Study Day: Contemporary Art and Textiles in West Africa
Contributor Will Rea. Will is Senior Lecturer in the school of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds. He has worked extensively in South Western Nigeria. He has worked with artists in Nigeria and has been particularly involved with masquerade performances in the Ekiti region. More recently he has worked with contemporary makers in Lagos and Ibadan. The first part of this study day (‘African Textile, African Contemporary’) introduced participants to the textile heritage of Nigeria that Shonibare draws upon. It looked at the various forms of textile production in Nigeria, with specific reference to the Yoruba people. The diverse forms of weaving, dying and industrial production were examined. It then explored the significant place that textiles have in Yoruba culture, opening out the various traditions of use as well as looking at how those traditions have been brought forward into the twenty-first century, in areas of textile use such as masquerade, identity and religious practice as well as modern fashion and clothing. This revealed the complexities of notions of ‘African-ness’ as many of the textiles we now consider to be ‘African’ in fact have substantial European origins and influences. The colourful cloths featured in Shonibare’s exhibition are less popular, in Yoruba culture, than plain white cloth, which also has particular ritual or religious significance. The title of the exhibition, ‘FABRIC-ATION’, plays on the role of fantasy in the cloths the artist has created. This highlights the extent to which Shonibare’s work sets up complex and often paradoxical notions of identity based on ideas of disguise and cultural hybridity, which are also common in aspects of so-called ‘British’ culture. The second part of the day (‘African Contemporary, African Textile’) looked at the relationship between textiles and contemporary art in Nigeria, examining a number of artists who make use of textile traditions in their work. A substantial focus in this respect was on the issue of the ‘modern’ and the tensions that may arise for post-colonial artists who wish their art to be considered, under this heading, alongside that of their western counterparts.
Some of the images in this recording have been blurred for copyright reasons. We are including a list of image details and their time codes so viewers can look them up: 00:08:55 ‘Girl like that’, Yinka Shonibare 00:56:00 “Dialogue with Mona Lisa”, Gani Odutokun 00:57:41 “Le Demoiselles d’Avignon”, Pablo Picasso 01:06:42 “Lawyer”, Aina Onabolu 01:08:59 “River Niger Landscape”, 1965, Ben Enwonwu 01:11:39 'Anyanwu' (“Sun”), bronze sculpture, Ben Enwonwu 01:13:29 “The Jungle”, 1943, Wifredo Lam 01:14:17 Jacob Lawrence sculpture, unknown title 01:15:28 “The crescent moon”, 1974, Uche Okeke 01:18:34 “Emete Ayuvbi” 1972, Bruce Onobrakpaye 01:19:03 Painting of woman holding child, unknown title, Bruce Onobrakpaye 01:20:28 Photo of Bruce Onobrakpaye 01:20:52 “Environmental regeneration”, Bruce Onobrakpaye 01:21:59 Alagere, Oba Lowaye, work at Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, cement sculpture by Suzanne Wenger and the New Sacred Artists 01:23:15 Ulli Beier/Suzanne Wenger workshops, [work done by local artists - Oshogbo] 01:23:27 “Twins 77”, Ulli Beier 01:23:50 Bead painting, Jimoh Buraimoh 01:25:18 Dusasa I, El Anatsui 01:25:42 “Cloth of gold", El Anatsui (installation at Contemporary Art of a Continent at the SouthBank Centre 10 February – 17 April 2005), El Anatsui 01:26:00 “Cloth of gold", El Anatsui (installation at Contemporary Art of a Continent at the SouthBank Centre 10 February – 17 April 2005), El Anatsui 01:26:00 Man’s Cloth (1998 -2001) installation at the British Museum, El Anatsui 01:30:31 “Junkman”, Dilomprizuleke 01:32:56 “African Adventure”, 1999-2002, Jane Alexander 01:33:25 ‘Butcher boys’Jane Alexander Butcher Boys from 'African Adventure', 1985 01:33:50 Diary of a Victorian Dandy: 19.00 hours, Yinka Shonibare 01:36:33 Women dancing at African candomble rituals, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, South America, Per-Andre Hoffmann 01:37:33 Reproduction of a handbill advertising a slave auction in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1769 01:39:10 A Chief Priestess of Iemanjá, the mother of all other Candomblé deities (Bahia, Brazil) 01:39:59 “Double Dutch”, Yinka Shonibare