On September 27,2020 the ACASA Board voted to hold our Triennial conference in June 15-20, 2021 remotely. We are planning a dynamic, interactive meeting, that takes into consideration our magnitude and scope, our various time zones and internet capabilities, and our need for thoughtful engagement outside panel presentations.
The African Critical Inquiry Programme has named Nsima Udo as recipient of the 2020 Ivan Karp Doctoral Research Award. Udo is a Nigerian student pursuing his PhD in History at the University of the Western Cape. Support from ACIP’s Ivan Karp Award will allow Udo to do significant research for his dissertation. He plans to do research in Calabar, Nigeria for his project, The Politics of Aesthetics and Performance: Visuality and the Remaking of Culture in the Calabar Festival and Carnival, 2004 -2019.
Founded in 2012, the African Critical Inquiry Programme (ACIP) is a partnership between the Centre for Humanities Research at University of the Western Cape in Cape Town and the Laney Graduate School of Emory University in Atlanta. Supported by donations to the Ivan Karp and Corinne Kratz Fund, the ACIP fosters thinking and working across public cultural institutions, across disciplines and fields, and across generations. It seeks to advance inquiry and debate about the roles and practice of public culture, public cultural institutions, and public scholarship in shaping identities and society in Africa through an annual ACIP Workshop and through the Ivan Karp Doctoral Research Awards, which support African doctoral students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences enrolled at South African universities.
About Nsima Udo’s project: The Calabar Festival and Carnival recently became an annual event in Cross River State, Nigeria that blends elements of local cultural festivals with aspects of Caribbean carnival, which dates back to the second half of the 18th century and combines indigenous, European, and African performance traditions. When the Calabar Festival and Carnival began in 2004, some of these influences ‘returned’ to Africa and were remade at a time of political-economic change that demanded revenue diversification and the creation of a tourist economy in Nigeria. This study uses the convergence of festival performances, visuality, and local sensibilities to tease out different forms of aesthetics – the relationship between the festival and its cultural and artistic expressions – and to analyse their historical resonance in the ongoing Calabar Festival and Carnival over the past two decades. It engages with diverse performance traditions — dance, music, masquerades, floats, puppetry, street parades, and revelry during the carnival – and with photographs as “social griots” (Keller 2003) to articulate and historicize the changing sociocultural topography of an ongoing African festival.
In recent literature, the Calabar Festival and Carnival has mainly been seen in relation to the politics and cultural symbolisms in Nigeria at the time, ignoring the multifocal photographic practices that pervade the festival. This elaborate festival should not simply be reduced to the political. This project will interrogate the Calabar Festival and Carnival as a platform for the expression of multilayered aesthetics – in traditions and practice. Relying on film footage and photographs in government archives, online repositories, and personal albums, it will examine the festival through analysis of archival material, imagery, and through ethnographic research, focusing on questions around carnival performance, participation, forms of dissonance, photographic practices and image analysis, and the African aspects of the carnival. By exploring the politics of provenance, sociocultural dynamics, and the political economics of carnival festival, it will map a history of the Calabar Festival and Carnival between 2004 and 2019. How has festival become a framework through which strands of global popular cultures interweave with indigenous philosophies and performance to promote the local economy and politics? What do visual depictions do to the performance traditions of a remade carnival that has traveled from Africa to the Caribbean and back to Calabar? This project will help to understand the “carnivalization of festival,” where indigenous festivals across Africa are being repackaged as carnival festivals in the past two decades.
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Information about the 2021 Ivan Karp Doctoral Research Awards for African students enrolled in South African Ph.D. programmes will be available in November 2020. The application deadline is 3 May 2021.
For further information, see http://www.gs.emory.edu/about/special/acip.html and https://www.facebook.com/ivan.karp.corinne.kratz.fund.
The Yoruba Elders International Society, Rhode Island Chapter, made a lifetime achievement award to Jean Borgatti, a past president of ACASA, on October 19, 2019 at their 10th annual lecture and recognition event held at the Statehouse in Providence, RI. The organization established this award as part of an “Everyday Heroes” award program in support of the UN General Assembly Resolution 68/237 proclaiming the decade 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent, and promoting a greater knowledge of, and respect for the diverse heritage, culture, and contributions of people of African descent to the development of society. Borgatti was also their keynote speaker, talking about the impact of Yoruba culture on artists of the African diaspora both past and present. She is shown here accepting a plaque from Pastor Emmanuel Taiwo, Board Member, Yoruba Elders International Society, and Evangelist In Charge, Celestial Church of Christ, Warwick, RI.
Statement Concerning Destruction of Cultural Patrimony in Bafut
20 November 2019
The Arts Council of the African Studies Association (ACASA)—an independent professional association which exists to facilitate communication among scholars, teachers, students, artists, museum specialists, collectors, and all others interested in the arts of Africa and the African Diaspora—condemns the violent aggression perpetrated by the Republic of Cameroon against the Palace of Bafut, a site included on UNESCO’s Tentative List of World Heritage Sites since 2006. Human Rights Watch reports that “On September 24 , soldiers from the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) attacked and looted the Royal Palace in Bafut, North-West region.” (https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/10/11/world-heritage-site-attacked-cameroon#) Fon Abumbi II of Bafut protested the aggression in a letter dated September 24, 2019 and addressed to the Governor of North West Region. In addition to causing damage to buildings within the palace and perpetrating violence against those who had been neither charged nor tried in a court of law, these troops representing the authority of the State shamelessly stole historical objects from the palace museum.
According to the World Monuments Fund, the palace “embodies Bafut cultural identity and remains a center for religious rites and traditional ceremonies. Over 50 houses are clustered around the site’s spiritual core, Achum Shrine, and are used by the Fon (king), his wives, and the royal court.” (https://www.wmf.org/project/bafut-palace) The palaces and museums of the North West Region of Cameroon serve as invaluable repositories of the long-standing traditions and material cultures of these vibrant kingdoms. These palaces and associated sites—where ritual practices have long been performed—foster and house the heritages, both tangible and intangible of these communities. The violent destruction and looting of such a site may be understood as an attempt to erase the cultural identity of the Bafut population. As a site listed on the Tentative List of World Heritage Sites, Bafut Palace is recognized as holding even greater than just local significance, constituting a primary locus of cultural heritage for the entirety of Cameroon, and indeed the world. The Cameroonian State must treat these places as the internationally significant cultural heritage sites that they are.
ACASA calls on the Republic of Cameroon to protect sites of cultural heritage as required by being party to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property. According to Article 4(3) of the aforementioned convention, it is the obligation of the State “to prohibit, prevent and, if necessary, put a story to any form of theft, pillage or misappropriation of, and any acts of vandalism directed against, cultural property….” In light of this international obligation, the Cameroonian State must bring to justice and punish appropriately those responsible for this heinous act. Furthermore, every effort must be taken to return looted items of cultural heritage to the palace museum of Bafut.
Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon
Henri Etoundi Essomba, Ambassador of the Republic of Cameroon to the US
Peter Henry Barlein, US Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon
Narcisse Mouelle Kombi, Minister of Arts and Culture for the Republic of Cameroon
World Monuments Fund
Join us for ACASA’s 18th Triennial Symposium in Chicago, June 16-21, 2020 at DePaul University and the Art Institute of Chicago. For registration and more information, click here.
The Awards for Curatorial Excellence recognize the important contributions to the dissemination and understanding of African and African Diaspora Arts made through exhibitions. Exhibitions related to permanent collections, loan shows, commissioned works or community interventions organized by museums, galleries, cultural centers, and exhibition spaces of all sorts are eligible. Up to two awards for curatorial excellence will be given. Runners up may also be recognized.
Exhibition eligibility: September 1, 2019 through August 30, 2023. Nominees must be ACASA members in good standing. Join ACASA
This award submission is currently closed. It will open after the ACASA Triennial in June 2021.
Submissions should then be received by Friday, November 17, 2023.
All submissions should include the following materials:
- Cover page indicating title of exhibition, dates, venue(s), curator(s) names
- Synopsis of exhibition (one-page)
- Sample publication where applicable. This can include PDFs of take-away brochures, exhibition preview article or other means of documentation and distribution of project. If no publication was possible, please submit a bibliography of 5 key sources germane to the show’s thesis or points of departure.
- Sample didactics (labels or other interpretive materials, such as on-line description, that demonstrate the exhibition’s intellectual content and curatorial vision. Not to exceed 3-pages)
- Visual documentation: up to 5 still digital images, at least one of which must show installation, context or performance space; up to 2 videos or links, not to exceed 3 minutes in length to document performance or time-based projects.
- Link to or documentation of innovative uses of technology or interactive engagement
- Description of institution, organization or entity originating the exhibition (for example museum, independent art space, pop-up…, including mission, history, collection (if applicable), size, staff, budget, audience and other information pertinent to understanding the context in which the exhibition emerged.
- Documentation of community response. Up to three (3) examples that demonstrate various perspectives. These might include emails, sample entries from audience response books, or social media postings and not just critical or press reviews.
For consideration for this award, the awards committee will consider exhibitions that:
- Generate new scholarship across the humanities or beyond
- Open new perspectives on the field
- Collaborate with and/or contribute to local or stakeholder communities
- Demonstrate innovative approaches to exhibition design and presentation
- Expand understandings or uses of technology
Please contact the ACASA Secretary for questions or comments.
2017 Awards for Curatorial Excellence
Karen E. Milbourne, Earth Matters, National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C., April 22, 2013 – March 2014
Jean Borgatti, Global Africa, Fitchburg Art Museum, November 2014 – August 2017
Antawan I. Byrd and Yves Chatap, [Re]Generations, Musée du District de Bamako, October 31 – December 31, 2015
DAK’ART – Biennial of Contemporary African Art will be held from 28 May to 28 June 2020 in Dakar, under the high patronage of the President of the Republic of Senegal. This fourteenth edition, which marks the biennial’s 30th anniversary, will have the general theme Ĩ’Ndaffa / Out of the fire.
Ĩ’Ndaffa, in Serer language, means to forge. It is a verb that denotes the dynamics and the action of creating, recreating and kneading. This general theme refers to the creation of a new and autonomous world, which nourishes the diversity of contemporary African creativities, while projecting new ways of telling and approaching Africa, in a constant dialogue and interaction with the rest of the world.
The call for applications to the biennial’s International Exhibition is open from 1 July to 15 September 2019. It is open to all artists from Africa and the Diaspora, working across all aesthetic mediums and contemporary art forms.
Applications are to be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and by post before 15 September 2019 to Secrétariat général de la Biennale de Dakar, 19 avenue Hassan II, 1er Etage, BP: 3865 Dakar, SENEGAL.
The African Critical Inquiry Programme has named Bronwyn Kotzen and Ngozi May Okafor as recipients of the 2019 Ivan Karp Doctoral Research Awards. Kotzen is a South African student pursuing her PhD in Human Geography at the University of Cape Town. Okafor is a Nigerian student doing her degree at the Centre for Visual Art at University of KwaZulu-Natal. Support from ACIP’s Ivan Karp Awards will allow each to do significant research for their dissertations. Kotzen will do research in Johannesburg, South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria for her project, Abstracting the Concrete: Tracing the Political Economy of Infrastructure in Africa Through a Study of Cement. Okafor’s research for her project Firing: Exploring the Ceramic Process as Rite of Passage will include work with Zulu potters in South Africa and Ushafa potters in Nigeria, as well as her own creative ceramic work. Founded in 2012, the African Critical Inquiry Programme (ACIP) is a partnership between the Centre for Humanities Research at University of the Western Cape in Cape Town and the Laney Graduate School of Emory University in Atlanta. Supported by donations to the Ivan Karp and Corinne Kratz Fund, the ACIP fosters thinking and working across public cultural institutions, across disciplines and fields, and across generations. It seeks to advance inquiry and debate about the roles and practice of public culture, public cultural institutions, and public scholarship in shaping identities and society in Africa through an annual ACIP Workshop and through the Ivan Karp Doctoral Research Awards, which support African doctoral students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences enrolled at South African universities.
About Bronwyn Kotzen’s project: For the first time since post-WWII industrial modernization, the significance of infrastructure has emerged as a point of broad consensus for critiques of untenable models of current economic growth. This has marked a radical global policy shift to development at the urban-scale, which Africa has only recently begun to mirror. Yet, the complex and interconnected geo-political and economic forces that drive Africa’s urban development and produce its infrastructures remain largely obscured. This project seeks to read contemporary processes of infrastructural development in Africa through the material lens of cement in order to formulate a much- needed post-neoliberal interrogation of African urban development. Second only to water, concrete is the most widely consumed substance on earth. As concrete’s raw material, cement is the foundation of modern development and is therefore the project’s primary site of investigation. The research moves beyond individual localised sites and cases to draw out generalisable patterns of development at a regional level, outside of the particularities of place and time. Pan-African cement flows are traced as a ‘matter’ of the political economy of infrastructure. This offers a reading of the continent not as a bounded geographical location but rather as series of spatio-temporal interconnections that make visible the myriad of global influences, relations, and shifting formations of development hierarchies. Combining politics and economics with geography and materiality reveals the far-reaching and connected places and powers of which Africa is composed. Working across disciplines and registers, Abstracting the Concrete attempts to advance the theory, method, and critique of infrastructure in the postcolonial world, toward recalibrating a meaningful African urban studies agenda.
About Ngozi May Okafor’s project: In many societies, the practices of pottery-making and initiation rites seem to be in decline. Researchers of both rites of passage and pottery (together with its broader category, ceramics), therefore, continually seek new ways of interpreting the practices in order to sustain and enliven them. My interest in the processes of pottery making among indigenous potters has led me to go beyond the finished product to reconsider the performative ‘art’ and ‘act’ of creating potteries. In several native cultures, the process of creating pottery is likened to childbirth; it can also suggest a people’s state of being. Furthermore, pottery wares are seen as having humanoid qualities. What relationships exist between pottery and rites of passage? With the growing need to creatively design rites that mark individual and group transitions from one state of being to another, how can those relationships inform creativity in passage rituals? Moreover, what creative ideas might those relationships stimulate for self-expressions through installation and performance? Combining my practice as a ceramic artist and research with Zulu potters in South Africa and Ushafa potters in Nigeria (both of whom also practice initiation rites), this study will explore possible parallels between pottery/ceramics and rites of passage, with a focus on their transitional phases – firing and liminality, respectively. Contextual and documentary reviews, fieldwork, and studio experiments will be the methods of data collection. Deploying rites of passage theories, Firing: Exploring the Ceramic Process as Rite of Passage shall bring fresh perspectives to the ways in which ceramics practice can be viewed, re-interpreted, and also present broader narratives for self-expressions. The project will result in both a written dissertation as well as an exhibition and catalogue of visual art works resulting from the study’s creative explorations.
Information about the 2020 Ivan Karp Doctoral Research Awards for African students enrolled in South African Ph.D. programmes will be available in November 2019. The application deadline is 1 May 2020.
For further information, see http://www.gs.emory.edu/about/special/acip.html and https://www.facebook.com/ivan.karp.corinne.kratz.fund.
The African Studies Association is pleased to announce that they are accepting nominations for the following awards and prizes in 2019. All applications are due April 30, 2019.
The ASA Book Prize (Herskovits Prize) is awarded to the author of the most important scholarly work in African studies published in English during the preceding year..
The ASA Program Cover Art Prize recognizes the best artwork submitted that directly addresses the Annual Meeting theme. This year’s theme is “Being, Belonging, and Becoming in Africa”.
The ASA Film Prize recognizes an outstanding film, whether fiction or documentary, made in the preceding two calendar years by an African filmmaker.
The Bethwell A. Ogot Book Prize is awarded to the author of the best book on East African Studies published in the previous calendar year.
The Distinguished Africanist Award recognizes a lifetime of distinguished contributions to African studies. Deadline for nominations: April 30.
The Paul Hair Prize is presented every two years and is awarded to the best critical edition or translation into English of primary source materials on Africa published during the preceding two years.
The Gretchen Walsh Book Donation Award offers an annual grant program to assist book donation projects with shipping costs to send books to African libraries and schools.
A great tree has fallen.
Today we mourn the loss of an extraordinary man. Professor Christopher Damon Roy passed away early on the morning of Sunday, February 10 in Iowa City, surrounded by his immediate family. Chris was born September 30, 1947, in Ogdensburg, New York, to Margaret Adam Snow and George Robert Roy. He and his wife, Nora Leonard Roy, were married at the Hôtel de Ville, Ouagadougou, Upper Volta, on September 26, 1970. He leaves his beloved wife, Nora; his son, Nicholas Spencer Roy (Jill Scott); his daughter, Megan Deirdre Roy (John Dolci), and granddaughter, Sylvia Elizabeth Dolci; his sister, Robin Roy Katz (Michael Katz) and nephew Teddy Katz; his brother, Matthew Roy (Caroline Darlington Roy); nieces Katelin and Emily, and nephews Robby and Chris. Those close to Chris will remember him well for his sincere warmth, delightful wit, and bold sense of humor. Always approaching life with a sense of adventure, his robust energy and fascination with the world was contagious during his forty-one years at the University of Iowa.
Throughout his career, Chris devoted much of his attention to the arts of Burkina Faso and the Max and Betty Stanley Collection of African art. His writing on the Thomas G.B. Wheelock Collection is well known, and many will remember him for his catalog on the Bareiss Family Collection. Over the years, he contributed regularly to African Arts, where he published on his research in Burkina, reviewed exhibitions, and engaged in current debates. His 1980 review of Traditional Sculpture from Upper Volta remains one of the sharpest critiques in the field. In 2015, he published his most recent book, Mossi: Diversity in the Art of a West African People,as well as an essay, “The Art Market in Burkina Faso: A Personal Recollection,” included in Silvia Forni and Christopher Steiner’s Africa in the Market: Twentieth-Century Art from the Amrad Collection. His Art of the Upper Volta Rivers (1987) remains a standard text on the subject.
In addition to this, Chris produced over twenty self-narrated video recordings on the arts of Africa, and all are freely accessibly online. He and Linda McIntyre released Art & Life in Africa (ALA) as a CD-ROM in 1997 and sold thousands of copies throughout North America. In 2014, he worked with Dr. Catherine Hale and Cory Gundlach to redevelop ALA as a website, which has had nearly 500,000 users. As a leader in his field, Chris founded and directed the UI Project for Advanced Study of Art and Life in Africa (PASALA), which provided scholarships for graduate course work and research in Africa, as well as conferences and publications on African art.
Chris’s impact as a professor was no less remarkable. Every fall semester, twice a week, nearly 300 students packed the largest lecture hall at Art Building West to attend his survey course on African art. High enrollment was common for his all courses, as he was a gifted storyteller and he understood the power of keeping his students entertained with occasional humor. A long history of work with the Stanley Museum of Art supported his object-oriented approach to teaching, which he complemented with a social history of art. He oversaw the completion of fifteen doctoral dissertations, and many of his former students are now employed in major institutions throughout the country.
From 1985 to 1995 at the Stanley Museum of Art, Chris served as curator of the arts of Africa, the Pacific, and Pre-Columbian America. He curated fourteen exhibitions during his university career among museums in Iowa, China, Austria, and Germany. Scholars reviewed his exhibitions at the Stanley Museum positively for the way in which artistic quality drove his motivations for selection and display, and for the way in which he treated attribution carefully.
Beyond his scholarship, teaching, multi-media projects and exhibitions, Chris’s YouTube videos on art and life in Africa have reached perhaps the widest audience, with more than 10,000 subscribers and over four million viewers worldwide. It is encouraging to think that the world is a better place because of Chris and all of those touched by his warmth and brilliance.
To contribute to the Christopher D. Roy Memorial Fund, go to www.givetoiowa.org/2019la98. This fund will give UI art history students the opportunity to gain valuable intern experience at the Stanley Museum of Art.
by Cory Gundlach
UI Stanley Museum of Art