Saturday, April 30, 2011

Nnenna Okore's Metamorphoses at October Gallery London

Nnenna Okore, When the Heavens Meet the Earth, 2011. Photo courtesy October Gallery

Nnenna Okore, Emissaries, 2009. Photo courtesy October Gallery
I wished I could write more on these new, diaphanous sculptures by Nnenna Okore. The seductive allure of dematerialized, strangely biomorphic forms that seem to seize, yet ambivalent about their occupation of, the space around them. In any case, it should be a terrific show. Now that the fever of the Royal wedding is over, time to see something the art gallery.  The show opens at the venerable October Gallery, London May 5.

Friday, April 29, 2011

To Gabriel Okara on his 90th Birthday

Evergreen, the sinews of your tongue
Sweet, the beat of your heart
Still, the echo of your song
                                 For Biafra!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sojourner IV

To the sojourner with a heart
Of ivory
Give a leather shield
Of transcendence
And to the irreverent gambler
On the ever famished road
Give the Queen of hearts
And our god's broken promise

© Chika Okeke-Agulu

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Goodluck Jonathan's Burden

I am thrilled yet sad about the Presidential elections last week. Thrilled, because many Nigerians seem increasingly aware of the value of protecting their democratic rights and their votes, in spite of the callous schemes of overfed vultures who call themselves politicians; Sad because the scabrous entity called Peoples Democratic Party is returning to power for another four years. The logic of the PDP victory seems to be, well, the vote was not really for PDP but for Jonathan. And when you ask, but why? the general refrain is that it marks an important shift in the power status quo. That power has finally come to the South! But I wonder whether Obasanjo's 8-year regime did not count for the southern power. The bottom line is this. It is the same party that controlled the Nigerian state during Obasanjo's rule that is still in charge of affairs with the new Presidency of Jonathan. So what is going to change?
To me I do not care whether a President comes from Borno or Ekiti; what should matter to Nigerians is what government can and will confront the greatest problem facing that country: CORRUPTION. It is because of corruption that the country cannot produce more than 4000 Megawatts of electricity; why the hospitals lack drugs, the schools criminally underfunded; why you have to bribe your way to get anything from your university certificate, to your pension, and so on. Is Jonathan equipped to lead this charge against this great affliction? Or is he already too compromised--remember that his wife was once in the sights of the anti-corruption agency for money laundering, and he is in cozy alliance with some of the most corrupt governors in the country? In fact that is the burden of Jonathan.
Nigerians have voted him in to run the country despite that they know he is the leader of a criminally corrupt entity called PDP. He will have to live with the knowledge that perhaps what Nigerians did last week was entrust him with the task of not just cleaning up his party, but also of establishing the grounds for a systematic war against corruption in Nigeria. Without this, he would have betrayed the hopes and trust of those Nigerians who voted for him, instead of Buhari who has proven once before to be naturally disposed to fight corruption, or for Ribadu who, in spite of the strictures of working for an Obasanjo administration, showed the courage to confront corruption in the high places. Jonathan must now prove that Nigeria has anything to gain by having a "southern" President in Abuja.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nka Roundtable III: “Contemporary African Art and the Museum”

Over the next several weeks important curators and directors of major museums in the United States, Germany, Japan, South Africa and the UK will engage in spirited but substantial discussion on the relationship between contemporary African art and the museum. I expect excursions into the history of this relationship, its crucial moments, state of affairs, and challenges that remain. In the process, we shall debate issues of presenting this material in art and ethnology museums; the politics of acquisitions and display; museums and scholarship; and the place of contemporary African art–relative to the “traditional” and western contemporary. I suspect that there will be surprising turns in the course of our discussion, but I am certain that the deliberations of this diverse, unprecedented and distinguished panel of curators will surely be of immense value to students and scholars working or interested in this exciting, dynamic field. Please join us!

Convener: Chika Okeke-Agulu (Princeton University)

Participants: Marla Berns (Director, Fowler Museum of Cultural History, University of California, Los Angeles), Christa Clarke (Senior Curator, Newark Museum, Newark, NJ), Laurie Ann Farrell (Director of Exhibitions, Savannah College of Art & Design Gallery, Savannah, GA), Khwezi Gule (Chief Curator, Hector Pieterson Memorial, Johannesburg), Kinsey Katchka (independent scholar/curator), Yukiya Kawaguchi (Associate Professor/Curator, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka), Clive Kellner (Curator-at-Large, The GordonSchachatCollection, Johannesburg), Karen Milbourne (Curator, Smithsonian National Museum for African Art, Washington DC), Raison Naidoo (Director Arts Collections, Iziko: South African National Gallery, Cape Town), Enid Schildkrout (Chief Curator/Director of Exhibitions, Museum for African Art, New York) Chris Spring (Curator, British Museum, London), Ulf Vierke (Director, Iwalewa-Haus, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth), Okwui Enwezor, Salah M. Hassan.

Follow the panel discussion on the Nka Journal Blog:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ulli Beier: In Appreciation

In the early months 2009 I called Ulli, informing him of my plan to visit him again in the summer of 2010. But he insisted that I come immediately, with my son Arinze rather than wait for another year. I am glad I took his premonition seriously. The long evenings we spent in the splendorous gardens of Migila House, watching 3-year old Arinze chase the wild lorikeets that came daily to feed I will cherish forever. It didn't matter that his memory, so sharp and immense during my previous visits, had started to falter; and as our car pulled away to the airport after three weeks, it didn't matter that both of us knew we would never see again, in this life. What mattered then, as now, is the years of warm friendship, of countless, long conversations, of learning about a time when modern Nigerian and African art and literature were in their youth. Every moment counted, even as the countdown began about three weeks ago.

My heart is burdened, but only because his life-long desire to return home to Nigeria, will now have to long, dear Ulli.

Ulli Beier: In Memorian*

Travel well, Master
Of Migila House
Remember your oriki
Ogun's Horseman

The birds in your garden
Will return year after year
But who will feed them
Who, tell me will listen
To their daily chants?

Travel well, Uncle
Of my son
Take your beaded bag
Esu's Bestman

A long line has grown
In your frontyard
Madmen, priests, poets
Bearing kegs of up-wine
But who, tell me will
Open the door?

Travel well, Husband
Of many artists
Listen to your ijala
Bobagunwa of Osogbo!

*In appreciation for the years of our friendship, and for the memories I shared with you and Georgina at Migila House, Sydney.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


This review of Okwui Enwezor's "Events of the Self" which opened last June at the Walther Collection, Ulm describes me as Dean of the San Francisco Art Institute and founding publisher of Nka. That would be my friend Okwui who btw ceased to be Dean of the SFAI nearly two years ago.
The Courier: African Photography in Ulm: An exhibition not to be missed

Review of Phyllis Galembo: Maske

Just found this review of the book on Phyllis Galembo's photography that came out last year. The typos in the quoted sections of my introductory text were not in the book! It must be the Blogger's Devil.
Conscientious | Review: Maske by Phyllis Galembo