Sunday 30 August 2015

Placing Okwui Enwezor on the spot of U.S-based scholar’s sympathy for artists in Africa

Yinka Shonibare (U.K), Ndidi Dike and Peju Alatise (Nigeria) as case study.
Excerpts from OYASAF Lecture: Beyond the Black Atlantic: Contemporary Artistic Production in Lagos Today, an event held in Lagos few days ago.

Nelson's Ship in A Bottle by Yinka Shonibare
Johanna Wild is a Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Art and Art History, University of New Mexico.

Wild: Contemporary African art was introduced to audiences in Europe and the United States in the course of the 1990s and early 2000s through a series of so-called “mega” exhibitions. Although many scholars contributed to the global validation of contemporary African art, Okwui Enwezor, a Nigerian-born U.S.-educated diaspora curator, has undoubtedly taken on a leading role in this effort. He shaped the field through his organization of large-scale exhibitions, his directorship of both newly founded and long-standing biennials, and his co-publication of survey texts such as Contemporary African Art Since 1980. But Enwezor’s curatorial and scholarly work has not remained unchallenged. Art historian Sylvester Ogechie observed that Enwezor has lent hyper-visibility to a relatively small selection of African diaspora artists trained at U.S. and European art academies and located in “the West”, such as London-based Yinka Shonibare MBE, while artistic production on the African continent is largely ignored on these “global” circuits. In this fashion, he argues, Africa is written out of art history as a relevant site of contemporary artistic production. He also rejects Enwezor’s discourse of globalization and deterritorialization, arguing that it fails to acknowledge the persistent asymmetries of access to the “global” art space, while also ignoring how artists everywhere domesticate global styles and visual languages.

Johanna Wild

 The goals for my fellowship with OYASAF were twofold. On the one hand, I came to learn about Lagos’ vibrant and growing contemporary art scene, in an effort to counter the tendencies described by Ogbechie in my own teaching and scholarship. Although my dissertation research focuses on the work and reception of Nigerian expatriate artist Yinka Shonibare MBE, my OYASAF presentation puts his work into conversation with the work of Lagos-based artists Ndidi Dike and Peju Alatise. Although Ndidi Dike, Peju Alatise, and Yinka Shonibare MBE have used similar media or addressed related, globally relevant themes, my presentation also aims to show how they have domesticated these through the filters of their locales—Lagos and London—to make them relevant to their specific socio-cultural and political contexts,

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