This Week in African Art and Culture – (July 24 – 31, 2021)


Above: Ngaire Blankenberg

This week in African art and culture, we learned that Ngaire Blankenberg has been appointed director of one of the world’s most renowned museums. In Nottingham, U.K., a group exhibition featuring work by some emerging African artists is on view. A South African beauty queen has just announced the release a children’s title.

On wins, which we always are excited to share news of, the formidable award-winning Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o has won an award for her children’s book, and an Ethiopian has won the Caine Prize for African writing for the first time since the inception of the award.


Above: Ngaire Blankenberg

Ngaire Blankenberg, a reputed consultant for museums and cultural destinations around the world has been appointed director of Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.

“The National Museum of African Art embodies the Smithsonian’s mission to foster understanding, inspire dialogue and bring people together irrespective of language, culture or border,” said Lonnie Bunch, secretary of the Smithsonian. “Ngaire’s leadership and experience will be invaluable in using the museum’s unparalleled collections and scholarship of African art to further our reach, diversify our audiences and have a more profound impact on the nation and world.”

Commenting on her appointment, Blankenberg said,“Museums are institutions that carry a lot of systemic baggage from their colonial origins, but they are vital public spaces to reconsider how we connect and contend with one another and the planet, and where we can redefine, heal and reconcile.

“The National Museum of African Art sits physically in a city with one of the biggest populations of African peoples in the U.S. Digitally, it reaches far into the diaspora. I am so grateful for the trust being placed in me to continue to care for, build, interpret, and share NMAfA’s fantastic collection, particularly in this new era of U.S.-African relations.”

As a consultant, Blankenberg has advised clients on strategies for decolonization, concept development, operations and business planning, programming, stakeholder and public engagement, and more. Her recent consulting clients include the National Gallery of Canada, Superblue, Museum and Archive of the Constitution at the Hill (Johannesburg), the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, MEG—Muséed’ethnographie de Genève, Olympique de Marseille football club and other global and local institutions.

In 2017, Blankenberg served as the head of content and strategy for Kossmanndejong, an Amsterdam-based design agency, where she helped museum clients shape their interpretive approach to exhibitions, strategic planning, new business development and content development. She spent the previous eight years (2008–2016) at Lord Cultural Resources as a principal consultant. From 20152016, she served as the director of Lord Cultural Resources in Europe.

In addition to her extensive work consulting for museums and cultural heritage sites, Blankenberg is a TV and documentary producer, a public speaker and a published author. She holds a Master of Arts in media and cultural studies from the University of Natal, in Durban, South Africa, and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Blankenberg succeeds Augustus Casely-Hayford, who was director of the museum until March 2020. Deborah Mack, from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, has served as the interim director of the museum.

Above: Book cover, Shudu Finds Her Magicby Shudufhadza Musida

Beauty Queen Shudufhadzo Musida Debuts Children’s Book Titled Shudu Finds Her Magic

South African model and beauty queen ShudufhadzoMusida has announced the release of her children’s book titled, Shudu Finds Her Magic. It will be published next month by Jacana Media. The book is centered around dealing with bullying and the power of friendship. The book will be available in six languages,and illustrations are by Chantelle and Burgen Thorne.

There are some moments in your life which you dream about but then to see it in real life, something tangible, something to hold. Now, that is something,” said Musida of her book.

I am filled with so much pride and joy to present this book authored by myself with beautiful illustrations by Chantelle and Burgen Thorne, she went on. A piece of my heart captured on a page, written especially for kids. A story of struggles and hope. Of falling down and getting back up and of the incredible journey we call life!

I hope that through my story you will find comfort in the fact that you are not alone, that you matter, that the world needs you! None of us are perfect, we were never meant to be and that’s what makes us so special.

The publisher remarked that “the book is inspired by Shudu’s own childhood and the bullying she experienced when she moved to a new province and a new school.”

Musida recently received an honors degree ininternational relations from the University of Witwatersrand and will be representing South Africa in the 2021 Miss World.

Sulwe Wins Lupita Nyongo a Daytime Emmy Award

Kenyan actor and author Lupita Nyongo has won a Daytime Emmy Award for an episode in Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices, in which she reads from her children’s book, Sulwe. She was given the award for Outstanding Limited Performance in a Children’s Program. Sulwe tells the story of a young girl grappling with colorism.

The Netflix program, Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices, produced by actress and comedienne Tiffany Hadish, is a “collection of 12 five-minute episodes featuring prominent Black celebrities and artists reading children’s books by Black authors to spark meaningful conversations about empathy, equality, justice, self-love and anti-racism.” Among the featured artists in addition to Nyong’o are Misty Copeland, Jacqueline Woodson, Common and Marsai Martin. Nyong’o stars in the fourth episode of the program.

Sulwe is a book that inspires self-love and asks what it truly means to be beautiful. Since its publication last year, the book has received considerable acclaim, including an NACCP Award and a forthcoming Netflix adaptation. The Nigerian rights to the book weresecured by Narrative Landscape Press, while Bunk Books secured the Kenyan rights.

Meron Hadero is the First Ethiopian to Win the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing

Ethiopian-American writer Meron Hadero is the winner of the 2021 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story titled, The Street Sweep. Judging panel Chair Goretti Kyomuhendo shared the news during the online award ceremony held July 26 in the form of a YouTube video.

Hadero is the first Ethiopian winner in the prize’s 21-year history on her second listing. In 2019, she was shortlisted for her story, The Wall.

Competing for the prize alongside Hadero were Rémy Ngamije, Doreen Baingana, Troy Onyango and IrynTushabe. She will receive the sum of £10,000 (U.S. $13,911) while her fellow shortlistees will receive £500 (U.S. $695) each.

The winning story, The Street Sweep, which was published in the San Francisco-based literary journal ZYZZYVA, tells “the story of Getu, an Ethiopian boy at a crossroad of his life as he negotiates the imported power dynamics of foreign aid in Addis Ababa. Set against the backdrop of personal trauma, threatening displacement and forced expropriation, the young narrator weighs his opportunities and soon understands the game of survival that leads the story to culminate in a hopeful twist. In this beautiful tale, the street sweep accounts for the young, ingenuous generation, determined to push open the doors previously closed on them.”

The judging panel, which was comprised of Ugandan-born journalist Razia Iqbal, Nigerian multimedia artist Victor Ehikhamenor, Zimbabwean-born broadcast journalist Georgina Godwin, and Ugandan poet Nick Makoha, was struck by the story’s redeeming power of hope.

In her remarks on the decision of the panel, Chair Kyomuhendo praises Hadero for humanizing Getu’sexperience and described the writing as “superbly crafted.

Hadero was born in Addis Ababa and has lived in the U.S. since she was a child. She holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Michigan, a J.D.from Yale, and a B.A. in history from Princeton. She won the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing in 2020. She has published extensively in major literary platforms.

Compiled by Roli O’tsemaye

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