This week in African art and culture, we are leaning heavily into the literary scene. But first, tidbits from the visual art scene.
In Lagos, Nigeria, Affinity Gallery is presenting an exciting group show, which has been the buzz for a while now among collectors of African art, featuring figurative paintings. The works are by emerging artists yet to be seen and experienced.
This week, a new virtual art platform will be presenting its first auction of modern and contemporary Nigerian Art. Designed to enable several collectors to co-own an artwork in parts, this auction might just set a revolutionary precedent in offering alternative ways to begin or participate in art collecting.
The week’s literary highlights include prizes, awardees, and debut stories from Nigeria, the diaspora and Algeria.
Affinity Art Gallery Lagos Presents Emerging Nigerian Artists
Affinity Art Gallery, based in Lagos, Nigeria, has for its current show a group exhibition of nine artists titled It’s All In Me. The exhibition features paintings, photographs, and an installation from Adaeze Okaro, Akinola Taoheed, Derek Jahyém Jombo-Ogboi, Ebuka P. Agudiegwu, Nzubechukwu Ozoemena, Olasunkanmi Akomolehin, Oluwapelumi Oluyemi, Plantation (Ayomide Tejuoso) and Sophia Chioma.
Curated by Wunika Mukan, who has made her mark as a cultural producer and in the art industry through work with the Lagos Photo Festival, Art Summit Nigeria, and the Sterling Bank Recyclart Competition, the exhibit demonstrates her drive for championing and supporting artistic creativity by young Nigerians both locally and internationally and has made her a natural collaborator for the show.
Parallel with their fledgling practices, the artists depict individuals in indeterminate situations, considering pivotal next steps with outcomes yet to be seen. Though coming from similar shared experiences, the artists have managed to express themselves in a wide array of mediums, perspectives and narratives. This further emphasizes the reality of shared experiences producing disparate outcomes.
The works on view evoke varying emotions and states of contemplation by capturing a phase of quiet reflection, uncertainty, surging potential and unbridled expectation. The subjects look to the future, their anticipation apparent in their animated body language or in subtle motionless poses.
It’s All In Me is a call to celebrate everything in us that is becoming. The artists invite the viewer to see and reflect in these pieces everything in us that longs and dreams and hope.
The exhibition closes July 30, 2022.
ARTSPLIT App Launches MOCONA – Auction for Art from Nigeria
ARTSPLIT, a pioneering art trading platform for art from Africa, has launched its maiden MOCONA – a Modern and Contemporary Nigerian Arts Auction taking place from July 15-31, 2022.
This first-of-its-kind auction, titled Ode to Mastery, features five prominent Nigerian artists who are key drivers of the contemporary art scene on the continent. They are Abiodun Olaku, El-Dragg Okwoju, Duke Asidere, Edosa Ogiguo, and Oliver Enwonwu.
The ARTSPLIT app allows users to own fractions of prominent artworks from Africa, also known as “Splits,” to keep or trade them on the app if they win the “Split Auction.” With these Splits, multiple collectors can co-own a single iconic piece of art, which no other art platform allows. Users also can participate in a lease auction on the app to win physical custody of these split artworks for a set period.
The works are available for physical viewing at Hourglass Gallery, 979 Saka Jojo St., Victoria Island 106104, Lagos for the auction duration from July 25-31 and online from July 15.
Famed for his highly-finished and detailed depictions of Nigeria’s cities and landscapes, Abiodun Olaku is generally considered one of the country’s most accomplished oil painters. Olaku largely works in the traditional medium of oil; however, his work is not stuck in the past. The artist explores new horizons within established methods and techniques open to innovation.
El-Dragg Okwoju is an esteemed oil painter known for his vibrant depictions of Nigerian culture. Women are the subject matter at the core of Okwoju’s practice, often caught in an abstracted and ephemeral moment of ordinary activity like dancing or celebrating life.
Duke Asidere expresses himself in thick, bold strokes through various media, including pencil work, oil, acrylic, pastels and transparencies. Having been raised in a female household, he has become known for his inquisitive portrayal of women in works that explore concepts like politics, society, culture and psychology—his architectural series offers a fresh perspective of Africa, and his number plate and spray series have underlying political statements.
Edosa Ogiguo is one of Nigeria’s most famous artists for his large canvasses of equestrian and dancing scenes. His fascination with horses began after a visit to his wife’s family in northern Nigeria. For Ogiugo, the technical challenges of mastering his subject matter inspire him more than anything else.
Oliver Enwonwu comes from a long line of remarkable artists, such as his grandfather, a reputable traditional sculptor, and his father Ben Enwonwu, widely known and celebrated as Africa’s most celebrated pioneer modernist. Enwonwu interrogates the complex layers of history between Africa and the West in his work.
NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature 2022 Announces Longlist
The longlist for the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature 2022, the richest literary prize on the continent, has been announced. The Nigeria Prize for Literature, sponsored annually by oil firm NLNG, was started to honor Nigerian authors in the four genres of fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature in 2004. The prize, worth U.S. $100,000, makes it the richest in African letters today.
Over the years, winners have included Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia (2021), Jude Idada (2019), Soji Cole (2018), Ikeogu Oke (2017), Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (2016), Sam Ukala (2014), Tade Ipadeola (2013) and Chika Unigwe (2012).
The judging panel for 2022 is Prof. Sule Emmanuel Egya (chairman), Toyin Adewale-Gabriel and Dike Chukwumerije.
This year, the prize focuses on poetry, and those on the longlist were selected from 237 entries. The poetry work and authors are:
- Augusta’s Poodle, Ogaga Ifowodo—This volume has a distinct feature of deploying oral tradition, memory, and childhood to reflect on the vagaries of life.
- Coming Undone as Stitches Tighten, IquoDiana Abasi—The collection has a strong oral quality and exhibits a seamless transition from performance poetry to print poetry.
- Dispossessed, James Eze—this collection is distinguished by its introspective style with images that build intimacy with the reader.
- Ife Testament, Segun Adekoya—The collection is distinguished by the scope of its subject matter coupled with brilliant experimentations in form and style.
- Memory and the Call of Water, Su’eddie Vershima Agema—In this collection, there is a consistent use of memory to reflect on life and destiny through the metaphor of water.
- Nomad, Romeo Oriogun—The collection has a fresh language and a nostalgic engagement with the themes of exile and displacement.
- The Lilt of the Rebel, Obari Gomba—An exceptionally lyrical reflection on diverse social issues.
- The Love Canticles, Chijioke Amu Nnadi—This volume exhibits an elevated use of language in its engagement with the powerful theme of love.
- Wanderer Cantos, Remi Raji—This book engages a medley of public and personal issues, and experiments with diverse forms and indigenous language.
- Yawns and Belches, Joe Ushie—This collection has a strong social tenor crafted with witticism and fresh metaphors.
- Your Crib, My Qibla, Saddiq Dzukogi—This volume translates tragedy into lyrical poetry with pathos and effortless imagery.
The shortlist of three is expected in September, with the winner announced in October.
The U.K.’S Royal Society of Literature Announces Its 2022 Fellows
The newest fellows of the Royal Society of Literature were announced in London on July 12, 2022. The Royal Society of Literature was founded to “reward literary merit and excite literary talent” in 1820. Representing the voice of literature in the U.K., it has about 600 Fellows, elected from among the best writers in any genre currently at work. They include the best novelists, short-story writers, poets, playwrights, graphic fiction writers, biographers, historians, travel writers, literary critics and scriptwriters at work today. Honorary Fellows have made a significant contribution to the advancement of literature as publishers, agents, librarians, booksellers or producers, or who have rendered special service to the Society.
The newest group of fellows was inducted at a ceremony at the Battersea Arts Centre in London. There were three categories of fellows being announced in the evening; the writers of African descent among the honored are:
Benson Medal 2022
Honors a whole career rather than a single work and is often awarded to those who are not writers but who have done conspicuous service to literature. It is named in honor of A.C. Benson, scholar, author and RSL Fellow.
- Sandra Agard
Royal Society of Literature Fellows 2022
A writer who has published or produced two works of outstanding literary merit.
- Sulaiman Addonia
- Malika Booker
- Kayo Chingonyi
- Michaela Coel
- Fred D’Aguiar
- Ferdinand Dennis,
- Bonnie Greer
- Karen McCarthy Woolf
- Musa Okwonga
- Monique Roffey
- Lemn Sissay
Honorary Fellows 2022
Honorary Fellows have made a significant contribution to the advancement of literature as publishers, agents, librarians, booksellers or producers, or who have rendered special service to the Society.
- Sandra A Agard
- Adjoa Andoh
- Joy Francis
Algerian Author Sara Cheikh Debuts Memoir Titled Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Insha-Allah
Sara Cheikh recently debuted a memoir in which she captures the political conflict that shaped her childhood in Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Insha-Allah. She details her experience returning home in 2020 and having to confront life’s realities at the refugee camp where her grandmother still lives. The book is set for publication in June 2023 by Feral House.
Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Insha-Allah is centered on Cheikh’s unplanned extended stay in the Western Sahara refugee camp where her family lives. On her first visit to see her family after 20 years, she is unexpectedly held back due to border closures and the increasing panic around COVID-19. The memoir details the ensuing adventures. It also “explores the history of the war that displaced her family as she negotiates the culture clash between the Saharawi society into which she was born and her Western upbringing.”
The Saharawi refugees had lived in the Tindouf camps since the 1970s, when they fled due to Morocco’s military presence in Western Sahara. A synopsis of the book has been posted by Handshake Books, which is reported to have published a limited edition of the book last year.
Cheikh said on Instagram that all the profit went to the Smara refugee camp hospital where she was born. At the start of the coronavirus outbreak, Sara flies from her home in Paris to visit her grandmother in Western Sahara. Stuck in the desert, she faces starvation, arrest and kidnapping while trying to cross the border into Algeria.
This heartfelt account explores the life and lessons of the desert, the plight of the Sahrawi people, their struggle, and their stoic patience. It also addresses family ties, questions the meaning of cultural heritage and frames the universal desire to belong.
Sara Cheikh was born in Algeria in the Smara refugee camp. She moved to Spain when she was six and grew up there. Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Insha-Allah is her first book. She currently lives in Barcelona, where she works as a digital product designer.
Compiled by Roli O’tsemaye