Centre for Contemporary Art,Lagos welcomes its first Fulbright Fellow, art historian and artist Antawan Byrd to Lagos.
Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos is an independent visual art organisation established in 2007 to provide a platform for the development, presentation and discussion of contemporary visual art and culture. We present a diverse programme of exhibitions, workshops, talks and seminars featuring local, continental and international artists, curators, critics and writers.
CCA,Lagos has set up one of the fastest growing independent libraries in Nigeria specialising in the visual arts and critical theory. The library has grown from the initial 500 publications to over 3500 books, catalogues, journals and art videos. It continues to develop as an important learning resource and visual artists archive, a specialised educational facility for writers, artists and students as well as international researchers and other professionals in the cultural sector. The vision is to build it up to be one of the largest and most important art libraries in the West African region. Within this context, in a short period of time the CCA,Lagos has built up an enviable position as the only independent visual art organization to facilitate and affiliate with a renowned international educational initiative such as the Fulbright programme.
The Fulbright is the United States’ most prestigious international educational exchange programme. Under the aegis of the US government, the programme is designed to foster mutual understanding between people of the US and people of other countries all over the world. Since 1946, there have been approximately 294,000 participants in the program: 111,000 from the United States, and 183,000 from other countries. “Fulbrighters” are chosen “for their academic merit and leadership potential – with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.” J. William Fulbright, a US Senator from Arkansas, conceived the program with the goal of developing knowledge, empathy and leadership between cultures.
Whilst in Lagos, Antawan Byrd’s goal is to engage in a ten-month conversation with the city specifically, and more generally, Nigeria. Byrds says that “Contemporary art, for me, has always been a fruitful field of engagement because of its discursiveness. There is plenty to be said about objects of art, the circumstances underpinning their production, the artists who make them, and the spaces that exhibit them–ranging from formal and museological concerns to the social, cultural and geopolitical.”
During his extended stay, Byrd expects to engage with the art community by fostering relationships with artists, critics, curators, writers, and other cultural workers and is especially keen on interacting with other students of art and art history. He states that, “To me, all of this is an urgent form of research, as the concept of contemporary African art is fraught with complexities and must be broached through intellectual rigor, active engagement and dialogue. This is precisely why my research will be based at CCA,Lagos as, to my knowledge, it is the best institution in Lagos for enabling one to explore the diverse practices of African artists from not only a local purview but also from a continental perspective–and even from an international scope, as the CCA,Lagos offers a platform for international dialogue.” Byrd will contribute directly to the discourse by participating in a research and curatorial internship at CCA,Lagos. His other interests include enriching his Fulbright experience by exploring the Nollywood and AfroBeat cultures.
Antawan Byrd, 22, was born in Washington D.C. He graduated in May 2009 with high honors (magna cum laude) from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, where he double-majored (B.A.) in Art History and Digital Media Art. In 2008 he was awarded a Temple Diamond Research Scholarship to pursue research on the aesthetics of contemporary photography. That same year he participated in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Museum Studies Program. Currently, he is a Curatorial Intern at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, where he is conducting research, in preparation for an upcoming exhibition, on the portrayal of Africans in Renaissance art. He has spent six months in Rome, Italy where he supplemented his Renaissance and Baroque coursework with studies in modern and contemporary Italian art. Byrd spent much of his undergraduate studies, both formally and independently, pursuing research on the effects of globalization and transnationality on contemporary African art. His current research interests concerns the significance of archive and memory in postcolonial art production, the uses of collage in contemporary African art, and the aesthetics of new media art. Concerning his long-term future, Byrd plans to pursue a doctoral degree in contemporary art and theory, with an emphasis on exploring the divergent practices within the field of contemporary African art. He is interested in investigating new ways to explore, engage and legitimize the practices of contemporary African artists, those both on the continent and beyond. With this end in mind, he sees himself oscillating between gallery spaces and academic spaces, as both a curator and a professor.
In May 2009 he was awarded a Fulbright Grant to pursue research in contemporary art at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, Nigeria. His stay begins first week in September.
CCA,Lagos director and curator, Bisi Silva states that;
“It is a privilege that in such a short period of time the role of CCA,Lagos is being widely acknowledged as a potential partner for important research on contemporary art from Africa. My colleagues and I are excited about the depth of critical engagement and collaborative interaction Byrd’s presence will engender. He seems like a committed young scholar and - like his counterparts at CCA,Lagos - part of a new and growing generation of emerging curators to watch. We find it fulfilling to be part of that process and are sure that the visual art community in Lagos and across the country will take full advantage of the possibilities that arise. ”