Thursday, January 27, 2011

Statement by Nka Journal editors on Enwezor's appointment

It is with great pleasure that we share with you the news about the appointment of our colleague and friend Okwui Enwezor as Director of Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany. We are exceedingly thrilled about this, for it is a testament to Okwui's groundbreaking work as a scholar and curator of contemporary art.
As editors of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, we are proud to have shared with him the incredible journey that began with the first issue of the journal in 1994 – a critical platform, which he initiated and has tirelessly championed.  His new appointment confirms our belief in the need for reshaping and remapping the landscape of international contemporary art through critical scholarship, curatorial projects and compelling arguments for the heterogeneity of contemporary art practices.

As Okwui embarks on this new endeavor, we are convinced that he will remain committed to the dreams and intellectual passions that have motivated his work over the past two decades. Please join us in extending our warmest wishes to our dear friend as he takes up this great responsibility on the other side of the Atlantic!

We are most pleased to share with our friends, colleagues and readers the press announcement from Haus der Kunst of Okwui Enwezor's appointment:

Congratulations Okwui!

Salah M. Hassan
Chika Okeke-Agulu

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chris Dercon on Enwezor's appointment

I thought I should share this wonderful statement by Chris Dercon (who is leaving the Haus Der Kunst, Munich for directorship of the Tate Modern, London), about Okwui's appointment as his replacement


I have known Okwui Enwezor for a long time, both as an incredibly inspiring colleague and as a friend. I came to visit his exhibition, "The Short Century. Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945-1994", in 2001 at Villa Stuck in Munich and was thrilled to see such an important, groundbreaking exhibition on post-colonialism and ’other’ modernisms in Germany, and especially in Munich.

In 2000 I travelled with Okwui and other colleagues for almost an entire month through China on a research journey, which was a true discovery for all of us, even on a personal level. Is my affinity for Okwui because he enjoys teasing me about my Belgian background? After all, I did spend much of my childhood in the gardens of the ’Museum of Africa’ in Tervuren, a colonialist museum par excellence, about whose ’cultural politics’ of the past Okwui and his African circle have a lot to say, and rightly so. In China, we debated with both each other and with Chinese scholars, artists and students, not just about the representation of "the other" in western museums, but also about the relevance of so-called "world art". We all quickly realized that Okwui’s descriptions of the arts in this global age were far more relevant and accurate; he is not only a visionary curator, but a very disciplined theorist and teacher, and a gifted writer and speaker as well. In Uli Sigg’s collection there is an amusing painting by Yan Lei entitled ’The Curators’ (2000), which reveals much about our ’Chinese’ adventure.

By this point, Okwui’s vision for "his" documenta was almost fully formed, and he indeed created what was both a truly innovative and revolutionary documenta. Since then I have closely followed his many projects involving contemporary African photography, both in New York and, of course, in Burlafingen, Neu Ulm, in collaboration with the Walther Collection. Last December, I stated in Artforum that the opening of the Walther Collection– and not to forget its accompanying publication – was one of 2010’s most important
cultural events worldwide.

I am thrilled and honoured that Okwui Enwezor has accepted the Haus der Kunst’s board and team’s offer to continue to develop this exciting art institution. I am absolutely certain he will do so in both manifold and highly unexpected ways. Finally, I hope that the Haus der Kunst and the Tate Modern will continue to work closely together, just as they have in the past. Indeed, there is still so much to learn from Okwui Enwezor, especially now that he is at the helm of the Haus der Kunst.

Chris Dercon
Munich, January 19, 2011

Enwezor appointed Director, Haus der Kunst, Munich

Press Release

Haus der Kunst is pleased to announce the appointment of Okwui Enwezor as the next director of Haus der Kunst. Enwezor will take up the position in October 2011. He will succeed Chris Dercon, the outgoing director who will take over as director of the Tate Modern in April and will still be supervising the exhibition, "Carlo Mollino. Maniera moderna" (Haus der Kunst, September 16, 2011 – January 8, 2012).

Enwezor (b. 1963 in Calabar, Nigeria) is currently Adjunct curator at International Center of Photography, New York, and previously Dean of Academic Affairs, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, as well visiting Professor in Art History University of Pittsburgh, Columbia University, and University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is currently Joanne Cassulo Fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program in New York City and artistic director of Meeting Points 6. In addition to his academic activities he has been recently appointed chief curator of La Triennale, Paris 2012 and serves as advisory curator of "Dublin Contemporary" in 2011.

Munich’s public has been familiar with Okwui Enwezor since 2001: With his exhibition, "The Short Century. Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945-1994", he presented the most extensive overview to date of artistic production in late- and postcolonial Africa. In this show, which treated art and documentary material as equals, he questioned the autonomy of art as well as the dichotomy between the private and the

Okwui Enwezor began studying political science in 1983 in New York. At this time he also became interested in art and found that African artists were under-represented in both exhibitions and in the global art market. By contrast, he discovered significant gaps in the historiography of art in African countries. These observations created the foundation on which Enwezor would sharpen his profile as author and curator: Enwezor consistently urged the international art market to overcome its focus on the European-American
connection and supported this appeal with publications. In 1994 he founded the tri-annual magazine, "NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art", which he continues to edit together with Salah Hassan (Cornell University) and Chika Okeke-Agulu (Princeton University).

Enwezor has been the artistic director of several major exhibitions. In 1996-97 he was the director of the second Johannesburg Biennale in South Africa, which put a symbolic end to apartheid also from a cultural perspective. In 1998-2002 he was appointed artistic director of documenta 11 in Kassel, the first representative from a non-western country to hold this position; in 2006 he curated the Biennale for Contemporary Art Seville ("The Unhomely: Phantom Scenes in Global Society"), and in 2007-2008 the 7th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea. His thoughts on the format of major exhibitions – to be both appealing and serious and to deal with visitors’ time economically – were published in "Mega-Exhibitions and the Antinomies of a Transnational Global Form". He has also curated numerous exhibitions on contemporary art.

The minister for education says: "Okwui Enwezor brilliantly directed documenta 11 in 2002, creating outstanding art experiences that continue to impact the world of art. As artistic director Mr. Enwezor held leading positions in Seville and Johannesburg. He is anchored in both the European and international art scene like few other figures."Okwui Enwezor says: "I am immensely delighted and honored to be joining Haus der
Kunst in the next phase of its growth in the global landscape of contemporary art. In the last decade Haus der Kunst has been a place of great vitality and a formidable voice in advancing the key argument that serious contemporary art is as varied as the artists whose practices have been presented in its exhibitions. Munich is a great city that represents many crossroads of the global community and I look forward to working with the team at the Haus der Kunst in building an exciting platform for exhibitions, debates, and ideas."

The Haus der Kunst team looks forward to working with Okwui Enwezor and to creating an internationally focused contemporary exhibition program in which "not nationalities, but rather ideas" (Enwezor) are in the forefront.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Leo Igwe's account of his arrest

Please find here, Leo Igwe's account of his arrest and detention by the Police in Akwa-Ibom State. Thanks to Ophelia Benson for drawing my attention to this information: Click HERE

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Twitter feeds

It is no secret that you can now access my Twitter from this blog! It is right here on this page! Enjoy. Respond. What the heck!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Travails of Child Rights Advocates in Akwa-Ibom State, Nigeria

Sahara Reporters has reported the arrest and brutalization of Leo Igwe, the representative of International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) in Africa and one of the leading advocates of children accused of witchcraft in Akwa-Ibom State, Nigeria. After his release yesterday, there was no clear information from the authorities about the reason for his ordeal. According to the police it was a case of mistaken identity, while the State's Commissioner for Information claimed that his arrest was for "fraud-related issues." Which tells you that the government is hiding something.

As I have noted in previous blogs, Sam Ikpe Itauma, the indefatigable director of CRARN, who has suffered  systematic harassment by security agents because of his work with the abandoned children has been forced to go into hiding. But the government has now devised a way of cornering him, and quite possibly subjecting him to the same treatment just given to Leo Igwe. Mr. Itauma has been named by the government prosecution as a witness against a pastor who, in the BBC documentary few years ago, claimed to have murdered scores of child witches. But it seems that the prosecution is not so much interested in the alleged crimes of the pastor as in "flushing" Mr. Itauma out of hiding. I want to hope that I am wrong on this.

It is unfortunate that all of this is happening after the State Governor declared that he would deal with men like Sam Ikpe-Itauma and Gary Foxcroft of Stepping Stones, Nigeria, in the wake of the CNN coverage of the Child "Witchcraft" phenomenon in his State. Obviously, the governor is still not done with dealing with people he believes have brought negative publicity to his government. As I noted once before, one would think that the governor and his advisers should have seen the media focus on the witchcraft issue as an opportunity to intervene on the children's behalf, with the help of every and anyone with the goodwill and resources to collaborate with him in this task. That is the way to win the hearts of the governed, and earn more positive reputation in the eye of the world.

I despair so much about this matter, because it just seems as though nothing, nothing whatsoever can be done to help these children and their helpers, in the face of the violence of naked power. If there's anyone out there who knows what else could be done about this problem in Akwa-Ibom State, please let me know.

For the Saharareporters story on Leo Igwe's arrest click here

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Okey Ndibe's Lagos Ordeal

Last Saturday, my good friend Okey Ndibe, a professor of English at Brown University, and Trinity College (CT), was detained at the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos Nigeria by the immigration and security authorities. After several hours of interrogation, and having seized his Nigerian and US passports they let him go. He was told to report at the State Security office inside Lagos on Monday. When he visited the SSS office, he was subjected to further interrogation, after which they returned his passports and let him go. No one explained to him the reason for the ordeal.

Anyone old enough to have lived through the Nigerian military dictatorships of the 1980s and 1990s will be shocked that the Nigerian authorities in this so-called democratic dispensation seem to be reverting practices that characterized those years of state terror. There is no point guessing why Ndibe was detained in Lagos.  For the past several years Ndibe acquired huge reputation as one of Nigeria's most articulate public intellectuals. In memorable, popular essays in Nigerian newspapers he examined and commented on the foibles of politicians in our home state Anambra, and the corrupt officials in Abuja who wage constant war on the citizens rather than focus on providing good governance.

Obviously, the corrupt power merchants would wish for Ndibe to keep silent in the face of the barefaced  skulduggery and malfeasance that continues to define political practice in Nigeria. It is a shame that the authorities are resorting to this sort of intimidation against a writer and social critic motivated by nothing but hope for a better future for Nigeria. So what next? Do they now want to fully return to the days of blacklists, letterbombs and disappearances.  Whoever ordered Okey Ndibe's detention and seizure of his passports must know that for those of us who believe in the idea democracy, subjecting a law-abiding citizen to this kind of intimidation is a betrayal of the civilian dispensation many Nigerians gave their blood and sweat to reestablish.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

"Environment and Object - Recent African Art" exhibition at Skidmore College -- Announcement

Garth Meyer, Untitled (Figure #12), 2010 [All images courtesy Tang Museum]

George Osodi, Blackened Explosion, 2004
This February, responses to urban, natural, and economic environments by contemporary African artists will be on view in a thought-provoking exhibition at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. From appropriated waste materials turned into site-specific installations and sculptures to eerily compelling photographs of ravaged and degraded environments, Environment and Object-Recent African Art, will include works of art that scrutinize man-made environmental disasters, natural resource problems, deforestation, and other ecological issues.  
Sammy Baloji, Untitled 13, 2006   

Other artists in the show take a less directly political approach regarding their environments, using found objects and abandoned junk to create both visually compelling and intellectually challenging art works. Opening February 5, 2011, the exhibition will present the work of Africans, living and working around the globe, including internationally recognized artists Yinka Shonibare, El Anatsui, Viyé Diba, Barthélémy Toguo, and Zwelethu Mthethwa, as well as emerging artists gaining a reputation outside of Africa, such as Bright Ugochukwu Eke, Lara Baladi, and Nnenna Okore.
Viyé Diba, Nous sommes nombreux et nos problemes avec [We Are Numerous and So Are Our Problems], 2008

“Many of the artists on view incorporate found objects into their work, whether to address ecological and economic conditions or simply to reflect the nature of the world they live in” said co-curator Lisa Aronson, Associate Professor of Art History at Skidmore. “El Anatsui and Nnenna Okore employ materials taken from urban and rural environments to create expressive and provocative wall hangings and sculptures. Other artists in the exhibition work in traditional media like paint and photography to create meditations on natural resource management or industrial pollution. Yet, all decisively reject romanticized perceptions of Africa, while offering a broader view of contemporary Africa and conditions which concern it.”
Georgia Papageorge, Genesis, Crucifixion, Aftermath (from Africa Rifting), 2003
Bright Ugochukwu Eke, a Nigerian artist working frequently in the U.S., often explores humans’ negative impact on the environment. Eke will be an artist-in-residences at the Tang in January, where he will work with four Skidmore studio art majors to create a site-specific installation incorporating plastic water and soda bottles. Known for his elegant architectural works, Eke’s installations are often made through the accumulation of hundreds of identical, discarded objects, in order to focus attention on the “earth-human connection.” Viyé Diba of Senegal, who creates painting, sculpture, and mixed media installations incorporating objects and photographs, will also be an artist-in-residence at the Tang.
Jerry Buhari, Images of Zaria City (Exploring Images of a City), 2005
Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Black Gold I, 2006
In addition to artists employing found objects, a number of artists in the exhibition will comment on political and environmental situations on the continent through photographic works. Calling attention to policies that fail to protect the land or its inhabitants, former AP photographer George Osodi captures oil field explosions in Nigeria over the past decade, documenting the appalling destruction of landscapes, livelihoods, and ecosystems caused by the oil industry. Garth Meyer creates luscious silver gelatin prints that belie the savage deforestation in South Africa and across the continent. Barthélémy Toguo also responds to deforestation in his work Stupid African President 2. The work depicts a man balancing a chainsaw on his head, a cheap, portable, easy-to-operate tool which has allowed loggers access to jungle forest tracts previously inaccessible to vehicles or heavy machinery. “Environment and Object extends the Tang’s legacy of interdisciplinary exhibitions that highlight the interconnectedness of our world,” said co-curator John Weber, Dayton Director of the Tang Museum. “The exhibition highlights situations that concern all of us, across many fields and in many places. The fact that the artists creating this work are from Africa is significant, too, and underlines both the global nature of their work and the conditions it engages. We look forward to welcoming visitors to Saratoga Springs and the campus community across a variety of disciplines, offering them a new and compelling view of art that grapples with real issues.” Environment and Object opens on February 5 and runs through July 31, 2011. The exhibition is curated by Lisa Aronson, Associate Professor of Art History at Skidmore, who specializes in African art history, and John Weber, Dayton Director of the Tang. The exhibition will be accompanied by an extensive catalogue, published in the spring by the Tang and Skidmore, with new essays on a range of topics related to art and the environment that will serve as a valuable resource on the current generation of African contemporary artists. The catalogue will include essays by the curators Aronson and Weber, a new interview with art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu of Princeton University, and essays by political scientist Chris Whann of Empire State College, environmental studies professor Karen Kellogg of Skidmore, and socio-cultural anthropologist Mark Auslander of Brandeis University. The Tang Museum’s website will feature extensive material about Environment and Object as the exhibition unfolds, including slide shows of the works on view, a special interactive feature providing historical background and quotes from the artists, video of public programs and interviews with artists and others, and panoramic views of the exhibition itself. Site visitors are encouraged to check back regularly over the course of the exhibition as new materials are added. "Environment and Object- Recent African Art" is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Getty Foundation, the Tadahisa Kuroda Exhibition Fund, the Virginia Gooch Puzak ‘44 Faculty Curatorial Endowment, Chief Oskar Ibru ‘81 and Chief Mrs. Wanda Swann Ibru ‘79, and Friends of the Tang, with additional support from the Henry Luce Foundation and the Creative Thought Fund at Skidmore. Spring Programs Related to Environment and Object: Saturday, February 5 5:00PM—Dunkerley Dialogue: Artists Viyé Diba, Bright Eke, and Barthélémy Toguo, and art historian/curator Chika Okeke-Agulu of Princeton University, moderated by exhibition co-curators Lisa Aronson and John Weber; 6:00–7:30PM—Reception for Spring Exhibitions Free and open to the public, with refreshments Tuesday, February 8 - 12:00PM—Curator’s Tour:With exhibition curators Lisa Aronson, Skidmore Art History, and John Weber, Tang Dayton Director Tuesday, March 1 - 7:00PM—Dunkerley Dialogue: Artist Lara Baladi Thursday, March 3 - 7:00PM—Film: Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai, 2008 With co-director, Lisa Merton, in conjunction with Environment and Object Co-sponsored by the Environmental Studies Program, Skidmore