Friday, January 27, 2012

Enwezor's Plan for Haus der Kunst, Munich

Since last year when the Haus der Kunst, Munich hired Okwui Enwezor to direct the museum, many wondered what this was all about. Certainly, hiring one of the most visible and accomplished curators in the world today to run a major art museum was not necessarily brow-raising. But for an institution with such a controversial history--a history that dates back to its origins as the premier site for celebrating the Nazi's idea of art--it seemed all too clear that with Okwui, Munich and the Bavarian State was now ready to reinvent its museum along with its troubled past. After all, no one hires Okwui and expects to continue with business as usual! (And I am sure the Munich authorities looked at what he did at Documenta 11 and at the San Francisco Art Institute!). If his big ideas positively changed how these two different institutions imagined themselves, how would they transform that most conservative of institutions, the art museum, particularly one with such a long, fraught history no one seemed willing or able to tackle in any meaningful way for the past 75 years?
Well, a few days ago, Okwui convened a press conference (with more than 200 journalists in attendance) in Munich to speak about his plans for Haus der Kunst. Here is a brief outline of his vision for the museum in the years ahead, as reported by ARTINFO
Good luck my friend! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

RIP--Joe Paterno (1926-2012)

Many loved you in life, warts and all
Old man of the Sad Valley

Sunday, January 22, 2012

National Museum Kenya calls for works on/of paper by African artsts

The Nairobi-based National Museums of Kenya is organizing an exhibition "African Paper Art: Process, Substance and Environment,"curated by Lydia Gatundu, Edward Mwaura Ndekere and Kristina Dziedzic Wright. The organizers are requesting for works on paper and paper-based work from African artists. In other words, they are  looking for 2D images made on paper as well as 3D works made of paper material. That should make for an interesting show. I assume that since it is a curated show, not everything submitted will be included in the exhibition. They also seek proposals for made-for-the-show commissions. Submission deadline is February 15. The exhibition takes place, 7th July to 31st August 2012.

This is also a shout out to the National Museums of Kenya for its support of contemporary art of Kenya and East Africa. There are not many among its peer institutions around the continent that can claim or show comparable interest in contemporary art (not just ethnographic material) in their neighborhood.

For details of the exhibition, click here

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

IAAAG Demands Action!

Igbo American Alliance Against Genocide demands action against sponsors of Boko Haram
January 10, 2012
- Press Release, January 10, 2012: ‘Igbo American Alliance Against Genocide (IAAAG) asks Presidents Obama and Jonathan to prosecute sponsors of Boko Haram’s genocidal violence‘ -
The Igbo American Alliance Against Genocide (IAAAG), the U.S-based international group of African and American professionals, has followed and monitored with concern and revulsion, the violent and bloody recent events in Africa’s most populated, multi-religious country, NIGERIA.
Therefore, The Igbo American Alliance Against Genocide makes the following statement:
1. We CALL on the Presidents and governments of Nigeria and the United States to act, without further delay, to do much more by arresting and prosecuting the sponsors and patrons of the evil, targeted killings of members of the south eastern Nigerian Igbo and other Christians by the radical, terroristic Islamic group Boko Haram in parts of northern Nigeria.
2. We URGE the government of Nigeria, the United States and the International Court at the Hague should coordinate efforts to prosecute those who aid and sponsor and justify the targeted killings with possible genocidal implications. We implore the Governors and local government leaders in the areas of violence in Nigeria to be mindful that the international community and agencies especially the Igbo American Alliance Against Genocide (IAAAG) are watching and monitoring.
3. We CONDEMN, without any reservation, the inadequate initial response by the law enforcement authorities in Nigeria in failing to adequately protect the current and historic targets of radical Islamic zealotry in Nigeria, especially the Igbo and other Christians in the area. We note that factually, more than 200,000 persons, women and children from those groups have been killed/murdered by such attacks since 1938. The waves of killings and genocidal actions against the same group in 1965, 1966 and 1967 led to the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967-1970. Most of the international community looked the other way as 2 million Igbo/south eastern Christians were wasted in genocidal killings in Nigeria. The dangers of the latest events cannot be understated.
4. We REMIND the international community that neither the Nigerian government nor relevant international organizations have terminated this ongoing, gradual genocide and religious extremism in the northern region; consequently undermining the basis for a peaceful and safe Nigeria for law abiding Muslims and Christians.

5. As a preliminary effort, we CALL on the federal, state and local governments of Nigeria to pay financial and associated compensations to the families of those affected by the latest wave of violence since 2010 to date. We request the increased support of the Red Cross and other NGOs.
We will not fold our hands and we will not keep silent, for as Martin Luther King Jr., wrote in the Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  
Igbo American Alliance Against Genocide

* I, am a card-carrying member of IAAAG!

Presidential Grocery budget Nigerian Style!

Just in case there is anyone out there who does not understand why Nigerians do not believe all this bullshit from President Jonathan about using the $8 Billion from oil subsidies to fund much needed basic infrastructure, healthcare and education; consider this. In the recently unveiled 2012 federal budget, the government plans to spend $6.25 Million on feeding the households of Mr. Jonathan and the Vice President! Yes, Six Million, Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars (the amount is even scarier in Nigerian Naira: 1Billion naira). The breakdown shows that N477 million would be used to pay for foodstuffs and "catering materials supplies" for the president's office. Additional N293m would be for his "refreshment and meals" and N45.4m for canteen and "kitchen equipment." And this is in a country a federal senator earns--according credible reports--more than 6 times the salary/allowances paid the US counterparts! A sergeant in the Nigerian police earns a mere N31,000 or $200/month. In some theoretical world, I can imagine the argument against subsidies might make sense. But not when you have hyenas running the affairs of the state.
I repeat, Mr. Jonathan must first of all prove to Nigerians that he has the will and courage to fight the festering corruption and predatory antics of the political elite and their cronies. After he has done that, then let's talk about the subsidies.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Death of protesters in Nigeria

President Jonathan's government and its security operatives in Nigeria have crossed the rubicon. Today, news report indicate that three protesters were tortured and killed by policemen in the streets of Lagos, and two more in Kano. At the beginning of the protests last week, one protester was murdered by security officers in Ilorin. No matter how this current crisis ends, Mr. Jonathan must be held personally and officially responsible for the death of these civilians expressing their right to peaceful protest. The time has come for the world to affirm that extrajudicial killings by so-called democratic governments are no more objectionable and barbaric as those that occur in dictatorships and such regimes. Nigerians must never forget these souls offered for the cause of a more accountable, humane and legitimate governance in Nigeria. Mr. Jonathan and everyone acting on his government's behalf must be tried sooner or later for these killings; they cannot be given the privileges available to honorable men and women in and out of government. The world must keep account of the unfolding events in Nigeria were innocent citizens are now at the mercy of shadowy religious terrorists and an insensitive, incompetent, corrupt, violent regime.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Good luck wishes Nigerians a horrible year!

Yes, that is the only way to see the removal of all subsidies on petroleum products in Nigeria, as announced by President Jonathan today. With petrol now N141.00/liter, that means in Dollar terms that Nigerians have to now pay $3.2/gallon. That is about the price of petrol in the US right now. But what really, does this mean for Nigerians? Consider this. Only this past year, 2011, did the federal government raise the minimum wage to N18,000 or $111.00/month. Even at that, not many state governments have committed to this hike in salaries. In Abia State, for instance, the government there had to expel all non-native state-employed workers, on the grounds that that is the only way it can afford to pay its workers $111.00 a month.
So, while we contemplate what the removal of petroleum products subsidies means for Nigerians, consider that if a minimum wage earner were to spend all her salary on petrol, she can only fill an average car's tank just twice. So you see how callous, insensitive and predatory this decision to remove the subsidies, especially in a country where the government has not invested in mass transit systems. The last time the government removed some of the subsidies (which led to the raise of petrol prices to N65/liter), it set up a Petroleum Trust Fund into which the monies accruing from the reduced subsidies would be kept. Did the government really give Nigerians any account of what happened to the funds in the PTF? Popular lore had it that that it became a slush fund for the ruling party's electoral campaigns. Even in the early days of the PTF, when it was run by the largely incorruptible Muhammadu Buhari, 20% of the Funds simply went to the Armed Forces, no questions asked. Still the Buhari days were, so to say, the good old days, when the PTF actually did a few meaningful things. Not any more.
This is why, even if one were to idealistically imagine that the funds from the removed subsidies could pay for the massive infrastructure Nigeria sorely needs--it is still producing about 1/6th of Egypt's electric power, though its population is twice Egypt's, and its road network is primitive, and state-owned schools are in sorry state--the kleptomaniacs in especially the executive and legislative branches of government will ensure that such fantasies are simply just that. So, what is to be done? If Nigerians agree to suffer through this new regime of high petrol prices, how can they hold this government accountable for their suffering? What can they do to make sure that the harsh days ahead will not simply pay for the decadent lifestyles of the political elite and their accomplices?

That is the big question of 2012.

Happy New Year, everyone!