EMOWAA names Aindrea Emelife as curator and Chike Okeke-Agulu as senior advisor in an effort to sharpen its emphasis on modern and contemporary art.
The EMOWAA (Edo Museum of West African Art) Trust announces the appointments of Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu, Nigerian art historian and Professor of African and African Diaspora Art at and Director of the Program of African Studies at Princeton University and Slade Professor of Fine Arts at Oxford University, as Senior Advisor, Modern and Contemporary Art and Nigerian-British curator Aindrea Emelife as the new Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.
The appointments of Emelife and Professor Okeke-Agulu support EMOWAA achieve its objective of building a top-notch museum, research center, and educational facility that would link the continent’s ancient history with its vibrant modern culture.
As EMOWAA’s Modern and Contemporary team, Professor Okeke-Agulu and Emelife will focus on four core aspects.
- Advancing the field of academic research in contemporary and modern West African Arts
- Developing the collection strategy for EMOWAA
- Building the curatorial framework for the creative district EMOWAA is developing in the heart of Benin City
- Generating new, multi-faceted narratives and interpretations of West African art and history.
Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu
An artist, critic and art historian, Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu specializes in indigenous, modern, and contemporary African and African Diaspora art history and theory. Born in Umuahia, Nigeria, Okeke-Agulu earned an MFA (Painting) from the University of Nigeria, and PhD (Art History) from Emory University. He previously taught at The Pennsylvania State University, and University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Here at Princeton, he is Director of the Program in African Studies, Director of African World Initiative.
Professor Okeke-Agulu was appointed the Robert Sterling Clark Visiting Professor of Art History at Williams College (2007), Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (2020); and Slade Professor of Fine Art, University of Oxford (2023). He was Fellow at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (2008), and a Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellow (2010). He was elected Fellow of the The British Academy in 2022.
The Professor has co-organised a number of exhibitions, such as Samuel Fosso: Affirmative Acts at the Princeton University Art Museum (2022) and (with Okwui Enwezor) the travelling survey El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale at the Haus der Kunst, Munich (2019). His many other exhibitions include Who Knows Tomorrow (Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2010); the Fifth Gwangju Biennale (2004); The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994 (Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, 2001); Seven Stories About Modern Art in Africa (Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1995); and the Nigerian section of the First Johannesburg Biennale (1995). He is on the curatorial team of the Sharjah Biennial (2023).
His many awards include Honorable Mention, Arnold Rubin Outstanding Publication Award, Arts Council of African Studies Association (2017); The Melville J. Herskovits Prize for the most important scholarly work in African Studies published in English during the preceding year (African Studies Association, 2016); and Frank Jewett Mather Award for Distinction in Art Criticism (College Art Association, 2016).
According to contemporaryand in their article about his appointment, Chika Okeke-Agulu said, “A project like EMOWAA is long overdue. It has become imperative that we find a way to study, appreciate and celebrate contemporary and modern art from the African continent, on the African continent. It is exciting to join EMOWAA and play a part advising on how we can develop new institutional infrastructure to support advanced knowledge and appreciation of the role of art and artists in connecting our rich cultural histories to who and where we are today.”
Aindrea Emelife is a Nigerian-British curator and art historian from London. Aindrea trained as an art historian at Courtauld Institute of Art and has led a number of high-profile projects with a focus on modern and contemporary art, dedicating her focus to questions around colonial and decolonial histories in Africa, transnationalism and the politics of representation. Recent exhibitions include Black Venus, a survey of the legacy of the Black woman in visual culture, which opened at Fotografiska NY in 2022 and will tour to MOAD (San Francisco, USA) in early April and Somerset House (London, UK) this July. Emelife’s first book, A Brief History of Protest Art, was published by Tate in March 2022 and she is currently working on her second book with Thames & Hudson, which debuts in 2024. She has contributed essays to several publications, most recently Revisiting Modern British Art (Lund Humphries, 2022). In 2021, Aindrea was appointed to the Mayor of London’s Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm and selected for the Forbes ’30 under 30’ list.
According to contemporaryand in their article about her appointment, Aindrea Emelife said, “One of my principal goals as EMOWAA’s newly appointed Curator, Modern and Contemporary is to build on the efforts to tell our stories and the intricate connections and links that exists – starting with Nigerian Modernism and boldly reaching to the many corners of West African Modern and Contemporary Art history, yet to be developed and yet to discover. I am honoured to be part of building the legacy of Modern and Contemporary African and Diaspora Art.”
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