Positioning Nigerian Modernism

Positioning Nigerian Modernism

On the occasion of Ben Enwonwu’s Centenary (1917 – 1994)

September 28-29, 2017

Call for Papers

Tate Modern invites proposals for 15-minute presentations from academics, research students, curators, artists and other professionals in relevant fields. The presentations are aimed at examining the origins and underpinnings of modernism in Nigeria and West Africa in a broad sense, as well as the legacy of its key proponents. Papers, which present theoretical and practical approaches to evaluating, documenting and narrating/presenting this aspect of art history in Africa and beyond, and contributors based in Africa, are particularly welcome.

Focus is on the practice and writings of Ben Enwonwu (1917 – 1994) who is recognised as a pioneer of modern art in Nigeria and Africa, a firm defender of the value of African culture internationally and a vociferous supporter of the politics and philosophy of Negritude. As art advisor to the newly independent government of Nigeria (1959 – 1968), Enwonwu’s written legacy encourages the rights of African artists to independent control of their cultural progress and management of their own arts education. In view of a rapidly escalating pan-African contemporary art scene, and one hundred years after Enwonwu’s birth, it is indeed time to re-examine his contributions, reconsider the position of Nigerian modernism and reflect on the various ways in which African modernists can be positioned to take their place in the tapestry of international art history.

Proposed themes include arts education in Africa during the colonial period and its legacy, art and the decolonization process, post-colonial modernism and artistic movements after independence, cultural imperialism and Negritude, artistic antecedents and the legacy of Ben Enwonwu, the role of family archives in preserving art history and institutionalizing memory and reevaluating art history.

Selected papers will be considered for publication in Tate’s peer-reviewed journal, Tate Papers. Forward abstracts of up to 300 words together with a 100-word biography by May 12, 2017, to Aubrey Penney (aubree.penney@tate.org.uk), with ‘Positioning Nigerian Modernism’ in the subject line.

The conference is organised by Kerryn Greenberg (curator, International Art, Tate Modern) and Bea Gassman de Sousa (independent curator) with the generous support of Yvonne Alexandra Ike and Aigboje and Ofovwe Aig-Imokhuede.

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