This week in African art and culture brings news of a bold but laudable project launched by one of the world’s most renowned African artists. In London, a remarkable installation addressing one of Nigeria’s colonial expeditions is on view. The Dublin Literary Award, one of the priciest awards for a novel, recently announced this year’s longlist, and five African authors appear on it. And on a wistful note, one of South Africa’s beloved rappers has passed away at 34 …
Yinka Shonibare Launches Ambitious Artist Residency Project in Nigeria
Above: The Guest Artist Space, Lagos, Founded by Yinka Shonibare CBE RA
World-renowned Nigerian-British artist Yinka Shonibare CBE RA has launched a new residency space in Lagos, called Guest Artists Space (G.A.S.) Foundation. Founded in 2019, the program is set to offer exciting opportunities for those working in the fields of contemporary art, design, architecture, agriculture and ecology by giving space and resources to research, experiment, share, educate and develop work.
The first G.A.S. building, located in Oniru, Lagos, is a modern structure that wraps around a central courtyard. The space was designed by Ghanaian-British architect Elsie Owusu in collaboration with Lagos-based Nigerian Architect Nihinlola Shonibare of NS Design Consult; they also were commissioned to execute the interior design concept and delivery.
The initiative intends to support international cultural exchange, establishing connections between Africa’s art markets and the international art community. The space comes equipped with artists’ live/work units and an adaptable multi-use project and gallery space. As part of the launch, an exhibition featuring a selection of works acquired by Yinka Shonibare CBE RA over the last 20 years is currently on display in the gallery, resident rooms and the common areas of the building. This installation of photographs, sculptures, paintings, works on paper and mixed media collage, curated by Temitayo Ogunbiyi, encourages people to navigate the space of G.A.S. Foundation while considering contemporary art in conversation with works from Nigerian modernism and antiquity.
The second building, located in Ijebu town, in Ogun State, Nigeria, is designed by Papa Omotayo of MOE+ with interior design by Temitayo Shonibare. This space sits on the lush 54-acre Ecology Green Farm that produces crops ranging from cassava and cashew to peppers and maize. Created with sustainable infrastructure and food security in mind for the local community, it also will provide a residency space for scientists, agriculturists and researchers.
G.A.S. Foundation receives strategic and fundraising support from the Yinka Shonibare Foundation, a charity registered in England and Wales. G.A.S. will begin welcoming an exciting roster of both local and international talent for residencies and fellowships starting in April 2022.
Victor Ehikhamenor’s Installation, Still Standing at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London
At the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London is an impressive, bold new installation work titled Still Standing by Nigerian artist Victor Ehikhamenor.
Still Standing has been commissioned and curated by Dan Hicks, professor of contemporary archaeology at the University of Oxford and curator at the Pitt Rivers Museum, and Simon Carter, head of collections at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The installation responds to a brass panel memorial to Admiral Sir Harry Holdsworth Rawson (1843-1910), installed in the Nelson Chamber of the Cathedral’s Crypt in 1913. As the panel notes, Rawson had a long career in the Royal Navy, which culminated in his commanding the Benin Expedition of 1897, 125 years ago.
Ehikhamenor is renowned for his broad practices of painting, sculpture, photography, and unique works on paper. Still Standing combines rosary beads and Benin bronze hip ornament masks to depict an oba (king) of Benin.
Artist Victor Ehikhamenor said of the work, “History never sleeps nor slumbers. For me to be responding to the memorial brass of Admiral Sir Harry Holdsworth Rawson, who led British troops in the sacking of the Benin Kingdom 125 years ago, is a testament to this.
“The installation Still Standing was inspired by the resolute Oba Ovonramwen, who was the reigning king of Benin Kingdom at the time of the expedition, but the artwork also memorializes the citizens and unknown gallant Benin soldiers who lost their lives in 1897 as well as the vibrant continuity of the kingdom till this day. I hope that we, the descendants of innumerable, uncomfortable, thorny pasts, will begin to have meaningful and balanced conversations through projects such as 50 Monuments in 50 Voices.”
Professor Dan Hicks, co-curator of the 50 Monuments in 50 Voices exhibit, said, “Installed on the 125th anniversary of the attack on Benin City, this specially-commissioned work opens up a unique space for remembrance and reflection. Still Standing reminds us of the ongoing nature of the rich artistic traditions of Benin, of the enduring legacies and losses of colonial war, and of the ability of art to help us reconcile the past and the present.”
Still Standing is on view at the cathedral until May 14, 2022.
African Authors Making the Dublin Literary Award Longlist
The Dublin Literary Award has announced its 2022 longlist of 79 authors, and there are five African authors on the list. The longlisted authors are the International Booker Prize-winning Senegalese author David Diop for his second novel At Night All Blood is Black, Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom, the Nigerian writers Akwake Emezi for their second novel The Death of Vivek Oji, Liberian author Sianah Nalika DeShield for Where is Ma Kemah, and Francesca Ekwuyasi for her debut novel Butter Honey Pig Bread.
The list was selected by a judging panel from nominations by libraries in major cities worldwide. The prize, valued at €100,000 (U.S. $111,490), is one of the world’s richest prizes for a single book published in English. Sponsored by the Dublin City Council and managed by Dublin City Libraries, the prize keeps in line with Dublin’s 2010 designation as a UNESCO City of Literature.
Diop’s At Night All Blood is Black follows the lives of Senegalese soldiers who fought for France during World War I. The novel was awarded the 2021 International Booker Prize, the first for a French writer and a writer of Francophone descent.
Emezi’s novel The Death of Vivek Oji is a coming-of-age novel that details the tragic timeline of its troubled protagonist’s short-lived existence. This novel has been nominated for a Pen America Literary Award, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and has won a Nommo Award.
Francesca Ekwuyasi’s Butter Honey Pig Bread, a Lambda Award finalist, explores a mother’s complex relationship with her twin daughters, along with concepts of love, family and forgiveness. Published in 2020, the work received warm reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and The New Yorker.
Sianah Nalika DeShield’s Who is Ma Kemah is a love story about a Liberian woman’s journey from a war-torn Liberia to an A-list lifestyle as the love interest for an American star athlete.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (who had been nominated previously for the prize) is a moving story of a Ghanaian family struggling with loss and racism in the American South.
Previous nominations have included Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Mbolo Imbue and Yewande Omotoso. The 2004 prize was awarded to Morocco’s Tahar Ben Jelloun for his novel This Blinding Absence of Light, and the 2017 Prize went to Angola’s Jose Eduardo Agualusa for A General Theory of Oblivion.
A shortlist of 10 will be announced in March, with the overall winner to be named in Dublin on May 19, 2022.
Heroe Book Fair 2022 Names Zimbabwean Author Petina Gappah as Keynote Speaker
Above: Petina Gappah
Zimbabwean award-winning author Petina Gappah has been announced as the keynote speaker at the Heroe Book Fair 2022, scheduled to take place in Mombasa, Kenya from May 5-7, 2022. The festival theme is Emancipation.
Heroe Book Fair is a Pan-African literary event bringing together Anglophone, Francophone and German-speaking writers, poets, publishers and literary enthusiasts in celebration of their literary works and achievements.
Founded by writer and children’s book author Lorna Likiza ran in 2021, the 2022 edition is jointly organized by Likiza and Culture Africa Founder Hans Hofele as a hybrid event hosted at the Close The Gap Hub at Ratna Square, Mombasa. The festival will include panels, workshops, readings of poetry and prose, book launches and signings, boom chats, and more. There will be sessions for adults as well as for kids.
Petina Gappah is a renowned name in the African literary community. She made a debut with a short story collection, An Elegy For Easterly (2009). The book won the Guardian First Book Award and was shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the Orwell Prize and the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for Fiction. Since then, she has written The Book of Memory (2015), Rotten Row (2016) and Out of Darkness, Shining Light (2019).
South Africa Mourns the Passing of Rap Artist Riky Rik at 34
Above: Rikhado Muziwendlovu Makhado, popularly known as Riky Rick
Rikhado Muziwendlovu Makhado, popularly known as Riky Rick has passed away at 34.
The artist gained popularity within the South African music scene with his debut studio album Family Values in 2015, which attained certified platinum status.
Riky Rick also was known for his music and street cultural event Cotton Fest, which he launched in 2020.
At the 2020 Cotton Fest, the rapper opened up about his struggles with depression after his father’s death. Rick sadly gave in to his struggles and passed away in the early hours of Feb. 23, 2022, at his home in Johannesburg.
Makhado is survived by his wife and two children.
Compiled by Roli O’tsemaye