A proclivity for tutorial analysis explains the current appointments of Chika Okeke-Agulu and Andrea Emelife by the Edo Museum of West African Artwork, which is also referred to as EMOWAA. Okechukwu Uwaezuoke experiences
Among the many native cognoscenti, the acronym EMOWAA, which stands for Edo Museum of West African Artwork, resurfaces of their collective reminiscence with its penumbra of distinction and significance. For, certainly, this museum—designed by Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye OBE, whose different initiatives embrace the Nationwide Museum of African American Historical past and Tradition (NMAAHC), a Smithsonian Establishment museum—simply earned its title recognition within the business’s consciousness for its distinctive attributes.
Though this cultural depository, whose belief was arrange in 2019 as a non-profit basis integrated as an organization restricted by assure, continues to be within the planning levels, the situation of its constructing advanced within the historic metropolis of Benin appears to be a settled matter. In response to its web site, its architectural imaginative and prescient leverages archaeology to attach the brand new museum with the native panorama by revitalising and incorporating the surviving stays of historic Benin Metropolis’s partitions, moats, and gates, which might be seen all through the fashionable metropolis right this moment. That is along with the truth that it contains, amongst different issues, a courtyard with a public backyard filled with native flora.
When it turns into operational, the museum will collect, protect, and exhibit works from West Africa’s inventive heritage. It should additionally function the hub for the deliberate Benin cultural district, offering infrastructure, analysis, and schooling, in addition to capacity-building alternatives for students and inventive staff from throughout West Africa.
That is, due to this fact, a great purpose why the museum’s current announcement of the appointment of the Nigerian-born artwork historian Chika Okeke-Agulu and the Nigerian-British curator AindreaEmelife as senior advisor and curator, respectively, ought to reignite sufficient curiosity within the museum to return it to the entrance burner of trending information within the artwork sector. As for the duo’s appointment, it aligns with the artwork area’s predilection for contemporary and modern artwork, even when it hasn’t misplaced its give attention to conventional artwork.
Its govt director, Phillip Ihenacho, echoed this in a current assertion, arguing for West African trendy and modern artwork amid the din of the clamour for the sub-region’s cultural legacy.“One of many key for museums and heritage establishments in Africa is relevancy to modern African society,” he stated. “We have to construct infrastructure and programming to have a good time the wealthy traditions of the previous, but additionally join to the current arts scene and spend money on the talents and information that allow alternatives for modern creatives and heritage professionals.”
Little question, the inclusion of Professor Okeke-Agulu and Emelife to the EMOWAA Fashionable and Up to date crew successfully communicates the organisation’s intention to focus on advancing tutorial research in modern and trendy West African artwork. As well as, EMOWAA is engaged on creating its assortment technique, creating the curatorial framework for the artistic district it\’s creating within the centre of Benin Metropolis, and creating contemporary, multi-faceted narratives and interpretations of West African artwork and historical past.
Take Professor Okeke-Agulu, as an illustration. His lustrous antecedents as an artist, critic, and artwork historian, whose specialty is indigenous, trendy, and modern African and African Diaspora artwork historical past and idea, stand him in good stead for his new position. At present serving because the Robert Schirmer Professor of Artwork, Archaeology, and African American Research in addition to the Director of the Programme in African Research and the Director of the Africa World Initiative at Princeton College, US, he\’s additionally the 2022–23 Slade Professor of Wonderful Arts at Oxford College, UK. Born within the southeastern Nigerian metropolis of Umuahia, he holds an MFA in portray from the College of Nigeria, Nsukka and a PhD from Emory College within the US.
Along with working in quite a few establishments around the globe, he has co-organised quite a lot of exhibitions, together with the travelling survey El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale on the Haus der Kunst, Munich (in 2019), which he organised with the late OkwuiEnwezor.
His many different exhibitions embrace Who Is aware of Tomorrow (Nationalgalerie, Berlin, in 2010); the Fifth Gwangju Biennale (in 2004); The Quick Century: Independence and Liberation Actions in Africa, 1945–1994 (Museum Villa Caught, Munich, 2001); Seven Tales About Fashionable Artwork in Africa (Whitechapel Artwork Gallery, London, 1995); and the Nigerian part of the First Johannesburg Biennale (in 1995). He\’s on the curatorial crew of the Sharjah Biennial (in 2023).
“A undertaking like EMOWAA is lengthy overdue,”enthusedOkeke-Agulu in response to his appointment. “It has develop into crucial that we discover a option to research, respect, and have a good time modern and trendy artwork from the African continent. It\’s thrilling to affix EMOWAA and play an element in advising on how we will develop new institutional infrastructure to assist superior information and appreciation of the position of artwork and artists in connecting our wealthy cultural histories to who and the place we\’re right this moment.”
Emelife, who studied historical past of artwork to post-graduate stage at The Courtauld Institute of Artwork in London, UK, has beforehand, as a curator and artwork historian, led a number of high-profile initiatives centered on trendy and modern artwork. Questions bordering on colonial and decolonial histories in Africa, transnationalism, and the politics of illustration have been the central themes round which these initiatives orbit. Black Venus, a survey of the legacy of the Black lady in visible tradition, is considered one of her most up-to-date exhibitions. It debuted at Fotografiska NY in 2022 and can tour to the Museum of the African Diaspora, or MOAD, in San Francisco, California, in early April, and Somerset Home in London, United Kingdom, in July.
Emelife was named to the Mayor of London’s Fee for Range within the Public Realm in 2021. Emelife is a New Curators Trustee.
She is presently working with Thames & Hudson on her second e-book, which will likely be revealed in 2024, after her first e-book, A Transient Historical past of Protest Artwork, was launched by Tate in March 2022. She has written essays for a number of publications, the newest of which is Revisiting Fashionable British Artwork (Lund Humphries, 2022). She was appointed to the Mayor of London’s Fee for Range within the Public Realm in 2021 and in addition serves as a trustee of New Curators.“One in all my principal targets as EMOWAA’s newly appointed Curator, Fashionable and Up to date is to construct on the efforts to inform our tales and the intricate connections and hyperlinks that exist, beginning with Nigerian modernism and boldly reaching to the numerous corners of West African trendy and modern artwork historical past [that are] but to be developed and found,” Emelife pledged. “I\’m honoured to be a part of constructing the legacy of contemporary and modern African artwork.”
These appointments, alongside EMOWAA’s different surefooted steps, sign the start of a thriving museum tradition within the Nigerian artwork scene, together with EMOWAA’s different regular strikes.