Museum EMOWAA Hires US Historian, UK Curator To Lead Art Project

David Adjaye design of the Edo Museum of West African Arts.


The Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA) has appointed Chika Okeke-Agulu, the US-based historian, and Aindrea Emelife, the UK-based curator, in a move it says would make it focus on modern art.

Okeke-Agulu was appointed senior advisor while Emelife was named as the curator, both announced on Thursday.

EMOWAA Trust, an NGO running the museum, said the appointments support its goal of creating a world-class research facility and education complex linking West Africa’s ancient heritage to its thriving modern 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.”

The trust said Okeke-Agulu and Emelife will focus on advancing the field of academic research in contemporary and modern West African Art and developing the collection strategy for EMOWAA.

It also said they both will be building the curatorial framework for the creative district that EMOWAA is developing in Edo, Benin City, and generate new multi-faceted narratives and interpretations of West African art and history.

Phillip Ihenacho, the EMOWAA executive director, highlighted the need to support 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.”