This Week in African Art and Culture (August 14 – 20, 2022)

This Week in African Art and Culture features events across the contemporary art and literary scene. In Lagos, Nigeria, an exhibition exploring life in low-income areas is on view. Captured in colorful renditions, some of the works mimic the vintage negative on an analog film. In literature, we bring news of an incoming chair for a major international book prize and other wins by writers living and working throughout the diaspora.


David Otaru’s Face-Me-I-Face-You at Rele Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos

On view at Rele Gallery, Lagos, Nigeria is a solo exhibition by emerging Nigerian artist David Otaru, titled Face-Me-I-Face-You. 

The exhibition draws from the artist’s experiences growing up in a “Face Me, I Face You” apartment—a residential building arrangement common in low-income areas in Nigeria, where a group of one or two-room apartments have their entrances facing each other along a walkway. Here, Otaru references the settings and objects in reconstructing distinct memories.  For the artist, these moments form a point of inquiry into a distant yet pivotal period, one marked by hardship and financial crisis. Ideas of childhood and the familial take center stage, offering access to emotive, interior lives. In the exhibition, nostalgia becomes a tool for exploring communal and mutual existence.

Created primarily in acrylic, the paintings employ realistic figuration in creating carefully composed scenes of play, intimacy and the mundane. The exhibition presents us with domestic images of daily life, undefinable “minor” moments that offer a glimpse into ordinary lives. Scenes of reflection and recollection—a couple dancing, cosplay, a game of checkers—takes the viewer on a trip through nostalgia into spaces long forgotten. This deliberately direct representation of life—as played out in the home—positions the “instant” as a trigger for conversations surrounding family histories, class struggles and the banal yet defining qualities of the everyday.

Otaru’s paintings, populated with transistor radios, old TV sets and family photographs, situate his characters and environments in a specific time, examining the full presence of being from the singularity of a moment. These moments, often existing beyond the reach of language, consider the commonplace as a communal experience as well as a site for the reading and creation of complex lives. With this exhibition, Otaru maps out areas of memory embedded in spaces and objects. Household items, interior spaces and bodies become vehicles for excavating parts of an event.

The exhibition will travel to Rele’s Los Angeles gallery in September.

Face-Me-I-Face-You is on view until Sept. 6, 2022.

Museum of African Diaspora Announces Finalists for Inaugural African Literary Award

The finalists for the inaugural edition of the Museum of African Diaspora African Literary Awards were recently announced. The Museum of the African Diaspora is a contemporary art museum in San Francisco, one of only a few museums of its kind in the U.S. It holds exhibitions and presents artists exclusively from the African diaspora.

The museum has unveiled its new African Literary Awards “in recognition of an author who has produced a work of literary excellence and taken a leadership role in promoting writing and literacy in their local community.” It is judged by a panel that includes African Book Club Co-Founder Faith Adiele; Director of Public Programs Elizabeth Gessel; and Senior Public Programs Manager Nia McAllister. This panel announced that the following works are in the running for the award:

  • Sulaiman Addonia, Silence Is My Mother Tongue: A Novel (Graywolf Press 2020)
  • Wayétu Moore, The Dragons, The Giant, The Women: A Memoir (Graywolf Press 2021)
  • Sisonke Msimang, Always Another Country: A Memoir of Exile and Home (World Editions 2018)
  • Rémy Ngamije, The Eternal Audience of One: A Novel (Simon & Schuster 2021)
  • Mũkoma Wa Ngũgĩ, Unbury Our Dead With Song (Cassava Republic Press 2021)

The five books feature three novels and two memoirs, which is quite peculiar. Other award ceremonies usually have books in separate categories to make it fairer for those in the running. However, this award is different. There is no information available about the prize money attached to the award. The final winner will be announced on International Literacy Day, Sept. 8, 2022. 


Above: Leïla Slimani


Moroccan Writer Leïla Slimani to Chair International Booker Prize 2023

Leïla Slimani has been revealed to be the chair of the International Booker Prize 2023. The annual International Booker Prize is awarded for the finest single work of fiction from around the world that has been translated into English and published in the U.K. and Ireland. Some previous winners of the award, worth £50,000 (U.S. $59,150) split between author and translator, have been Chinua Achebe and David Diop.

The 2023 edition has kicked off with the announcement of the panel of judges chaired by Leïla Slimani. She is joined by academic Uilleam Blacker, author and lawyer Tan Twan Eng, The New Yorker Staff Writer Parul Sehgal, and Financial Times Literary Editor Frederick Studemann.

Slimani is the bestselling author of Lullaby (published in the U.S. as The Perfect Nanny), one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2018, and for which she became the first Moroccan woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt. Her first novel, Adèle, about a sex-addicted woman in Paris, won the Mamounia Prize for the best book by a Moroccan author written in French and inspired her non-fiction book Sex and Lies: True Stories of Women’s Intimate Lives in the Arab World. Her most recent novel is In The Country Of Others, the first installment of a planned trilogy fictionalizing the author’s family history.

Commenting on the announcement naming her chair, Slimani said, “As a child, I lived in books. Through the magic of fiction, I was a Russian princess, a gold digger, a little orphan from the suburbs of London, an alchemist from the Colombian mountains. This is what novelists teach us and what translators offer us: in literature there are no borders, no illegals, no outcasts. Fiction is my home, and I am more than happy to be able to live there for several months, surrounded by friends and colleagues, to celebrate our passion for words and stories. It is a great honor and responsibility to present this prestigious award to a novelist and to his or her translator whose talents have enabled them to be read by English-speaking readers.”

Fiammetta Rocco, administrator of the International Booker Prize, said, “Led by Leïla Slimani, the five judges of the International Booker Prize 2023 bring a wealth of talent and global experience as writers, critics, translators—and most of all as readers. At the end of the prize cycle in May 2023, their reading and discussions will give them an unparalleled view of the new fiction from around the world, written in other languages, translated into English and published in the U.K. and Ireland. Their recommendations should leap to the top of your must-read list.”

Nigerian American Author Jordan Ifueko Joins Marvel Comics as Author of Moon Girl & Red Dinosaur

A new volume of Marvel Comics’ Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur is in the works, and Nigerian American author Jordan Ifueko is the writer. The news of Ifueko’s involvement was released at the Marvel Comics’ Next Big Thing panel at the 2022 Comic-Con International: San Diego. Alba Glez is the illustrator, with Ken Lashley designing the cover.

The first release in the series is set for Dec. 7 before the launch of the Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur animated series on Disney Plus.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is a remake of Marvel Comics’ Moon-boy and Devil Dinosaur. It tells the story of Lunella, “a gifted young girl who accidentally brings Devil Dinosaur into present-day New York.” Ifueko refers to Lunella as a “superpowered Black girl” in her announcement on Instagram. Devil Dinosaur is a red Tyrannosaurus and companion of Moon Girl. The series captures the adventures of the unlikely pair.

Ifueko is known for her writings in the fantasy genre. Her most renowned work is a novel titled Raybearer and the follow-up, titled Redemptor. Both works were New York Times bestsellers and were nominated for notable awards.

Compiled by Roli O’tsemaye

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