This week in African art and culture, various stories of events across contemporary visual art, literature and music emerge. In Lagos, Nigeria, we see a refreshing perspective on exhibition presentation with Wana Udobang’s show, Dirty Laundry.
The most highly regarded international art show in the world, which recently commenced in Venice, has announced winners for outstanding presentation, while Dakar, Senegal, which is set to commence its biennale next month, has announced the show’s theme.
On the literary front, a budding voice from Cameroon has won a prize for remarkable storytelling by an emerging voice …
And finally, the roundup aptly recounts an electric historical performance by one of Nigeria’s greatest singers, Burna Boy.
Above: Dirty Laundry Installation by Wana Udobang
Wana Udobang’s Dirty Laundry at A Whitespace, Lagos
This weekend in Lagos, Nigeria, Wana Udobang presents an installation titled Dirty Laundry, her first mixed media installation as a multidisciplinary creative. The installation’s title comes from her debut spoken word poetry album, an autobiographical work bearing the same name.
The exhibition features poems that are screen-printed on canvas, hanging from laundry lines. The first gathering opens on April 28, at A Whitespace, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Dirty Laundry explores some recurring themes in Udobang’s work, such as issues around womanhood, sexual and gender violence, feminine agency, healing and reimagination.
The exhibition has been designed as an immersive experience in which visitors walk through the space of hanging poems that examine personal narratives and experiences, histories and imaginaries, and provide a form of catharsis for the artist and the viewer.
The title of the installation and the use of the words “hanging,” “dirty” and “laundry” are deliberate metaphors taken from the phrase “hanging your dirty laundry in public.” This phrase, generally associated with shame, is subverted by Udobang, thus creating a platform where people can have difficult discussions freely. At the core of this presentation is the power of words to cut through the silence and shame we carry from experiences that society has often inflicted.
Udobang said, “Every day, we see how our cultures and societies repress the voices of women and girls. We continue to lose women and girls to sexual and intimate partner violence. I believe in Nina Simone’s statement that ’an artist must reflect the times.’ As an artist, I hope this exhibition is not only documenting and reflecting the insidious ways that women are violated in both our domestic and public lives but that it shows the ways we utilize imagination to heal.”
Dirty Laundry is a traveling show presented in collaboration with the Ford Foundation and curated by Naomi Edobor. It kicked off in Lagos as a three-day program featuring the installation, artist talk and performance. It will travel to two other cities across Nigeria as part of several events that celebrate this year’s women’s month and 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.
Wana Udobang is a writer, poet, performer and storyteller based between Lagos and London. She has produced three spoken word albums, titled Dirty Laundry, In Memory of Forgetting and Transcendence. Her work as a performer has taken her across Africa, Europe and the United States. Some notable events and festivals she has worked with include the Edinburgh International Festival and Deutsches Museum in Germany. In 2021, she was awarded the International Writing Program (IWP) residency at the University of Iowa.
Sonia Boyce and Simone Leigh Win Golden Lion Award at 59th Venice Biennale
Above: Simone Leigh | Brick House | 59th International Exhibition Venice | © Brendon Bell-Roberts
The 59th Venice Biennale, which formally commenced on April 23, has announced that its prestigious award, The Golden Lion for Best National Participation has been awarded to Sonia Boyce (born 1962 , London, now living in London) for Feeling Her Way, curated by Emma Ridgway. Best Participant in the International Exhibition The Milk of Dreams, has been awarded to Simone Leigh (born 1967, Chicago, now living in New York City) “for the rigorously researched, virtuosically realized, and powerfully persuasive monumental sculptural opening to the Arsenale, which alongside Belkis Ayón, provided a compelling entrée to the ideas, sensibilities and approaches constellated and animated throughout The Milk of Dreams.”
There also were two special mentions among the national pavilions. One was awarded to France with the exhibition Les rêves n’ont pas de titre / Dreams Have No Titles by Zineb Sedira and curated by Yasmina Reggad, Sam
Bardaouil and Till Fellrath; and the other, to Uganda for its commitment to art—this year was Uganda’s first participation at the Venice Biennale—with the exhibition titled RADIANCE: They dream In Time with works by Acaye Kerunen and Collin Sekajugo, curated by Shaheen Merali.
The Silver Lion for a Promising Young Participant in the International Exhibition The Milk of Dreams was awarded to Ali Cherri (born 1976, Beirut, now living in Paris). The jury awarded two special mentions to Lynn Hershman Leeson (born 1941, Cleveland, now living in San Francisco) and Shuvinai Ashoona (born 1961, Kinngait, Nanavut, Canada, where she currently resides).
The 59th Biennale continues to be on view until Nov. 27, 2022.
Dakar Biennale Announces Ĩ NDAFFA # – Forger – Out of the Fire As Theme for Its 14th Edition
The Senegalese Ministry of Culture recently announced the theme for its forthcoming biennale, beginning May 19. Titled Ĩ NDAFFA # – Forger – Out of the Fire, the theme refers to the founding act of African creation, which nourishes the diversity of contemporary African creativity while projecting new ways of telling and understanding Africa. It denotes the dynamics and action of creating, recreating and kneading. It thus refers to the forge that transforms, to the deposit from which the raw material comes, and to the fire that creates.
Forging consecrates the act of transforming one or more materials brought to incandescence in a fire, for the purpose of creating new forms, textures and materialities, and thereby, a new world. In this vein, for its 14th edition, the Dakar Biennale acquires a renewed and modernized visual identity.
This year, the International Exhibition features 59 artists, including four collectives from 28 countries around the world, comprising 16 African nations and 12 others in the diaspora. The 2022 Edition will renew the invitation of four international curators. The show had been postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic.
In addition to the “Grand Prix Léopold Sédar Senghor,” a visual arts reference distinction, the Dakar Biennale has enshrined other prizes such as:
· The Senegalese Minister of Culture’s Young Creator Prize;
· The International Organization of la Francophonie Prize;
· The City of Dakar Prize;
· The UEMOA Prize for the West African Economic and Monetary Union’s eight countries’ Best Creator;
· The ECOWAS Integration Prize for West Africa’s Best Female Painter;
· The Sculpture Prize awarded by the Association Solidarité Laïque and the Société Coopérative d’Art Contemporain, SCAC Marestaing;
· And a major novelty is the “Ousmane SOW Resale Rights” Prize of the International Confederation of Societies of Composers (CISACs).
The 14th Edition of the Biennale brings innovations and keeps track of all previous editions’ achievements. The organizers dared to bet on innovation for a Biennale rooted in the sphere of visual arts without breaking ties to its inclusive and holistic dynamics.
The “Senegal and Guest Countries Pavilions” Exhibition (with China and Côte d’Ivoire) is an experience that started in 2018, which “reconciled” popular Senegalese visual artists with the Dakar Biennale. This second edition will better leverage the achievements and practical lessons learned from the previous edition.
Live arts, digital art and literature also will be high on the event’s agenda, with programs planned around “performances” by urban culture artists, contemporary dance, and the use of digital technologies for “mapping” and concerts with renowned artists to enhance the animation.
The 2022 edition aims to consolidate the previous editions’ achievements, particularly in territorial networking, public/private partnerships, communication and animation issues.
The Dakar Biennale is also the “Off” environmental event that capitalizes on an average of 350 projects, with a diversity of artistic proposals throughout Senegal in connection with regional cultural centers and those in the diaspora.
The Biennale is scheduled to open from May 19-June 21, 2022.
Cameroonian Writer Howard Meh-Buh Maximus Wins 2022 Afritondo Short Story Prize
Cameroonian writer Howard Meh-Buh Maximus has won the 2022 Afritondo Short Story Prize for his short story Grotto. The story is described as “a tender story about friendship and the ephemeral nature of young love.”
Maximus emerged as the winner from a stacked finalist cohort that included Mauritian writer Sabah Carrim, South African writer Lynsey Chutel, and Nigerian writers Raheem Omeiza and Somtochukwu Ihezue.
Now in its third year, the Afritondo Prize already has gained appeal as one of the continent’s most prestigious honors spotlighting new/emerging voices. It awards a cash prize of $1,000 to an unpublished work of fiction from 3,000-5,000 words by an African/Black writer. Four finalists receive $100 each.
The 2022 edition was themed Spirituality. The judging panel was chaired by the Nigerian author Pemi Aguda and included the South African novelist Masande Ntshanga and Zambian novelist Natasha Omokhodion-Banda.
Howard Meh-Buh Maximus grew up in Southwest Cameroon. His writing has appeared in The Africa Report and Catapult Magazine. He is the recipient of many literary honors, including a Morland Foundation Scholarship, a Kalahiri Short Story Prize, and a finalist for the Alpine Fellowship.
Previous winners of the prize include South Africa’s Jared Thompson for A Good Help is Hard to Find (2020), and Ethiopia’s Desta Haile for her story Ethio-Cubano (2021).
The 2022 winning story, along with others longlisted, will be published in a print anthology.
Burna Boy Makes History With Outstanding Performance at Madison Square Garden
Grammy-winning Nigerian singer, Burna Boy, has officially become the first Nigerian artist to sell out a show at the Madison Square Garden, New York.
The much-anticipated One Night In Space concert took place on Thursday with over 20,000 fans in attendance—the fullest capacity possible for the facility.
The audience was treated to a high-energy cultural exchange that felt like a party from start to finish. The sold-out show kept fans on their feet as the Grammy-award winning singer continually proved why he is known as the African Giant.
To make things extra exciting, Burna Boy was introduced onto the stage by legendary U.S. rapper Busta Rhymes. In a humbling display of support, Rhymes expressed his keenness for Burna and the incredible music that African artists have been gifting global audiences with. “I’ve been to Nigeria three times so far,” a delighted Rhymes announced to the roaring crowd.
Burna began the show with his classic Level Up, with an appearance from legendary Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour. During the show, the singer announced that the QR codes printed onto tickets gave fans access to pre-save his upcoming sixth studio album, Love, Damini. “That’s my name, Damini,” he said. The album is scheduled for release on July 2, which also happens to be his birthday.
Burna recently toured Europe, selling out the 20,300 capacity Accor Arena in Paris twice, the 13,000 capacity 3Arena in Ireland, and the 9,500 capacity Geneva Arena in Switzerland.
-Compiled by Roli O’tsemaye