The Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA) has appointed Chika Okeke-Agulu, a historian located in the United States, and Aindrea Emelife, a curator based in the United Kingdom, in a move that the museum claims would focus on modern art.
Okeke-Agulu was made senior advisor, and Emelife was named curator, all of which were revealed on Thursday.
The appointments, according to the EMOWAA Trust, promote the museum’s mission of developing a world-class research facility and teaching complex that connects West Africa’s ancient past to its thriving current culture.
Okeke-Agulu, who lives in Princeton, New Jersey, is an art historian and professor of African and African Diaspora Art.
He is also the director of African Studies at Princeton University and Slade Professor of Fine Arts at Oxford University, UK.
Speaking on his appointment, 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, on the other hand, is a Nigerian-British art curator who has led high-profile contemporary art projects.
“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,” she said.
“I am honoured to be part of building the legacy of Modern and Contemporary African Art.”
Okeke-Agulu and Emelife will focus on advancing academic research in contemporary and modern West African art, as well as establishing the collection strategy for EMOWAA, according to the trust.
They will also create the curatorial framework for the creative district that EMOWAA is establishing in Edo, Benin City, as well as generate new multi-faceted narratives and interpretations of West African art and history, according to the statement.
The executive director of the EMOWAA, Philip Ihenacho, emphasized the importance of supporting West African contemporary art.
“One of the key challenges for museums and heritage institutions in Africa is relevance to contemporary African society,” he said.
“We need to build infrastructure and programming to celebrate the rich traditions of the past, but also connect to the present art scene and invest in the skills and knowledge that enable opportunities for contemporary creatives.”