‘Time, Trade & Travel’ opening in Accra

Panel discussion with Dorothy Akpene Amenuke, Bernard Akoi-Jackson, Aukje Koks, Serge Clottey, Jeremiah Quarshie, Rikki Wemega-Kwaku and Odile Tevie in the background


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Extra: Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie – ‘Where is Africa in Global Contemporary Art?’

By publishing the Project ‘1975’ essay ‘The Politics of Exclusion’, SMBA presented an introduction to the range of problems connected to the definition of African Art. Author Rikki Wemega-Kwawu is certainly not alone in his criticism towards the current discourse of African and Global art. In addition the Nigeria-born American Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie, Associate Professor Art History at the University of California Santa Barbara, criticizes the ‘Eurocentric’ definition of contemporary art and the idea of ‘global contemporary’ in his article ‘Where is Africa in Global Contemporary Art?’ in Savvy Journal.

Okwunodu Ogbechie argues: ‘My estimate is that there are less than one thousand “Contemporary African artists” who live and work in the West although they account for 99 % of all artists included in international exhibitions of Contemporary African Art.’

Comparable to Wemega-Kwawu’s argument, Okwunodu Ogbechie states that the aspects of ‘transnational interaction’, to travel and communicate internationally, seem to be crucial in the definition of contemporary art. Yet, who has the facilities to perform this transnational interaction? And are the concepts of place, location and site-specific history of any value to the definition of African art? Click here to read Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie’s article ‘Where is Africa in Global Contemporary Art?’ in the online version of Savvy Journal (page 24-31).

Project ’1975′ Essay Rikki Wemega-Kwawu

Artist and writer Rikki Wemega-Kwawu wrote the sixth Project ‘1975’ ‘The Politics of Exclusion’. In this essay Wemega-Kwawu criticizes the fixation on Contemporary African Diaspora artists and the powerful position of curator Okwui Enwezor.

The Nigeria-born American curator Okwui Enwezor is often acknowledged as the representative of African art and artists. The first Johannesburg Biennale in 1997 and the Documenta XI in Kassel in 2002, are just two examples of the many exhibitions he organized. With these presentations and publications on the topic of African art, Enwezor played a crucial role in the production of a definition of contemporary African art. Wemega-Kwawu criticizes this definition in his Project ‘1975’ essay, as he signalizes an ‘Enwezor School’: a group of African artists, now living in the West, that are preferred and circulated well above their counterparts living in Africa. Wemega-Kwawu argues that Enwezor hereby defines contemporary African art by the artists’ experience of Diaspora: “as if nothing worthwhile is happening on the continent”. By the maintenance of this definition African artists living on the continent, are hindered to enter the international art scene. Click here to download Newsletter 125 ‘Tala Madani – The Jinn’ and to read Rikki Wemega-Kwawu’s essay ‘The Politics of Exclusion’.

Rikki Wemega-Kwawu (Ghana, 1959) lives and works as an artist and writer in Takordi, Ghana. He is alumnus of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, U.S.A. In 2008, he was an Adjunct Professor in Art at the New York University – Accra, Ghana Campus, where he taught ‘postcolonial studio practices’.