Arts Program University of Maryland University College February 12â€“May 12, 2013
Javier Miyares, President University of Maryland University College
Dear Patrons of the Arts, Welcome to Diaspora Dialogue: Art of Kwabena Ampofo-Anti, Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian, and Victor Ekpuk, an exhibition of works by artists who were born in Africa and later lived in the Washington, D.C., area. University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is proud to present this exhibition, which features nearly 60 works in a variety of media. This exhibition provides an excellent opportunity to examine the relationship between personal experiences, the evolution of ideas, geographical location, and art. The ways in which these artists’ respective connections to Ghana, Ethiopia, and Nigeria surface in their works coupled with the fact that each has ties to the Washington, D.C., area, a veritable mixing bowl of cultures, perspectives, and beliefs, adds another dimension of interest to the exhibition. Having grown up in Cuba, where artists portray everyday life and exercise their creativity in both the approach to and making of art, I find this exhibition particularly moving. I hope that you have the opportunity to reflect on these artists’ works and to consider the interplay between their visual art and the various other types of art in American culture and cultures around the world. Thank you for joining us. Sincerely,
Javier Miyares President, University of Maryland University College
Eric Key, Director, Arts Program University of Maryland University College
Sometimes it is the simplest thoughts that generate a magnificent product. Diaspora Dialogue: Art of Ampofo-Anti, Victor Ekpuk, and Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian was such a project. It all started with a commitment from the Exhibition Committee for the Arts Program and a subsequent scholarly discussion with artist Victor Ekpuk about the content and context of the exhibition as well as its title. Ekpuk explained, As I mentioned before, my unease with the working title, Ancestral Spirits from Afar, is that it connotes a stereotypical vision of art from Africa by Africans that is viewed mainly from an ethnographic lens. Most artists from the African continent—while not denying the historical, artistic, cultural, and social influences of their heritage in their artistic expressions—live in a globalized space that also impacts their work. These artists are struggling to rewrite the script and show themselves as 21st-century contemporary artists who are/should be free to borrow/appropriate influences from anywhere they choose without being saddled with the burden of a stereotype. They want to come out of the shadow of the perception that their art could only be expressed and appreciated through a dim window of ethnography, ancient myths, and romantic ideas of Africa’s past. These perceptions, in my opinion, only serve to relegate contemporary art by Africans to the back burners of global contemporary art discourse. Some discourse does not even consider art by African artists as contemporary art.
From these discussions came the concept and goal to create an exhibition by contemporary African artists who have lived and created works in the United States and to examine how the artists have incorporated elements of their heritage in their works while being contemporary American artists. Additionally, the goal was to examine how American influences such as jazz have affected the creativity of African artists now living in the United States. Ghanaian art educator Kwabena Ampofo-Anti has adopted Washington, D.C., as his home and divides his time between the city and Hampton, Virginia, where he is an art professor at Hampton University. Ampofo-Anti’s ceramic sculptures are inspired by African architecture. His contemporary structures attempt to create a sanctuary, thus ensuring that the ancestors can communicate their presence to the present. Victor Ekpuk is a respected artist from Nigeria who currently lives in Alexandria, Virginia. He works out of his studio in Washington, D.C., to creatively fashion artworks that incorporate an age-old tradition of the secret writings of Nigeria. Inspired by this writing system, he creates universal themes to communicate contemporary human experiences and conditions. Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian is from Ethiopia but spent his adult life in Washington, D.C., where he taught in the art department at Howard University for many years until he died in 2003 at the age of 65. His art was influenced by various American artists but primarily by the art of West Africa. Diaspora Dialogue: Art of Kwabena Ampofo-Anti, Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian, and Victor Ekpuk has been a joint effort. We extend our thanks to Tritobia Hayes-Benjamin, PhD, who embraced the project from the outset and not only shared information about Boghossian’s works at Howard University but also put us in contact with his family members. Our thanks also go to Joellen El Bashir (Boghossian’s sister-in-law) and Aida Boghossian (his daughter), who loaned works to the exhibition; William Karg, owner, Contemporary African Art Gallery, New York, and lender of three Boghossian works; Eileen Johnston, registrar, and Scott Baker, curator, at the Howard University Gallery of Art; Chika Okeke-Agulu, PhD, professor of African and African Diaspora Art at Princeton University and author of the essay for this catalog; and, of course, artists Victor Ekpuk and Kwabena Ampofo-Anti. The Arts Program at UMUC is proud to present this body of works.
Brian Young, Curator University of Maryland University College
Diaspora Dialogue is another milestone for UMUC. It is the first exhibition of this scale to feature the work of contemporary African-born artists. Notably for our program, these three artists have strong ties to the Mid-Atlantic region, particularly to Washington, D.C., and Hampton, Virginia. Upon first glance the distinct style of each artist is apparent. There is a wide range of media, including works on paper, printmaking, ceramics, and prayer boards. Yet a unifying element of bold expression and monumentality is evident as the works complement each other. Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian has been called the “patriarch of a generation of Ethiopian artists.” Kwabena AmpofoAnti reaches back to the clay totems of his native Ghana while Victor Ekpuk mines the traditions of Nigeria’s age-old (and at times secretive) graphics and writing systems. Together, these three artists use their African pasts for visual imagery while creating wholly original expressions that resonate equally among American audiences. The planning and execution of Diaspora Dialogue was a joint effort among the staff of the Arts Program at UMUC. As director of the Arts Program, Eric Key provided the guidance and focus for this exhibition. Denise Melvin, administrative assistant, and Rene Sanjines, fine arts technician, deserve special recognition for arranging the logistics of bringing so much work to one venue. Jennifer Norris, senior graphic designer in the Arts Program, has expertly given the show its graphic identity through the design of the invitation, catalog, and other didactic materials. The UMUC Marketing department also deserves recognition for its hard work. In addition, John Woo provided professional imagery. Lastly, on behalf of UMUC, I would like to thank the artists, the family of Skunder Boghossian (Joellen El Bashir and Aida Boghossian); those who have loaned works to the exhibition (William Karg of Contemporary African Art Gallery, New York; Dianne Whitfield-Locke, DDS; Eileen Johnston, of Howard University Gallery of Art; and L. Christina Waddler); and those who provided insight into the lives and art of the artists—Amy Morton of Morton Fine Art; James Phillips; Tritobia Hayes-Benjamin, PhD; and Scott Baker of Howard University. This show would not have such a range of expression without their generosity.
KWABENA AMPOFO-ANTI BORN 1949, MAMPONG-AKUAPEM, GHANA
Work History Currently on faculty at Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia
Education BA, University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana Graduate studies, Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana MFA in painting, Howard University, Washington, D.C.
Selected Collections Anacostia Museum, Washington, D.C. Hampton University Museum, Hampton, Virginia Mattye Reed African American Heritage Center, North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, North Carolina Museum of Ghana, Accra, Ghana University of Maryland University College, Adelphi, Maryland
Selected Exhibitions Common Ground, Uncommon Vision: Four Howard Universityâ€“Trained Artists, Hampton University Museum, Hampton, Virginia, 2009 Ancestral Vessels, Sacred Links: Ceramic Sculpture and Works on Paper, Ampofo Anti, Millennium Arts Salon, Washington, D.C., 2008 Beyond the Pedestal, Maryland Art Place, Baltimore, Maryland, 2005
ALEXANDER “SKUNDER” BOGHOSSIAN BORN 1937, ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA DIED 2003, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Work History On faculty at Howard University, Washington, D.C., 1974–2000
Education Teferi Mekonnen School, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Slade School of Fine Art, London, England
Selected Collections Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, France National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C. Studio Museum, Harlem, New York
Selected Exhibitions, Commission Ethiopian Passages: Dialogues in the Diaspora, National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C., 2003 Commissioned, with Kebedch Tekleab to create Nexus for the Wall of Representation at the Embassy of Ethiopia, Washington, D.C., 2001
VICTOR EKPUK BORN 1964, EKET, NIGERIA
Education BFA, Obafemi Awowolo University, Ile Ife, Nigeria
Selected Collections National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C. Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey University of Maryland University College, Adelphi, Maryland World Bank, Washington, D.C.
Selected Exhibitions Global Africa Project, Museum of Art and Design, New York, New York, 2010 Unbounded: New Art for New Century, Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey, 2009 Africa Now!, World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2008 Inscribing Meaning, National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C., 2007 Black President: Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, New York, 2003 Windsongs, French Cultural Center, Lagos, Nigeria, 1995
Contemporary African Artists AND THE
Pan-African Imaginary Chika Okeke-Agulu, PhD
CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ARTISTS AND THE PAN-AFRICAN IMAGINARY: Skunder Boghossian, Kwabena Ampofo-Anti, and Victor Ekpuk Chika Okeke-Agulu, PhD
The three artists discussed in this essay represent three generations of artists whose work exemplifies the accomplishments of African modernism and its enduring legacies as well as the complex conceptual, cultural, political, and ideological resources that constituted and continue to frame 20th and 21st century Pan-African artistic imaginary. Whereas African modernity and modernism were forged from strategies of resistance against European colonial culture, the works of Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian (1937–2003), Kwabena Ampofo-Anti (b. 1949), and Victor Ekpuk (b. 1964) provide us the opportunity to measure and appreciate the various strategies developed by postcolonial African artists to define themselves as artistic subjects in an age of intense globalization, migration, and mobility of ideas and material cultures within and beyond ethnic, national, continental, and racial boundaries. Their work questions easy or essentialist projections and assumptions about art and African subjectivity and identity and makes evident the deep connections between African and African diaspora modernist imagination in spite of a complicated history of differential investment by continental and diaspora Africans in the vision of political Pan-Africanism after 1945. From the very beginning of modernism in Africa, in the first decades of the 20th century, artists set for themselves the task of articulating a modern artistic subjectivity forged from their encounter with and perception of histories, cultures, ideas, and experiences that gave rise to modernity. It was no mean feat at a time when Western colonial regimes and knowledge systems—bolstered by race-science—insisted on the innate inability of Africans to master the ways of modernity or to comprehend the cultural legacies and artistic traditions of the so-called Western civilization. Nigerian painter Aina Onabolu (1882–1963) tirelessly argued for the appropriation of British academic realism as the pictorial style relevant to the project of modern African self-narration and rejected the idea that modern African artistic imagination must be bound by the continent’s supposedly unique, ancient, and unchanging traditions. By that very gesture, Onabolu asserted his right to self-fashioning, unfettered by imagined debts to heritage and ancestry and motivated only by the need to articulate his place and role in the making of a colonial-modern world defined by its exhilarating contradictions and terrifying possibilities. But his near total identification with academic realism as the pictorial style of African modernity did not quite accommodate the complexities and paradoxes of the colonial experience, although it did, without doubt, anticipate the work of the next generation of modernists who came of age in the post-World War II era, the age of independence. Whereas Onabolu asserted his artistic freedom from the bounds of ancestral arts by replacing the latter with academic realism, post-war African modernists pushed Onabolu’s argument to its logical conclusion by greatly expanding the space of possibilities for their work and the horizons of their artistic imaginary. In hindsight, this decision was in fact the only viable option for artists in colonized Africa who were totally committed to the attainment of political sovereignty and who were confronted by modernity’s existential contradictions. In fact, it is this awareness of the multiple dimensions of African subjectivity and of modernity-as-experience coupled with the compelling desire to grapple with ways of translating the compound consciousness of self and world into expressive forms that inspired some of the exciting work that defined modernism in mid-20th century Africa. From Egypt to Morocco, from Senegal to Sudan, from Nigeria to Ethiopia, artists debated the aesthetic conditions and modalities of their compound heritages; invariably they came to similar conclusions, which translated to a disposition to appropriate, process, and synthesize the various artistic traditions and cultural resources constitutive of African postcolonial modernity. 10
Although it is less obvious today, African artists, like their black diaspora counterparts in the United States and elsewhere, faced the same questions of how to enunciate an appropriately complex, modern self in spite of institutionalized colonial-imperial and racial-majority suppression or disregard of their agency and desire. They also grappled with the problem of enunciating their past and present relationships with Africa as an idea and as a historical place. And it is for this reason that the international Pan-Africanist movement served as the forum for articulating black transatlantic modernity in the shadow of racism in the new world and colonialism in Africa. In its first 45 years, the movement, led by W. E. B. Du Bois and black intellectuals in the New World, sought to improve black socioeconomic and cultural experience in the United States and the colonies, but in 1945 at the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, United Kingdom, young political firebrands from the continent, including Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta redefined the movement as primarily concerned with African political sovereignty. To the Africans, postwar global politics had cleared the way for attainment of political independence in the colonies, but this was not an option for their American counterparts, whose major problem was not so much political independence as attainment of the rights already enjoyed by their fellow citizens. Although Manchester marked a crucial shift in the political possibilities of the Pan-African movement, it did not change how black artists on both sides of the Atlantic imagined their work as modernists. This much is evident in the artistic and musical forms developed by African and African American artists. What began as a strategy for confronting their existential conditions as racial minorities in the United States or colonial subjects in Africa inevitably authorized, for the artists, a creative disposition that claimed ownership of artistic resources of the dominant and colonizing cultures as well as every other to which the artists’ heritage and experiences exposed them. In the United States, black artists, transcending the strictures of what Du Bois famously described as “double consciousness,” developed afro-modernism, which, in its musical manifestation, as Gutherie Ramsey Jr. noted, “consisted of the creation, and certainly, the reception (the political and pleasurable uses) of musical expressions that articulated attitudes about their place in the modern world.”1 In other words, this modernism was not just about the simple matter of formal innovation; it was also an articulation of black modernity, identity, politics, and cultural experience through musical forms that were inherently hybrid, impure, complicated, transcultural, and transhistorical. Nowhere was this afro-modernism so radically and forcefully expressed as in the 1940s and 1950s bebop, which, apart from its inalienably Afrological mandate, relied on abstraction and creative unboundedness as its core formal essence.2 In the hands of Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Dizzy Gillespie, bebop was the sound of mid-20th-century black American avant-garde that boundlessly appropriated and signified upon white American, African American, African, and Afro-Cuban musical forms through a process of improvisatory formal permutations. However, and crucially, the development of sonic abstraction and musical improvisation was, for bebop artists, a tactic for circumventing copyright laws that for the most part protected musical compositions and notations of mostly white Tin Pan Alley musicians and producers.3 In other words, abstraction was not only a means to resist an oppressive cultural bias, it also provided the bebop artists an appropriate language for imagining a complex musical identity impossible to be subsumed by the dominant Euro-American culture and irreducible to any of its constitutive (European, African, Caribbean) elements. Moreover, improvisation made black music a moving target that could not be boxed into legal corners and made it impervious to simplistic, racialist framing. In fact, it is this connection between bebop’s modernist, experimental formalism, cultural assertion, and clear-eyed ideological position-taking that defined Afrological, artistic modernism in the United States, Africa, and the black world of the 20th century and beyond.
Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian Whereas the sonic montage aesthetic developed by bebop and jazz artists in the United States had clear affinities with the work of modernist African American artists such as Romare Bearden and, less evidently, the work of the Africobra artists of the 1960s, in continental Africa artists either drew directly from this model or developed parallel theories and practices also inspired by Pan-Africanist and black international cultural politics and the continent-wide independence movements of that decade. The work of the Ethiopian painter Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian exemplifies African modernism’s Pan-Africanist ideological ambitions and its multilayered signification on diverse ancient and modern African, European, Arab, and New World artistic and cultural traditions.
Born during the brief occupation of his homeland by Italy under Mussolini, Boghossian witnessed firsthand the terrors of occupation after his father was imprisoned in Italy for most of his childhood years. But as a teenager, he took art lessons and was introduced to jazz music, an experience that freed his imagination from the relatively closed world of the Ethiopian elite.4 This early encounter with jazz—before his later training as a painter at the Slade School of Fine Art in London and at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris—anticipated Boghossian’s immersion in the late 1950s into the world of Black Paris, with its jazz clubs and cafés frequented by leading African and African diaspora writers, artists, and performers of the age. As important as the art making skills he learned in the academies were his encounters with the black affirmative ideologies championed by Léopold Sédar Senghor, Aimé Césaire, and Cheikh Anta Diop among the poets, philosophers, and writers associated with the negritude movement. Diop’s scholarship on the unity and ancientness of African cultures especially provided Boghossian the intellectual basis for his claim to the continent’s artistic traditions as veritable sources for his own work; and his encounter with the surrealistic and primal organic abstractions of Europeans Paul Klee and Max Ernst and the texts of André Breton affirmed for him the global dimensions of his modernist sensibility. But it was his introduction to the paintings of the Cuban colleague of the French surrealists Wilfredo Lam that inspired Boghossian to begin a process of formal inventions that depended as much on surrealist penchant for radical juxtaposition of diverse, unrelated signs and imagery as on imagining the formal conditions of an international black aesthetic. Rather than subscribe to surrealism’s rupturing of normative pictorial or perceptual order so as to reveal and invoke alternative psychic and metaphysical states, Boghossian saw in negritude and surrealism the opportunity and basis for a visual practice unshackled from tradition, bolstered by a new faith in his imaginative agency as an African modernist. And he, like his contemporaries in the Sudan, Nigeria, and Morocco and elsewhere on the continent, combined this vision of a stridently multicultural modernism with an equally powerful conviction about his role in imagining a new postcolonial world through art’s signifying potential. In other words, his studies in England and France, and his full immersion in the Pan-African world of Black Paris prepared Boghossian for the sophisticated formal eclecticism—a kind of polyphonic sampling of diverse signs, forms, abstract mark-making, and figuration—he developed in the early 1960s after a brief period of trying out compositions dominated by realistic, large-eyed Ethiopian Christian figures. This heterogeneous formal signification, in its jocular intensity and surprising mixture of primal elements and refined painterly gesture reminds us of the modernism of bebop and jazz artists two decades or so before and of the collages Romare Bearden began to make also in the early 1960s. While developing his new aesthetic in Paris, Boghossian invented a new somewhat inchoate philosophy he called “Afro-Metaphysics,” that would provide him the conceptual locus for his new paintings.5 And it is this metaphysics, fashioned from a bewildering mix of the cosmogonies and mythologies of the Dogon peoples of West Africa, the metaphysical realism of the Nigerian novelist Amos Tutuola, and of course the mystical and ritual complexes of the Ethiopian Christian religion. But the point for him was not to develop a personal religion or to prescribe a new faith for modern, postcolonial Africa; rather, it was to draw on the power of religion and myth to invoke and signify a new beginning for independent Africa. It is thus not surprising that, as Ulli Beier rightly argued, Boghossian’s breakthrough paintings were The Nourishers series (early 1960s), in which primal and organic forms throb with latent energy of birth, fertility, and reincarnation.6 Seemingly inspired by the cyclical cosmologies of many African peoples, the design of these paintings, and the persistent themes of rebirth and the potentiality of new life serve as a powerful symbolism for what the PanAfricanist, Nnamdi Azikiwe in the late 1930s described as “Renascent Africa.”7 In these series and in his subsequent paintings, Boghossian appropriated forms, designs, symbols ranging from surrealist biomorphism to Dogon graphic patterns and animal forms, Bobo masks, from Oromo and Konso funerary sculpture to Nubian, Axumite, and Ethiopian Christian imagery; completely repurposed and subjected to new pictorial relationships, these reincarnated forms become powerful echoes of the artistic traditions that inspired them. Thus, the pictorial complexity and splendor of his masterpiece Night Flight of Dread and Delight (1964) owes largely to the playful and symphonic organization of the pictorial space with abstract delirious marks, terrifying bird-mask forms, and cosmic bodies. And it is impossible to imagine Boghossian arriving at this picture or the equally dramatic Juju’s Wedding (1964) without his rigorous academic training, the intellectual journeys that led him to Black Paris, negritude and Pan-Africanism, and his immersion into various African religions and myths.
But if Paris initiated Boghossian into the world of negritude and later-day Pan-Africanism and if his return to Ethiopia and travels in Africa affirmed his intellectual alignment with African cultural, artistic, and mythopoeic traditions, his sojourn in the United States beginning from 1970, at the height of the Black Arts Movement (BAM), made him utterly aware of the shared histories, politics, and cultures between continental Africans like him and their African American counterparts. Whereas he mostly avoided directly political themes in his pre-America paintings—most certainly because he was concerned earlier with affirmative meditations on the birth and promise of independent Africa—the radical politics of Black Power and the BAM in the United States seems to have inspired paintings such as Black Emblem (1969), The End of the Beginning (1972), and DMZ (1975) with coded and overt political themes. Boghossian’s involvement with the BAM influenced his work in another way. Whereas his earlier paintings largely depended on the combination of biomorphic forms and minutely detailed abstract notations, he populated the space of his new work with bold, polychromatic, geometric, and more decisively “African” motifs. It seems to me that there is an obvious affinity between his new, BAM-period style and that of the members of the AfriCobra whose work, as Jeff Donaldson noted in the group’s unofficial manifesto in 1970, aspired to Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian, DMZ
symmetry that is free, repetition with change, based on African music and African movement. The rhythm that
is easy syncopation and very very human. Uncontracted. The rhythm the rhythm the rhythm rhythm rhythm.8
Donaldson and AfriCobra’s call for art that aspired to the condition of African (and jazz and bebop) music’s syncopation, improvisation, and poly- and cross-rhythms made the case for the inscription of the radical, Afrological modernism of black music into African American art and authorized a progressive deployment of art for political and ideological goals. But just as Boghossian’s earlier work sidestepped the outright cultural nationalism of some of his African colleagues during the independence years, his BAM-period paintings avoided the prescriptive and reductive aspects of the AfriCobra aesthetic theory—such as its equation of bright “coolade” colors with an African essence. Moreover, if the intensity and high value of the AfriCobra palette seem to have heated up Boghossian’s, thus accounting for the saturated, even hot color schemes we see in some of his paintings from then onward, the encounter with AfriCobra constituted a yet another resource, another of the many tools with which he produced and articulated his modernist, cosmopolitan, black internationalist artistic identity. The paintings DMZ (1975) and The Cross-Roads (1992–97)—both in this exhibition—show two of the many thematic and stylistic trends that emerged in Boghossian’s work after his encounter with the BAM. DMZ, which is a reference to the phenomenon of the demilitarized zone, a buffer space between two military powers, might be a commentary on the politics of the Cold War, but it could as easily be a reference to the black community in the post-Black Power United States. The composition is dominated by two figures: a bicycle rider at the center speeding toward or perhaps blocked by a static military police figure whose hands are manacled by a chain that may also be binding his feet. The arrested dynamism of the rider, his confrontational gaze, and the seeming indifference of the bound, richly dressed, imperious figure suggests an uneasy peace and nervous tension of the type that subsists in demilitarized zones. Yet, the juxtaposition of a figure whose machine-aided progress is halted by a figure in bondage compels us to see this work as commentary not so much on militarism as on the confrontational sociopolitical relationship between two sectors of a troubled, divided society. But there is something at play in this work, and that is the way it brings together the pictorial devices Boghossian developed in both his early 1960s work—the somber earth colors and expressive mark-making, for instance—and AfriCobra-inspired bold “African” design patterns. 13
The Cross-Roads on the other hand is an important example of Boghossian’s late work and somewhat summarizes his artistic and intellectual journey. Here, he composes a painting of considerable sophistication simultaneously structured and fragmented by several vertical bands and diagonal lines and populated by numerous signs, symbolic forms, decorative patterns, stylized figures, and bold shapes of color as well as passages on intense, delicate brushwork. It is hard to think of a more compelling visual equivalence of the quirky yet logical, improvisational yet sensible, wellcrafted yet deskilled character of jazz and bebop music. Like these musical styles, this work on the one hand announces its complexly articulated debts to the arts and cultures of Africa, European modernism, and sociopolitical engagement of black expressive arts; on the other, it shows Boghossian at the height of his craft as a modernist painter. Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian, The Cross-Roads
Kwabena Ampofo-Anti If Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian’s Pan-African aesthetics and artistic identity were forged from the fusion of a negritude-inspired vision of black universalism and his cosmopolitan modernist experience, Kwabena Ampofo-Anti’s work has its roots in 1960s cultural nationalism championed in Africa by radical, late Pan-Africanists like Kwame Nkrumah, modern Ghana’s first president. Although Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanism was defined by the rhetoric of continental political emancipation and unity, his advocacy for cultural nationalism served as a prime catalyst for the widespread celebration and official spectacularization of Ghana’s indigenous cultures. He promoted what is generally referred to as the Sankofa (go back and pick) ideology as the basis of the country’s modern identity. Whereas European colonial regimes and Christian missionaries denounced African religions as paganistic, their cultures atavistic—and thus as strong impediments to the continent’s progress—Sankofa proposed the reclamation of any aspects of the nation’s cultural heritages that might help bolster its peoples’ confidence in their postcolonial present and future.9 This ideology did not immediately translate to a robust and rigorous formal exploration of traditional Ghanaian art by its modern artists of the period. However a few like Oku Ampofo (1908–1998), an uncle of Ampofo-Anti who cofounded the Akwapim Six, Ghana’s first modernist artist group in the 1950s, and the sculptor Vincent Akwete Kofi (1923–1974) grappled with the meaning of independence for artists trained in Western academy-style schools yet saddled with the burden of articulating an artistic modernism that reflected Ghana’s long and rich history but also its modernity and postcoloniality. Ampofo-Anti’s artistic vision was thus shaped by this Sankofa ideology but also by the work of the independence generation of Ghanaian and Nigerian modernists, including Vincent Kofi and the Nigerian artist and architect Demas Nwoko, whom Ampofo-Anti first met as an art student at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi in the early 1970s. A leading member of the Nigerian postcolonial modernists, Nwoko was a prominent member of the legendary Mbari Artists and Writers Club, Ibadan, established in 1961 with Kofi—who later served as chair of the KNUST art department—as an inaugural member. A firm believer in the modern African artist’s task of developing a modernist art based on a rigorous experimentation with the formal syntaxes of African art and architecture, Nwoko won critical acclaim for his 1966–1968 terracotta sculptures inspired by ancient Nok terracotta from north-central Nigeria and for his architecture design, which is based on his idiosyncratic interpretation and adaptation of Igbo, Edo, and Japanese architectural elements. What is more, Ampofo-Anti’s post-art-school residency at Nwoko’s New Culture Studios in Ibadan must have strengthened his convictions about the possibilities of terracotta as a sculptural medium. It is important to emphasize Ampofo-Anti’s intellectual connections to 1960s Ghanaian post-independence cultural ideology and Nigerian postcolonial modernism for it helps us appreciate the trajectory of his practice as a ceramic sculptor, particularly his insistence on foregrounding his Akan culture as a crucial aspect of his identity as a contemporary artist.
But the second stage of Ampofo-Anti’s artistic development, which began with his relocation to the United States for graduate studies at Howard University under Jeff Donaldson and Boghossian, was as significant as the earlier Ghana– Nigeria phase. At Howard, he was introduced to the post-BAM ideology of black affirmation and celebration of African diasporic heritage—an experience the artist has credited as having singularly contributed to his “maturity as a thinking visual artist.”10 Nevertheless his entry point to an African diasporic art world was as an Akan-African immigrant fully immersed, nevertheless, in the politics of racial identity, which until then had not been a significant part of his subjectivity and artistic imaginary. But while he frequently emphasizes his Akan identity by allusion to it in his titles and subjects, his themes also range across diverse cultural and political boundaries, thus complicating our understanding of his artistic mission, which he describes as concretizing “the aesthetic aspirations” of his society.11 To be sure, this statement about his work as an artist raises the following questions: What does Ampofo-Anti mean by his society? Does he refer to his place of birth in Ghana? Or is it the African American society of his domicile? It seems to me that the tactic of identifying with his Akan language and culture on the one hand and on the other articulating a diasporic impulse informed by his link, through Howard, to the post-BAM brand of Afrological imagination serves the important purpose of valorizing his subjectivity as a black artist in America—that is, by affirming his unbroken connection to ancestral Africa. Akan culture thus serves as primary location for his identity practice even within the context of international, diasporic blackness. Nevertheless, the way the sculptures themselves are constituted suggests that AmpofoAnti’s society is an imagined place located somewhere between ancestral Africa, black America, and the postcolonial world. His society is a mind-space produced in the course of his journey from Ghana to the United States, a place the location of which cannot be fixed by specific geographic and mapping protocols and parameters. Ampofo-Anti’s sculptures are insistently architectonic, with each of them assuming the form of a mysterious tower or monument. But even as they seem to be products of a pure architectural fantasy, they also bear telling marks—in both their form and subject matter—of the artist’s capacious meditation on architectural models from Africa and the Americas. But why might the artist be drawn to architecture in particular? And how does this fit into his artistic vision shaped as it is by his intellectual journey from Kumasi to Washington, D.C., from postcolonial Ghana to post-BAM United States? It seems that architecture figures in Ampofo-Anti’s sculptural imagination precisely because it fits into his view of Africa as a place that supported great and modest civilizations stretching into the deep in past, in spite of 200 years of denigration and whitewashing of the continent’s histories by European apologists of slavery and colonialism. Architecture provides him the material with which to write his narrative of African cultures and histories as deep, complex, and inspirational. Through formal citations of monumental and religious architecture from Pharaonic Egypt, Islamic West Africa, medieval Gold Coast, and later Akan cultures, Ampofo-Anti’s sculptures serve as an idiosyncratic archive of African architectural civilization. Even so, he does not lose sight of his primary task as a sculptor, a maker of objets d’art that must convince us of their formal integrity, regardless
Kwabena Ampofo-Anti, Omo Mondawmin I (left), Omo Mondawmin II (right)
of their thematic or conceptual significance. Consider for instance how the artist has taken a structural element so prevalent as to be a defining characteristic of West African Islamic architecture—the toron sticks projecting from adobe mosque walls used by the builders as platforms for mandatory annual repairs—and turned them into a recurring decorative motif in his sculptures (Omo Mondawmin I , Omo Mondawmin II , and Mbaqanga ). In transforming this structural and functional element into a purely decorative form, the artist affirms his primary concern as a modern artist deeply invested in the translation and transformation of given “traditional,” culturally and historically embedded art/architectural forms into autonomous, self-referential art objects. Another subtle yet important decision Ampofo-Anti makes in terms of the formal relations of his sculptures to West African architectural antecedents is that rather than cite the organic, non-planar forms and rolling surfaces of the region’s great adobe structures such as those of the Great Mosques of Djenné and Mopti, the Hogon houses among the Dogon, and the anthropomorphic residences of the Batammaliba, his sculptures are constituted by large cuboids and polyhedrons stacked in a way reminiscent of pre-Islamic Maghreb towers and the rectangular minaret styles of the southern Sahara. Even so, the prismatic severity one finds in, say, Mama Dan (1996), is softened in a majority of his sculptures by the incorporation of cylindrical and tubular elements and by the slight displacement of the structural elements to achieve asymmetric formal relationships and irregular outlines. Moreover, he liberally applies Akan adinkra symbols as decorative motifs, which apart from extending the textural range of his sculptures’ surfaces remind us of the use of similar motifs in Asante shrine and royal architecture. It becomes apparent that even as he acknowledges and celebrates the accomplishments of past and ancient West African builders, Ampofo-Anti makes obvious the fact that his visual language derives as well from 20th-century modernist formalism. But if the structural and decorative elements in Ampofo-Anti’s sculptures suggest an invocation of and formal allusions to Africa’s rich architectural heritage, his subject matter frequently reaffirms Africa’s historic and contemporary connections to the art and music of the Black Atlantic. In Sumanguru Atenteben (2004), for instance, he pays homage to Sumanguru Kanté, the 13th-century martial king of the Sosso people, who conquered Old Ghana Empire and established a loose federation of states but was himself defeated by Sundiata, the prince and first ruler of the Mali Empire, at the Battle of Kirina in 1235. Sumanguru was known to have owned a mystical balafon, a stringed musical instrument, stolen by Sundiata’s griot, who then established a tradition of balafon artistry for which the Mandé are historically famous. Ampofo-Anti, however, imagines Sumanguru not as the balafon player, but as the owner of an atenteben, an Akan flute. The symbolism of this substitution of instruments is unclear, but we can speculate that the artist seeks to insert an Akan flute, which becomes a synecdoche of the culture itself, into a moment in the deep past, a period that shaped the fate of pre-colonial West Africa, thus asserting the ancientness of Akan music and culture. Three other sculptures, Niafunke I (2005), Mbalax (2005), and Mbaqanga (2003), specifically refer to contemporary international musical styles deeply rooted in traditional Africa yet directly related to musical traditions from the Caribbean, North America, and Europe.12 Taken together, Ampofo-Anti’s sculptures, in their formal aspects, invoke the genius of African architects, whereas their subject matter affirms the cross-influences of musical traditions and practices between Africa, Europe, and the New World.
Victor Ekpuk Whereas Kwabena Ampofo-Anti’s work emerged from the context of post-independence cultural nationalism in Ghana and from his introduction to the rhetoric of black identity politics of the late 1960s and early 70s United States and thus exemplifies what one might call late African and African diasporic modernism, the work of Nigerian artist Victor Ekpuk tests the limits of this afro-modernist heritage, even as it shows new possibilities of Afrological aesthetics in the age of globalization. Ekpuk, like bebop artists in the United States, developed an improvisatory aesthetic, but his motivations were different. Where the formal tactics of bebop derive in part from the longstanding strive to forge a black art and culture from the European, African, and Native American cultures brought into intense proximity by transcontinental migration, colonization, and slavery, Ekpuk’s script-based paintings and drawing-performances inspired by nsibidi ideographic forms from southeastern Nigeria anchor him to a specific historical and symbolic place and thus allow him to differentiate his work from a myriad of other similar conceptual and formal practices in the globalized, contemporary art world.
Ekpuk’s artistic and intellectual development owes much to trends in postcolonial Nigerian art inspired by the work of the independence generation in the 1960s, particularly of Uche Okeke, Bruce Onobrakpeya, and Demas Nwoko, all contemporaries of Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian and Vincent Kofi. Ardent proponents of a postcolonial modernism derived from a rigorous experimentation with specific indigenous Nigerian art forms, Okeke and his colleagues were also convinced that such work could not succeed without a firm grasp and appreciation of the technical and conceptual approach to image-making bequeathed to them by the European modernist avant-garde. This way of imagining modernism found kindred spirits across the continent—as manifested in the work of Boghossian—and deeply impacted important trends in Nigerian art of the late 20th-century. The evolution of this core tenet of postcolonial modernism, that is, the foregrounding of indigenous art forms in the making of ambitious modernist work, was institutionalized at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where, under the leadership of Uche Okeke, the next generation of artists, which included Obiora Udechukwu (b. 1946) and El Anatsui (b. 1944) a graduate of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, expanded the theoretical and geographical limits of the local or indigenous, as well as the stylistic diversity and sophistication of the work associated with the Nsukka School. Where, for instance, Anatsui included Akan adinkra symbols and Bamun scripts to the Igbo uli motifs and design sensibility already introduced by Okeke, Udechukwu added nsibidi ideograms as well as Chinese calligraphic and watercolor techniques to the repertoire of the Nsukka School. Ekpuk’s connection to the modernist tradition championed by the Nsukka School came by way of his training at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife, where in the late 1980s a group of artists, inspired by Nsukka, theorized a new aesthetic based on traditional Yoruba painting and design. But rather than focus on Yoruba art as did most members of the Ife School (aka Ona Movement), Ekpuk diverted his attention to Udechukwu’s exploration of the signifying potential of nsibidi, the lyrical quality of uli, and the sheer graphic expressiveness of both. Much has been made of the fact that Ekpuk was born in the part of Nigeria where nsibidi—consisting of body gestures and abstract graphic signs—thrived as a mode of communication among members of the once-powerful Ekpe secret society. Nevertheless, his appropriation of the nsibidi graphic form does not so much instantiate the natural evolution of an African artistic tradition as demonstrate the continuing salience of European historical avant-garde’s gift to contemporary art: the commitment to subjecting old, familiar, and exotic forms to rigorous analysis in order to develop new representational and expressive forms. Ekpuk’s formal analysis of the nsibidi form made it possible for him to create in his painting and drawing pictorial fields energized by an incredible variety of linear marks and forms, yet held together by the uniform character of the distinct, descriptive lines. It is clear that Ekpuk struggled with this problem earlier in his career when he devised two different stylistic modes. The first, exemplified by Paradise Is Here (1993) and They Prayed for Rain, Prayed in Vain (1994), in which he equally emphasized line, color shapes, and abstract design patterns, was populated by bold, highly stylized, and complexly arranged anthropomorphic and quotidian imagery. The second, which eventually won out, reflected the graphic character of nsibidi signs as applied against flat color fields that sometimes covered the entire picture plane. In this mode, he further experimented with various ways of presenting relationships between color and line and between figure and ground. Initially, with the aid of modified syringes, he applied the motifs in relief usually in the same color as the ground; against this uniform, highly textured field, he then placed simple color shapes and bold linear motifs that serve as the painting’s thematic anchor (Three Wise Men  and Muse of the Gecko and Spider ). He also scratched the motifs into thick layers of paint, thus creating intaglio textures that, with proper lighting, can seem to pulsate (One September Morning ). But he finally settled, more or less, with a flat rendering of his linear motifs with thin paint, ink, or graphite. To be sure, the reliance on massed ideographic and abstract forms evacuated of any meaning, inevitably necessitated, on Ekpuk’s part, the development of a capacious memory bank of motifs, signs, and marks that have the formal quality of nsibidi but more often than not are totally unrelated to the traditional script. Ekpuk prepared himself for this work by a close study of known nsibidi lexicon, but also signs and motifs associated with Igbo uli and Akan adinkra, all which are inventively combined with the hieroglyphic versions of the stylized imagery seen in his earlier painting. To do this he had to internalize the graphic protocols of these West African scripts and symbols to the point where he could
effortlessly generate forms reminiscent of their formal qualities but without their function as bearers of meaning. Two things ought to be apparent in terms of what Ekpuk learned from nsibidi. The first is that although he had little or no investment in nsibidi as conveyor of occult meaning, he acknowledged their function as hieroglyphs; that is to say, he realized the possibility of creating his own scripts by reducing the form of his subjects to their very bare essence. This is evident in One September Morning (2002), where he inserted into the mass of writhing, swirling abstract forms a barely noticeable ideographic representation of the bearded face Victor Ekpuk, Three Wise Men of Osama Bin Laden, the soon-to-be destroyed World Trade Towers, the Pentagon, the downed plane in a Pennsylvania field, and the car in which he sustained injuries following a road accident on September 11, 2001. Even so, although the revelation of these ideograms might anchor this work to the specific sites of terror and pain of that day, the painting’s pictorial effect rests on the combination of an ominous black field obsessively marked with numerous deliberately “meaningless” forms. Ekpuk’s second lesson from nsibidi, explored while he was on a studio residency at the Thami Mnyele Foundation in Amsterdam in 2010, was his realization of the sheer compositional potential of his ideograms as abstractions. In a series of large drawings, tellingly titled Compositions, he imposed bold abstract shapes—rendered in strong, vigorously applied pastel blacks—on fields of the now familiar, intricately drawn motifs and faux ideograms (see Composition #5  and Composition #8 ). The particular ways in which the black pastel structures organize the spaces around them while hedging the simple yet distinctive shapes of color that in turn give formal character to the structures suggest that the achievement of compositional and pictorial dynamism is the primary problem the artist set for himself in these series. It is important to note that although Ekpuk had frequently made drawings as works of art in themselves, in the Composition series, he used only graphite for the “background” drawings and pastels for the black structures and color elements. Working on the unprecedented scale we see in this series, it is as if he wished to affirm that, after all, nsibidi is drawing, and that drawing does not need painting to support its claim to artistic significance and ambition. Taken together the two lessons of nsibidi outlined here constitute for Ekpuk deliberate strategies of asserting the autonomy of his artistic enterprise from both the nsibidi ideographic tradition and from its cultural context and histories. Ekpuk’s work resonates with a broad range of contemporary art practices by artists who have independently investigated and exploited the plastic and graphic properties of various established calligraphic writing systems. From the late 1950s modernist artists from North Africa such as Ibrahim El Salahi (b. 1930), Nja Mahdaoui (b. 1937), and Rachid Koraïchi (b. 1947) explored Islamic calligraphy both in terms of its status as bearer of meaning and as basis for inventing idiosyncratic, lyrical, and significant form. Building on this modernist tradition in the 1980s and 1990s, the Sudanese artist Hassan Musa (b. 1951) developed a conceptual practice he called “Graphic Ceremonies,” that is to say, public performances during which he created on large floor-bound canvases sequential graphic compositions that included images and real or faux Arabic scripts. By emphasizing the ceremonial aspect of his practice, Musa drew attention to the ritualized act and process of creating constantly evolving forms that ended with the total obliteration of the entire image. Whereas the canvases and drawings made by Ekpuk are reminiscent of the experimental formalism of the Salahi, Koraïchi, and Mahdaoui, his recent venture into drawing-performance events comes close to Musa’s emphasis on the processual and performative aspect of drawing-writing rather than on the finished, objectified work.
It is tempting to think that Ekpuk’s drawing-performance, informed by the sensibilities of contemporary conceptual and performance art inevitably, perhaps even inadvertently, returns him to a heretofore unexamined aspect of traditional nsibidi. For as I watch him make these cryptic chalk marks against a black board, building them up intuitively into a composition, as he pauses, perhaps thinking about his next move, and as his hands move effortlessly, leaving linear trails and forms, that in the end are wiped clean with a wet sponge, the theatricality of it all reminds me of that part of the nsibidi text that involves body and hand gestures. For like gestural nsibidi, Ekpuk’s drawing performance leaves no graphic residue and is fully contained within the duration of the dramatic enactment. But instead of the codified meaning to which the nsibidi gestures aspire, Ekpuk’s performance makes ambiguous, open-ended allusions to Africa’s history, memory, and lived experiences, even as it affirms the artist’s status as a mediator of art’s aesthetic and symbolic powers.
If there is anything the art of Boghossian, Ampofo-Anti, and Ekpuk tells us, it is that works of art reflect the complex, multiple consciousness and diversely constituted identities of the artists. It inevitably compels us to ponder anew that memorable question posed nearly a century ago by Countee Cullen, the Harlem Renaissance poet: “What is Africa to me?” To the extent that their individual responses are inscribed in their art, it is safe to say that as with their African American counterparts past and present, Africa remains for its artists a site of powerful imaginaries, a historical place to which they are bound by ancestry, and an idea that elicits powerful aesthetic and symbolic action.
Gutherie P. Ramsey Jr., Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), 97.
Jesse Stewart, “No Boundary Line to Art: ‘Bebop’ as Afro-Modernist Discourse,” American Music 29: 3 (Fall 2011): 333.
Solomon Deressa, “Skunder in Context,” Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art 11/12 (Fall 2000): 82.
Ulli Beier, Contemporary Art in Africa (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1968), 37.
Nnamdi Azikiwe, Renascent Africa (London: Frank Cass & Co., 1968 ).
Jeff R. Donaldson, “AfriCOBRA Manifesto? ‘Ten in Search of a Nation,’” Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art 30 (Spring 2012): 81
In adinkra symbology, Sankofa is depicted as a bird swallowing its egg, as if to recover the life-power trapped in it.
See Artist’s Statement in Common Ground, Uncommon Vision—Four Howard University Trained Artists, exh. cat.
(Hampton, VA: Hampton University Museum, 2009) 11
Niafunke refers to the home of the Malian guitar maestro Ali Farka Touré (1939–2006), who achieved international fame for his
combination of traditional Malian music and American blues styles. Mbalax is a popular musical form originating in the 1970s from traditional Serer music from Senegal and combined with elements of jazz, blues, rumba, and Latin music. Mbaqanga was developed in the 1960s black townships in South Africa and likewise had jazz and American big band influences.
More powerful than such weighty social and geographical forces is the ability of the individual to sift and choose. And that’s why— despite the overwhelming influence of African archetypes—the ceramic constructions of Hampton artist Kwabena Ampofo-Anti make such wonderful pieces of contemporary sculpture. . . . The Ghanaian native embraces the traditions of his homeland with deliberate fervor. Yet what keeps your eyes clamped on these striking pillars of clay is not the traditions from which they draw but rather the ingenuity with which they are combined and—in the end—reinvented. Mark St. John Erickson Daily Press Newspaper February 13, 2000 Hampton, Virginia
Omo Ibadan I, 1985, mixed media, 85 x 24 x 5 in., Courtesy of the artist
Omo Ibadan II, 1985, mixed media, 76 x 20 x 5 in., Courtesy of the artist
Omo Ibadan III, 1985, mixed media, 76 x 19 x 5 in., Courtesy of the artist
Sumanguru Atenteben, 2004, clay, 93 x 16 x 16 in., Courtesy of the artist
Akandogon, 2004, clay, 88 x 11 x 17 in., Courtesy of the artist
Omo Mondawmin I, 2004, clay, 71 x 14 x 15 in., Courtesy of the artist
Omo Mondawmin II, 2004, clay, 71 x 14 x 15 in., Courtesy of the artist
Niafunke I, 2005, clay, 64 x 11 x 14 in., Courtesy of the artist
Kradan, 2005, clay, 24 x 12 x 9 in., UMUC Permanent Collection, Maryland Artist Collection
Kradan #6, 2006, clay, 24 x 9 x 11 in., Courtesy of the artist
Tarkwa, 2006, clay, 24 x 13 x 9 in., UMUC Permanent Collection, Maryland Artist Collection
Odurugya, 2008, clay, 85 x 10 x 15 in., Courtesy of the artist
Mamafrika, 2008, clay, 107 x 18 x 18 in., Courtesy of the artist
Mbenzele, 2009, clay, 26 x 9 x 11 in., Courtesy of the artist
Abena Ete Den, 2011, clay, 34 x 9 x 11 in., Courtesy of the artist
ALEXANDER “SKUNDER” BOGHOSSIAN
Much is known about the life and achievement of an artist as well known as Skunder Boghossian: the fact that he was the first African artist to be collected by the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris; the fact that he went on to be collected by four other museums; the fact that he was a product of the Beaux Arts School of Paris; the fact that as a very impressionable young man, a teenager actually, he lived in Paris and was influenced by Diop and the emerging Negritude movement, Lam and the Caribbean view of the world, and in almost daily contact with Klee, Breton, Braque, and Ernst. Independent Africa and a world beyond the European American axis was taking center stage and the performance was in Paris. Skunder was there as a willing and eager observer/participant. . . . Skunder was nothing if not experimental . . . William Karg Owner, Contemporary African Art Gallery, New York
Union, 1966, oil on canvas, 75 x 49¼ in., Collection of the Boghossian Family
Bogy-man #1, 1970, acrylic on paper, 24 x 11他 in., Collection of Ahmed and Joellen El Bashir
Marketplace, 1970, watercolor and acrylic on paper, 20¾ x 28½ in., Collection of Ahmed and Joellen El Bashir
DMZ, 1975, oil on canvas, 60 x 58 in., On Loan from Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Untitled, circa 1976, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18 in., Collection of the Boghossian Family
Untitled, circa 1978, watercolor and acrylic, 19Â˝ x 13Â˝ in., Collection of the Boghossian Family
Untitled (Red Sun), 1980, mixed media, 391/8 x 271/8 in., Collection of the Boghossian Family
The Cross, the Church, and the Butterfly, 1987, parchment and oil, 37 x 5 in., Courtesy of Contemporary African Art Gallery (contempafricanart.com)
Tweens Drawing V, 1988, pastel on paper, 40 x 26 in., Collection of the Boghossian Family
The Ceremony, 1989, monoprint, 32 x 19 in., Collection of the Boghossian Family
The Soul of the Matisse, circa 1989–90, mixed media collage, 22½ x 19½ in., Collection of the Boghossian Family
Untitled, circa 1990, mixed media collage, 17Â˝ x 11Â˝ in., Collection of the Boghossian Family
Untitled, 1991, watercolor and mixed media, 17 x 13 in., Collection of the Boghossian Family
Alligator Man, circa 1991–97, acrylic on Fiji bark, 42½ x 18 in., Collection of the Boghossian Family
Split, 1992, mixed media on canvas, 38 x 26 in., Courtesy of Contemporary African Art Gallery (contempafricanart.com)
The Cross-Roads, 1992â€“97, acrylic on canvas, 45 x 45 in., Courtesy of Contemporary African Art Gallery (contempafricanart.com)
Happy Easter, circa 1997, acrylic on paper, 24 x 20 in., Collection of the Boghossian Family
Fragment, circa 1997, curd bark and pigment, 32 x 34Â˝ in., Collection of the Boghossian Family
Blind Faith, not dated, pastel on paper, 26 x 40 in., Collection of the Boghossian Family
Motherhood, not dated, mixed media on paper and mounted on board, 27 x 27Â˝ in., Collection of the Boghossian Family
Untitled (18907), not dated, pastel on paper, 32Â˝ x 26Â˝ in., Collection of the Boghossian Family
Fish Market, 1994, acrylic on panel, 32Âž x 48 in., Courtesy of the artist
Victor Ekpukâ€™s rich and iconic pictorial narratives encompass that which is universal, while still maintaining a strong identity of culture, contemporary relevance, and substance. Amy Morton Owner and Chief Curator, Morton Fine Art, Washington, D.C.
Untitled (Crocodiles), April 1994, acrylic on panel, 17他x 36 in., Courtesy of the artist
Three Wise Men, 1996, acrylic on panel (triptych), 48 x 20 in. each, Courtesy of the artist
Ima, 1997, acrylic on paper mounted on board, 24 x 14 in. Courtesy of the artist
Ojuelegba, 1997, acrylic on panel, 18 in. in diameter, Courtesy of the artist
Heavenâ€™s Gate II (Prayer Board), 2000, mixed media, 48 x 20 in., Courtesy of the artist
Omniscience, circa 2000, acrylic and gold leaf on canvas, 46 x 34 in., Courtesy of the artist
Congo Square Band, 2001, ink on paper, 10 x 8 in., Courtesy of the artist
Idaresit (Joyful Heart), circa 2004, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 24 in., Courtesy of the artist
Head I, 2006, acrylic on wood panel, 72 x 45 in., UMUC Permanent Collection, Maryland Artist Collection
Market Day, 2007, ink on paper, 43 x 61 in., Courtesy of the artist
Children of the Fullmoon (#2), 2007, pastel and acrylic ink on pigment print, 45 x 43 in., Courtesy of the artist
Songs to One Who Sees All (Prayer Board), 2007, acrylic and metal on board, 19Â˝ x 9 in., Collection of Dr. Dianne Whitfield-Locke
All Fingers Are Not Equal, 2008, acrylic ink on pigment print, 52 x 43Â˝ in., Courtesy of the artist
May Our Dreams Come True #5 (Prayer Board), 2011, acrylic and metal on board, 21 x 9 in., Loan from the collection of L. Christina Waddler
Conversation (diptych), 2012, acrylic on wood, 60 x 46 in. (each), Courtesy of the artist
I AM. . . #1, 2012, pastel on paper, 50 x 45 in., Courtesy of the artist
I AM. . . #2, 2012, pastel on paper,
I AM. . . #3, 2012, pastel on paper,
50 x 45 in., Courtesy of the artist
50 x 45 in., Courtesy of the artist
I AM. . . #4, 2012, pastel on paper,
I AM. . . #5, 2012, pastel on paper,
50 x 45 in., Courtesy of the artist
50 x 45 in., Courtesy of the artist 71
Kwabena Ampofo-Anti Omo Ibadan I, 1985, mixed media, 85 x 24 x 5 in., Courtesy of the artist Omo Ibadan II, 1985, mixed media, 76 x 20 x 5 in., Courtesy of the artist Omo Ibadan III, 1985, mixed media, 76 x 19 x 5 in., Courtesy of the artist Sumanguru Atenteben, 2004, clay, 93 x 16 x 16 in., Courtesy of the artist Akandogon, 2004, clay, 88 x 11 x 17 in., Courtesy of the artist Omo Mondawmin I, 2004, clay, 71 x 14 x 15 in., Courtesy of the artist Omo Mondawmin II, 2004, clay, 71 x 14 x 15 in., Courtesy of the artist Kradan, 2005, clay, 24 x 12 x 9 in., UMUC Permanent Collection, Maryland Artist Collection Niafunke I, 2005, clay, 64 x 11 x 14 in., Courtesy of the artist Kradan #6, 2006, clay, 24 x 9 x 11 in., Courtesy of the artist Tarkwa, 2006, clay, 24 x 13 x 9 in., UMUC Permanent Collection, Maryland Artist Collection Odurugya, 2008, clay, 85 x 10 x 15 in., Courtesy of the artist Mamafrika, 2008, clay, 107 x 18 x 18 in., Courtesy of the artist Mbenzele, 2009, clay, 26 x 9 x 11 in., Courtesy of the artist Abena Ete Den, 2011, clay, 34 x 9 x 11 in., Courtesy of the artist
Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian Union, 1966, oil on canvas, 75 x 49¼ in., Collection of the Boghossian Family Bogy-man #1, 1970, acrylic on paper, 24 x 11¾ in., Collection of Ahmed and Joellen El Bashir Marketplace, 1970, watercolor and acrylic on paper, 20¾ x 28½ in., Collection of Ahmed and Joellen El Bashir DMZ, 1975, oil on canvas, 60 x 58 in., On Loan from Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Untitled, circa 1976, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18 in., Collection of the Boghossian Family Untitled, circa 1978, watercolor and acrylic, 19½ x 13½ in., Collection of the Boghossian Family Untitled (Red Sun), 1980, mixed media, 391/8 x 271/8 in., Collection of the Boghossian Family The Cross, the Church, and the Butterfly, 1987, parchment and oil, 37 x 5 in., Courtesy of Contemporary African Art Gallery (contempafricanart.com) Tweens Drawing V, 1988, pastel on paper, 40 x 26 in., Collection of the Boghossian Family The Ceremony, 1989, monoprint, 32 x 19 in., Collection of the Boghossian Family The Soul of the Matisse, circa 1989–90, mixed media collage, 22½ x 19½ in., Collection of the Boghossian Family Untitled, circa 1990, mixed media collage, 17½ x 11½ in., Collection of the Boghossian Family Untitled, 1991, watercolor and mixed media, 17 x 13 in., Collection of the Boghossian Family Alligator Man, circa 1991–97, acrylic on Fiji bark, 42½ x 18 in., Collection of the Boghossian Family Split, 1992, mixed media on canvas, 38 x 26 in., Courtesy of Contemporary African Art Gallery (contempafricanart.com)
The Cross-Roads, 1992–97, acrylic on canvas, 45 x 45 in., Courtesy of Contemporary African Art Gallery (contempafricanart.com) Happy Easter, circa 1997, acrylic on paper, 24 x 20 in., Collection of the Boghossian Family Fragment, circa 1997, curd bark and pigment, 32 x 34½ in., Collection of the Boghossian Family Blind Faith, not dated, pastel on paper, 26 x 40 in., Collection of the Boghossian Family Motherhood, not dated, mixed media on paper and mounted on board, 27 x 27½ in., Collection of the Boghossian Family Untitled (18907), not dated, pastel on paper, 32½ x 26½ in., Collection of the Boghossian Family
Victor Ekpuk Fish Market, 1994, acrylic on panel, 32¾ x 48 in., Courtesy of the artist Untitled (Crocodiles), April 1994, acrylic on panel, 17¾x 36 in., Courtesy of the artist Three Wise Men, 1996, acrylic on panel (triptych), 48 x 20 in. each, Courtesy of the artist Ima, 1997, acrylic on paper mounted on board, 24 x 14 in. Courtesy of the artist Ojuelegba, 1997, acrylic on panel, 18 in. in diameter, Courtesy of the artist Heaven’s Gate II (Prayer Board), 2000, mixed media, 48 x 20 in., Courtesy of the artist Omniscience, circa 2000, acrylic and gold leaf on canvas, 46 x 34 in., Courtesy of the artist Congo Square Band, 2001, ink on paper, 10 x 8 in., Courtesy of the artist Idaresit (Joyful Heart), circa 2004, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 24 in., Courtesy of the artist Head I, 2006, acrylic on wood panel, 72 x 45 in., UMUC Permanent Collection, Maryland Artist Collection Market Day, 2007, ink on paper, 43 x 61 in., Courtesy of the artist Children of the Fullmoon (#2), 2007, pastel and acrylic ink on pigment print, 45 x 43 in., Courtesy of the artist Songs to One Who Sees All (Prayer Board), 2007, acrylic and metal on board, 19½ x 9 in., Collection of Dr. Dianne Whitfield-Locke All Fingers Are Not Equal, 2008, acrylic ink on pigment print, 52 x 43½ in., Courtesy of the artist May Our Dreams Come True #5 (Prayer Board), 2011, acrylic and metal on board, 21 x 9 in., Loan from the collection of L. Christina Waddler Conversation (diptych), 2012, acrylic on wood, 60 x 46 in. (each), Courtesy of the artist I AM. . . #1, 2012, pastel on paper, 50 x 45 in., Courtesy of the artist I AM. . . #2, 2012, pastel on paper, 50 x 45 in., Courtesy of the artist I AM. . . #3, 2012, pastel on paper, 50 x 45 in., Courtesy of the artist I AM. . . #4, 2012, pastel on paper, 50 x 45 in., Courtesy of the artist I AM. . . #5, 2012, pastel on paper, 50 x 45 in., Courtesy of the artist
About UMUC UMUC is the largest public university in the United States. As one of the 11 degree-granting institutions of the University System of Maryland, this global university specializes in high-quality academic programs tailored to working adults. UMUC has earned a worldwide reputation for excellence as a comprehensive virtual university and, through a combination of classroom and distancelearning formats, provides educational opportunities to more than 92,000 students. The university is proud to offer highly acclaimed faculty and world-class student services to educate students online, throughout Maryland, across the United States, and in more than 25 countries and territories around the world. UMUC serves its students through undergraduate and graduate programs, noncredit leadership development, and customized programs. For more information regarding UMUC and its programs, visit www.umuc.edu.
About the Arts at UMUC Since 1978, University of Maryland University College (UMUC) has proudly shown works from a large collection of international and Maryland artists at the UMUC Inn and Conference Center in Adelphi, Maryland, a few miles from the nation’s capital. Through its Arts Program, the university provides a prestigious and wideranging forum for emerging and established artists and brings art to the community through its own collections, which have grown to include more than 1,900 pieces of art, and special exhibitions. UMUC’s collections focus on both art by Maryland artists and art from around the world. They include the Maryland Artist Collection, the Doris Patz Collection of Maryland Artists, the Asian Collections, the Education Collection, and the International Collection. The university’s collection of Maryland art includes approximately 1,400 works and provides a comprehensive survey of
20th- and 21st-century Maryland art. The university’s Asian Collections consist of nearly 420 pieces of Chinese art, Japanese prints, and Balinese folk art, dating from the Tang Dynasty (618–907 a.d.) through the 19th century—a historical reach of 13 centuries. The UMUC collection of Japanese prints includes more than 120 prints by 35 artists. Artworks are on display throughout the UMUC Inn and Conference Center and the Administration Building in Adelphi as well as at the UMUC Academic Center at Largo. The main, lower-level gallery in Adelphi is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, and the Leroy Merritt Center for the Art of Joseph Sheppard is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. More than 100,000 students, scholars, and visitors come to the Adelphi facilities each year. Exhibitions at the UMUC Academic Center at Largo are open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
UMUC Arts Program Mission Statement The Arts Program at UMUC creates an environment in which its diverse constituents, including members of the university community and the general public, can study and learn about art by directly experiencing it. The Arts Program seeks to promote the university’s core values and to provide educational opportunities for lifelong learning. From the research and study of works of art to the teaching applications of each of our exhibitions, the Arts Program will play an increasing role in academic life at the university. With a regional and national focus, the Arts Program is dedicated to the acquisition, preservation, study, exhibition, and interpretation of works of art of the highest quality in a variety of media that represent its constituents and to continuing its historic dedication to Maryland and Asian art.
UMUC Art Advisory Board Javier Miyares President University of Maryland University College
MichĂ¨le E. Jacobs, Chair Managing Director Special Events at Union Station Anne V. Maher, Esq., Vice Chair Attorney at Law Kleinfeld, Kaplan & Becker, LLP Eva J. Allen, PhD Art Historian Myrtis Bedolla Owner and Founding Director Galerie Myrtis I-Ling Chow, honorary member Regional President and Managing Director, Ret. Asia Bank, N.A.
Karin Goldstein, honorary member Art Collector Juanita Boyd Hardy Director, Millennium Arts Salon Managing Principal Tiger Management Consulting Group, LLC Sharon Smith Holston, Past Chair Artistâ€™s Representative and Co-owner Holston Originals Pamela Holt Consultant Public Affairs Administration Eric Key Director, Arts Program University of Maryland University College Philip Koch Maryland Artist Professor, Maryland Institute College of Art
Linda Derrick Collector and Patron of the Arts
Thomas Li, honorary member Chairman and CEO, Ret. Biotech Research Labs, Inc.
Patricia Dubroof Artist/Consultant IONA Senior Services
David Maril, honorary member Journalist President, Herman Maril Foundation
Nina C. Dwyer Artist, Adjunct Professor of Art, Montgomery College
Barbara Stephanic, PhD, Past Vice Chair, honorary member Professor of Art History, Ret. College of Southern Maryland
Jeannette Glover Artist, Program Manager, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
Dianne A. Whitfield-Locke, DDS Collector and Patron of the Arts Owner, Dianne Whitfield-Locke Dentistry
UMUC Board of Visitors Mark J. Gerencser, Chair Executive Vice President Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. Evelyn J. Bata, PhD Collegiate Professor University of Maryland University College Richard F. Blewitt Member Emeritus President and Chief Executive Officer The Blewitt Foundation Joseph V. Bowen Jr. Senior Vice President, Operations, and Managing Principal, Ret. McKissack & McKissack David W. Bower President and Chief Executive Officer Data Computer Corporation of America John M. Derrick Jr. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ret. Pepco Holdings, Inc. Karl R. Gumtow Founder and Chief Executive Officer CyberPoint International Michèle E. Jacobs Managing Director Special Events at Union Station Donald S. Orkand, PhD (Former Chair) Member Emeritus Founding Partner DC Ventures and Associates, LLC Lt. Gen. Emmett Paige Jr., U.S. Army Ret. Vice President of Operations, Ret. Department of Defense/Intelligence Services Lockheed Martin Information Technology
Sharon Pinder Founder and Chief Executive Officer The Pinder Group Brig. Gen. Velma Richardson, U.S. Army, Ret. Vice President, DoD IT Programs and Special Projects IS&GS Lockheed Martin Corporation Gen. John (Jack) Vessey Jr., U.S. Army, Ret. Member Emeritus Former Chairman U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff William T. (Bill) Wood, JD Attorney at Law Wood Law Offices, LLC Joyce M. Wright Chief Claims Officer, People’s Trust Homeowners Insurance
Contributors Project Manager: Nichelle Lenhardt Curator: Brian Young Editors: Sandy Bernstein, Beth Butler, and Kate McLoughlin Designer: Jennifer Norris Artwork Photographer: John Woo Production Manager: Scott Eury Fine Arts Technician: René A. Sanjines Administrative Assistant: Denise Melvin
Cover artwork: Victor Ekpuk, Omniscience, circa 2000, acrylic and gold leaf on canvas, 46 x 34 in., Courtesy of the artist Photo by John Woo
© 2013 University of Maryland University College. All rights reserved. Copyright credits and attribution for certain illustrations are cited internally proximate to the illustrations. All rights reserved.
Charles E. (Ted) Peck Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ret. The Ryland Group, Inc.
KWABENA AMPOFO-ANTI Sumanguru Atenteben, 2004, clay, 93 x 16 x 16 in., Courtesy of the artist
Learn about the exhibition "Diaspora Dialogue: Art of Kwabena Ampofo-Anti, Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian, and Victor Ekpuk" at University o...