zina Saro-Wiwa is a film-maker, writer and presenter for the BBC. She is also the founder of
AfricaLab a multimedia company dedicated to changing the way the world sees Africa.

To see the CNN feature on This Is My Africa please cut and paste this link: http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2008/04/15/inside.africa.crash.course.culture.cnn

Venue Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos
9 McEwen Street, Off Queen Street, Sabo,
Opp Methodist Church, Herbert Macaulay St, Lagos.

Telephone 0702 8367106

Sunday, 7 September 2008

ARESUVA debuts in the Nigerian Capital, Abuja

ARESUVA is the First African Regional Summit & Exhibition on Visual Arts organised by NGA. Its central theme is about Promoting the Visual Arts for Sustainable Economic Growth and Development in Africa. About 52 African countries have been invited to participate. The event will feature exhibitions, invited paper presentation, business meetings, art networking, study tour of the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) and its environs and summit state banquet.

The exhibition has been designed to be in two folds, that is, the Main and the Off. Artists have been invited from different African countries through their embassies in Nigeria and others directly through facilitators to participate in the main exhibition. The off exhibitions are to be organized by the private galleries within and outside Abuja. The main exhibition is curated by Nsikak Essien.

Aresuva will take place from the 7th - 13th September 2008 in Abuja.
More info at www.aresuva.com

More information culled from the Guardian Newspaper.

Rich timetable for ARESUVA

ALL is now set for the first African Regional Summit and Exhibition on Visual Art (ARESUVA) as the programme of activities released by the organizers, the National Gallery of Art (NGA) expect all participants to arrive Abuja on Sunday, September 7. The opening ceremony takes place on Monday, September 8 with Joe Musa, Director-General, NGA, giving the introductory address. This will be followed by Performance Art by the Blackman in European Kitchen, Emmanuel Eni, a Berlin, Germany based Nigerian artist. Welcome address will be delivered by the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode while the lead paper is to be presented by Chief (Mrs.) Cecilia Ibru, MD/CEO, Oceanic Bank. The Minister will thereafter declare the exhibition open with vote of thanks by Soni Irabor, Chairman, Central Working Committee, ARESUVA 2008. A gala Nite rounds off the activities for Monday.

The plenary session opens on Tuesday September 9 with Prof. Ola Oloidi's paper; "Visual Arts in the Economic Advancement of a Nation - African Space." Lisa Binder speaks on. "Museum on African Art, New York: In Perspective" and Prof. Ikem Okoye will deliver his paper Prof. Anitra Nettleon's paper is titled; "Rural Artists/Art Market Interaction in South Africa" while Prof. Folarin focuses on, "The Cultural and Economic Viability of Monumental Sculpture in Public Spaces... (What Nigeria needs to do and emulated).

Plenary session 2 on Wednesday, September 10 kicks off with Prof. Ogunduyile's paper followed by that of Dele Jegege titled, "Strictures and Structures in the Nigerian Art Space". Other paper presenters for the day are Claudine Pommer and Prof. Sylvester Ogbechie.

Thursday, September 11, the star attraction for ARESUVA 2008 will be the roundtable on the topic: "Networking Opportunities in Visual Arts: Nigeria and USA Linkages". The discussants who are mainly USA-based are: Prof. Awam Amkpa; Prof. Deborah Willis; Prof. Manthia Diawara and Prof. Salah Hassan, as well as Simon Njami from Paris. Friday, September 12 is dedicated to sight seeing while departure date is Saturday, September 13. Exhibitions run through each day, 9:00am - 6:00pm.