Amoako Boafo at Gagosian, Chiminanda Ngozi Adichie Children’s Book and more: This Week in African Art and Culture

This Week in African Art and Culture brings exciting news ranging from thrilling art exhibitions, notable strides by one of Africa’s dedicated art practitioners, and a robust dose of literary announcements across various genres, including children’s literature.

Amoako Boafo’s Solo Exhibition at Gagosian, New York

Amoako Boafo | 
what could possibly go wrong, if we tell it like it is | 2023 | Installation view | Gagosian

On view at the Gagosian gallery in New York is a solo show by renowned Ghanaian contemporary figurative artist Amoako Boafo. Titled what could possibly go wrong, if we tell it like it is, the artist presents large-scale portraits of his friends, along with those he admires, with candor, joy and individuality.

Boafo has, over time, established himself as a figurative artist focused on Black identity, depicting his subjects in almost literal black tones, albeit with subtleness. The unique feature in his visual expressions though, is that he paints with his fingertips instead of a brush, and the directness of his touch enhances their expressive qualities. 

The works’ surfaces feature a gestural facture, which the artist uses to model the figures’ anatomy. Making eye contact, Boafo’s subjects return the gaze of the viewer in an assertion of presence and identity, reflecting the artist’s interest in conveying charisma and individuality. The characters occupy domestic interiors, their casual grace reinforced by the familiarity of these settings.

Gold Daytona (2023), one of the exhibited works in the show, is a self-portrait of the artist in a pensive pose of absorbed thoughts, wearing a fitted, mesh shirt and a Rolex watch indicated by the work’s title.

For this exhibition, Boafo also collaborated with New York–based poet and lyricist Aja Monet for a performance. Through an immersive interchange of spoken word and song, Monet will share new poetry, composed in response to the large-scale portraits on view, which blend themes of Black love, resistance, joy and community building.

what could possibly go wrong, if we tell it like it is will be on view until April 22, 2023. A selection of the exhibited works will subsequently travel to Accra, Ghana to be presented at dot.ateliers in May 2023.

Folakunle Oshun Joins Design Akademie Saaleck 2023 Selection Committee

Folakunle Oshun

Design Akademie Saaleck in Germany has appointed Nigerian independent curator Folakunle Oshun to be part of its 2023 selection committee. Oshun is an artist and curator currently based in Paris. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in visual art with a major in sculpture from the University of Lagos, Nigeria and a Master of Arts in art history. He was the first recipient of the Curator-in-Residence grant by the Potsdam City Council, Germany. 

Oshun is also the founder and director of Nigeria’s Lagos Biennial. He was invited as guest curator at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, where he curated the group exhibition, LOOK AT THIS, and he served as advisor for the Africa Season. His most recent solo exhibition, Museum of Hope was presented at the Berliner Dom. 

He is a doctoral candidate at the Heritage Laboratory of Cergy University, Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Arts de Paris-Cergy, where he also lectures.

Oshun will join other committee members Germane Barnes, Olivier Chow, Sasson Rafailov, Tulga Beyerle, and committee veterans Tatjana Sprick, Glenn Adamson and Arne C. Wasmuth.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Announces a New African Art Residency

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has announced a new African art residency at its Michael C. Rockefeller Wing. Eileen Musundi – head of exhibitions, Directorate of Antiquities, Sites and Monuments at the National Museums of Kenya since 2017—has been appointed to a four-month residency program beginning March 2023.

“As work on the Museum’s new Africa galleries continues to reconceptualize and reframe the collection, significant research continues as we prepare the content that will deepen appreciation of works and immense cultural diversity of the region,” said Alisa LaGamma, Ceil and Michael E. Pulitzer Curator for African Art and curator-in-charge of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing. “We are thrilled to welcome Eileen Musundi to the department.”

Musundi will work closely with curators from the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing and various departments throughout the museum. Her residency will explore developing a proposal for a traveling loan exhibition of works from The Met collection to Nairobi as well as developing and leading a public education program, which will draw on her expertise in African textiles. The program will explore cultural legacies and identity in East Africa and the development of textile production and will be presented in conjunction with the education department. Titled Textiles and Identity in East Africa, it will take place on May 9, 2023.

“My first-hand experiences of living in East Africa and my studies and interests in the arts and culture of Africa have ultimately brought me here to New York and The Metropolitan Museum of Art,” said Musundi. “My time here will be very enriching for me and my institution, and I count this as one of the highlights of my career. I look forward to experiencing everything that this residency has to offer.”

Before her work at the National Museums of Kenya, Musundi worked since as an exhibition designer and developer.

While at the National Museums of Kenya, she curated and served as the lead designer for both permanent galleries and temporary exhibitions. Musundi assisted with the Museum in Change project, which involved redesigning and reinstalling sections of the Nairobi National Museum’s permanent collections between 2004 and 2008. More recently, she was the lead designer of the exhibitions Kanga Stories (2011); Currencies, Trade and Exchange (2016); and Omieri: Rebirth of a Legend (2018). 

Musundi is currently the “principal investigator” for an exhibition, Kenya-Oman, and is involved in the design and planning of two new national museums in Kenya—a museum dedicated to historical figures in Kenyan history, and Kenya’s first national gallery of art.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Debuts as a Children’s Book Author with Mama’s Sleeping Scarf

Cover image: Mama’s Sleeping Scarf

Celebrated Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently announced the debut of her first children’s book, Mama’s Sleeping Scarf. Based on a day in her daughter’s life, the book tells the story of Chino and the miracles of an ordinary family day in Lagos. 

Adichie is publishing the book under the pseudonym Nwa Grace, which honors her mother. The illustrator is Congolese and Angolan London-based artist Joelle Avelino. 

Mama’s Sleeping Scarf, set for release on Sept. 5, 2023, will be the first publication in a three-book deal with Harper Collins Children’s Books in the U.K. As usual with Adichie’s writings, many people are looking forward to the release, including adult readers. 

Victoria Adukwei Bulley Wins the 2023 Rathbones Folio Prize for Poetry

Victoria Adukwei Bulley

British-Ghanaian poet Victoria Adukwei Bulley has won the 2023 Rathbones Folio Prize in the Poetry category.

The Rathbones Folio Prize is a prestigious prize awarded for literary excellence and is the only international, English-language award nominated by an academy of writers. This year, the prize changed its structure to open up the award to three categories: Nonfiction, Fiction and Poetry. This structure was implemented to “address the changing landscape of literary prizes, spotlight more authors, and offer readers and retailers a clearer, broader range of recommendations.”

American writer Margo Jefferson won the Rathbones Folio Prize in the Nonfiction category for Constructing a Nervous System. He received the overall Book of the Year award along with a £30,000 (U.S. $37,035) prize fund. Sri Lankan novelist Michelle de Kretser won the Fiction category for Scary Monsters, and Bulley won the Poetry category with her debut poetry collection, Quiet. The three category winners received £2,000 (U.S. $2,469) each.

The winners were announced at an award ceremony at the British Library. The judges included Ali Smith, Jackie Kay and Guy Gunaratne.

The judges described Quiet as “a quiet revolution of a book—subtle, supple and serious, these poems look for a language, a language that can be shared, that embraces the inner and the outer worlds. Tender and true, complex and profound, Quiet is a beautiful balancing act of a book—a debut that brings Adukwei Bulley fully-formed, starting something!”

Victoria Adukwei Bulley is a British-Ghanaian poet, writer and artist. Her 2022 debut collection Quiet was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize. She received a Techne scholarship for doctoral research at Royal Holloway, University of London. She also was shortlisted for the Brunel University African Poetry Prize in 2016 and received an Eric Gregory Award for her pamphlet Girl B, published as part of the New Generation African Poets series in 2017.

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