This Week in African Art and Culture (March 2-9, 2024)

Chigozie Obi | Conversations with My Therapist | oil and acrylic on canvas | 2023 | image courtesy of Windsor Gallery

Dear Friends,

In the compilation of events for this week, you might notice that a recurrent theme shared by all the stories and events is that they focus on women. An intentional direction, seeing that I am compiling these stories on International Women’s Day. 

I had an interesting conversation today with a friend who is a senior human resources manager at one of the leading oil and gas firms in Nigeria, and something she said struck me: “I am not interested in performing IWD today. I am tired of the panels, hand gestures and platitudes when women are still being disrespected and treated like second-class citizens.”

These words made me think: have most of us lazily, complacently and unconsciously taken a performative stance rather than an active stance towards the issues and challenges women face? I mean, indeed, after all these years of awareness and themes and gestures, the tell-tale signs of oppression continue to be on the rise.

As you read this collation of stellar news and events that celebrate the achievement of various Black women around the world, I kindly urge you to think about how, in your own little way, together you could bring about a change that collectively would make a huge impact and dent the statistics for the better …

African Writers Longlisted for the 2024 Women’s Prize for Fiction

The longlist for the 2024 Women’s Prize for Fiction has been released and two notable African authors made the list. They are Maya Binyam, an Ethiopian American, and Peace Adzo Medie, originally from Liberia and now residing in Ghana. Established in 1996, the Women’s Prize for Fiction aims to rectify the disparities in recognition and appreciation between male and female writers, providing a platform for outstanding literary works by women. 

This prestigious award is bestowed annually upon the author of the most distinguished full-length novel written in English and published in the U.K., with the recipient receiving £30,000 ($38,575) and a bronze statuette. Now in its 29th year, the Women’s Prize for Fiction continues to champion ambitious, inspiring and thought-provoking novels penned by women in the English language. 

The judging panel for the 2024 Prize was chaired by Monica Ali and includedesteemed members such as Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, Laura Dockrill, Indira Varma and Anna Whitehouse.

The longlist, comprising 16 remarkable titles, celebrates the strength of individual expression. Binyam’s debut novel, Hangman, earned her a spot on the list, while Medie was recognized for her second novel, Nightbloom.

Maya Binyam, currently based in Los Angeles, has contributed to esteemed publications such as the Paris Review, the New Yorker, and the New York Times Magazine, among others. She serves as an advisory editor at the Paris Review. Peace Adzo Medie, a distinguished academic and writer, released her debut novel, His Only Wife, in 2020, alongside her scholarly work, Global Norms and Local Action: The Campaigns to End Violence Against Women in Africa.

We extend heartfelt congratulations to Binyam and Medie on this significant achievement.

Lubaina Himid at The Contemporary in Austin, Texas

Lubaina Himid (born in Zanzibar in 1954), renowned for winning the 2024 Suzanne Deal Booth / FLAG Art Foundation Prize, has an ongoing solo exhibition in Austin, Texas titled Make Do and Mend. With over 40 years working professionally as an artist, she pushes the boundaries in her painting and storytelling, focusing on Black experiences. 

She considers herself a painter, cultural activist and storyteller. In the ’80s, she was prominent in the British Black arts movement and has been a huge supporter of women artists through her roles as teacher, curator and critic.

The exhibition presents two new bodies of work by the artists and is curated by Alex Klein and Julie Le (assistant curator). The show will travel to New York in September 2024 at The FLAG Art Foundation, with a catalog for the exhibition set to come out in 2025.

The exhibition will be on view in Austin, Texas until July 21, 2024.

Lubaina Himid | Pointless Heroism | acrylic and charcoal on canvas | 2023 | image courtesy of the artist and Hollybush Gardens, London | Photographer: Andy Keate

Renowned Guggenheim Curator Naomi Beckwith Receives the Driskell Prize

Naomi Beckwith, a prominent deputy director and chief curator at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, has received a prestigious award from the High Museum of Art—The Driskell Prize in African American Art and Art History. 

Beckwith is the first Black chief curator ever at the Guggenheim, which is pretty splendid in itself. She’s the 19th person to receive this prestigious award, which is named after artist and scholar David C. Driskell.

The prize recognizes Beckwith for her remarkable work in African American art, acknowledging her as a distinguished professional in the art world. The High Museum of Art in Atlanta started giving out this prize in 2005 to recognize people making huge waves in African American art and history. The winner is given $50,000 to use toward the furthering of their research or artistic practice.

Naomi Beckwith

Moni Aisida Appointed Executive Director at Guest Artist Space Foundation

Guest Artist Space (G.A.S.) Foundation (Lagos, Nigeria), an initiative of the Yinka Shonibare Foundation (London), has shared exciting news of its new, incoming executive director, Moni Aisida, an art practitioner who brings over eight years of experience in the art industry. With a background in various industries, including healthcare and fintech, she has been instrumental in fostering partnerships and capacity-building within the art community, most notably in her work with emerging artists. 

Commenting on her new role, Aisida said, “I am eager to tap into the sense of ownership and faith and pride that so many have invested into G.A.S. already and to ensure that faith remains untested. G.A.S. Foundation has, within relatively short time, set a standard that I intend to maintain. I am committed to continuing to pursue our vision of expansion, collaboration and capacity-building in the artistic community.”

Before joining G.A.S., Aisida was the gallery manager at Affinity Gallery in Lagos, Nigeria where she worked actively with emerging artists, showcasing their practice to an international audience. In taking a bow gloriously, she curated her last exhibition at Gallery Affinity titled Floating in Place. This group exhibition features female artists who explore the womanhood and Blackness that encourage interpretation and introspection. The show is on view until April 7, 2024.

Moni Aisida

Modern Matriarchs: Charting New Frontiers in Art at Windsor Gallery, Lagos

In the spirit of the month of March, singled out to celebrate women, the group exhibition Modern Matriarchs: Charting New Frontiers in Art is on view at Windsor Gallery, Lagos, Nigeria, and it’s all about celebrating female artists from across Africa. Bringing together artists of repute whose aesthetic practices have bold expressions and innovative techniques, the exhibition features works by eight talented artists from South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. 

Curated by Richard Vedelago and Seun Alli, the participating artists include Chuma Adam (South Africa), Samuella Graham (Ghana), Chinaza Nkemka (Nigeria), Osaru Obaseki (Nigeria), Gbonjubola Olobatuyi (Nigeria), Chigozie Obi (Nigeria), Simhle Plaatjies (South Africa) and Kristine Tsala (Cameroon).

According to the gallery’s manager Yoko Ngube, this exhibition is important because it reflects the gallery’s pan-African perspective and its commitment to shaking things up in the art world. They’re not just showcasing art; they’re highlighting the role of women as trailblazers and visionaries in the industry.

This presentation invites contemplation on the role of women not only as creators of art but as architects of new possibilities within the art world. 

So, if you’re in Lagos, swing by Windsor Gallery and soak up some inspiration from these incredible “Modern Matriarchs” who are leaving their mark on the art world.

Chigozie Obi | Conversations with My Therapist | oil and acrylic on canvas | 2023 | image courtesy of Windsor Gallery

Where To Go, What To Do & What To See

Visit Lagos Gallery Weekend | March 9-10, 2024

Talk: The Power of Influence – Women as Patrons and Art Collectors in Art | March 10, 2024 | Lagos, Nigeria

Visit Giants: art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys | (Until July 7, 2024) | Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Apply to Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize | Deadline July 1, 2024

Listen to Spoken Word Poet Titilope Sonuga’s New Single, Sanctuary | Released March 8, 2024

Compiled by Roli O’tsemaye

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