Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Conversations from Tampa, Part I (Diaspora)

Africa in Relation was an evening about contemporary art and culture from Africa and the diaspora in honor of the late Roberta Golding, who had established an endowed chair at University of South Florida (Tampa) in the name of her dearly departed husband, Stuart S. Golding. Roberta was a friend with whom I shared numerous conversations that resonated with the evening's theme, Africa in Relation. Thus, I spoke about my experiences as the Stuart S. Golding Chair in African Art (1999-2002), which inspired the book Africa in Florida, as part of a dialog with friends and colleagues (Allison Moore, Chika Okeke-Angulu, and Magdalena Campos-Pons) regarding what the Martinican writer Édouard Glissant referred to as "the poetics of relation."   Our groups' reflections were inherently a blend of the personal and the professional.

April 17, 2014 in Tampa, FL. From left to right, Allison Moore (Art Historian, University of South Florida), Chika Okeke-Agulu (Art Historian, Princeton University), Magdalena Campos-Pons (Artist, School for the Museum of Fine Arts), and Amanda Carlson (Art Historian, University of Hartford).  Photo credit: Bryce Womeldurf. 

While teaching at USF, I became interested in the numerous elements of the African diaspora in Tampa and taught a seminar called Exhibiting African Art & Culture, which resulted in the exhibition "Behind the Mask: Africa in Tampa." This dynamic student project provided the inspiration for Africa in Florida.
Behind the Mask: Africa in Tampa, exhibition poster (2001), screen print. Artist: Brandon Dunlap.  

Magda's discussion about her work reinforced my belief that conversations about art and diaspora need to be made with artists--not simply writing about them. This is a central premise in Africa in Florida, which begins with the voices of scholars, poets, and artists in conversation.  Photo credit: Bryce Womeldurf.

Chika spoke about the road from University of Nsukka (Nigeria) to University of South Florida (USA), where he received a master's degree in art history before continuing on to complete a Ph.D. His narrative was moving and personal, but it also spoke volumes about how scholars in the diaspora have impacted the study of art and culture. Photo credit: Bryce Womeldurf.

Amanda Carlson presenting a copy of Africa in Florida to Celina Okpaleke (Chairwoman, Igbo Women Cultural Group, Tampa)  in honor of our friendship and her assistance with Chapter 22 "Igbo Masquerades in the Sunshine State." Photo credit: Bryce Womeldurf. 

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