Emeka Ogboh : PLAYBACK – The African Union: 20 to 20,000 Hz

Modern Art Museum, Gebre Kristos Desta Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
04 Nov 2016 - 30 Nov 2016

Emeka Ogboh : PLAYBACK – The African Union: 20 to 20,000 Hz

Heads of States Conference, Africa Hall, Addis Abeba, Mai 1963, © Bettmann/CORBIS

The exhibition PLAYBACK – The African Union: 20 to 20,000 Hz presented by ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) provides further context to the competition-winning project from Nigerian sound artist Emeka Ogboh for the Julius Nyerere Peace and Security Building of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa.

The Federal Foreign Office financed the construction of the new building and the art installation. ifa conceptualised the art competition; organised the catalysing conference Future Memories, which addressed art, public and memory culture in an African context (in cooperation with the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design in Addis Ababa), and the similarly titled online publication; supported the creation of the artwork in cooperation with the artist; and facilitated the accompanying exhibitionPLAYBACK – The African Union: 20 to 20,000 Hz.

The construction of the Julius Nyerere Peace and Security Building was determined in the context of the ‘Afrika Initiative’ during the German presidency of the 2007 G8 summit. The opening and transfer of the building to the AU took place on October 11, 2016 in an inauguration ceremony with Chancellor Angela Merkel and the chairwoman of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

An event celebrating the opening of Ogboh’s art-within-architecture project SONIC COMMUNITARY – The African Union: 20 to 20,000 Hz will take place with the German ambassador, representatives of the African Union and the artist present on November 4, 2016.

The exhibition PLAYBACK – The African Union: 20 to 20,000 Hz opens on November 3 to the public at the Modern Art Museum: Gebre Kristos Desta Center by the invitation of the director, Elizabeth Giorgis.

In the exhibition, Ogboh presents sound recordings and archival materials he collected through his extensive research. With multifaceted installations, Ogboh successfully interweaves historical recordings of speeches from the founding ceremony of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) 1963 with newly arranged compositions and original sound recordings. Referencing the AU motto of ‘Unity in Diversity’, the artist further adapts the hymn of the African Union into different languages from across the Continent. Through a dynamic archive of voices, songs and tones, the installation examines the past and present of the African Union, its pan-African visions and cultural legacies.

“Emeka Ogboh’s research uses the archival material of the AU as its source and therewith its vision of a ‘peaceful, prosperous and united Africa’. The artist leads us on a voyage into time and space, balancing between yesterday and today, between euphoric utopia and implacable reality, between inspirational action and endless hope“, remarks N’Goné Fall on behalf of the jury.

The jury convened experts from across the Continent: N’Goné Fall, independent curator in Dakar; Stacy Hardy, art expert and author in Johannesburg; Patrick Mudekereza, cultural producer in Lubumbashi; Alya Sebti, director of the 5th Marrakech Biennale (2014); and Berhanu Ashagrie Deribew, director of the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design in Addis Ababa. The jury was chaired by internationally renowned artist, Olafur Eliasson. A diversity of artists from throughout the Continent submitted projects for the competition. In addition to the first prize winner Emeka Ogboh (Nigeria, lives in Berlin), Theo Eshetu (Ethiopia, lives in Berlin) and Anawana Haloba (Zambia, lives in Oslo) were recognized with honorable mentions for their meritorious proposals. Voting members of the jury from Africa consulted with non-voting members during the selection process including representatives of the African Union, the Federal Foreign Office and ifa.

The selection of Emeka Ogboh, who works primarily with digital audio media, signals a fundamental shift in artistic approaches to memory culture. Elke aus dem Moore, director of the visual arts department at ifa remarks, “The jury’s selection of Emeka Ogboh’s project presents a decisive statement. It is a clear rejection of the monumental and the manifestation of memory in the monument. Instead, African self-conception will be dynamically represented with contemporary resonance. The jury’s decision was not only inspired by the compelling discussions which began during the Future Memories conference (further information and the online publication released by ifa can be found here: www.future-memories.org) but in many ways represents a continuation of these trans-African discourses in other contexts. This dialogue will also continue within Germany. In this respect, the recognition of Emeka Ogboh’s work can be seen as a signal of progress and an achievement in foreign cultural policy.”

Overall Conception: Elke aus dem Moore, director of the visual arts department at ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen)
Curator: Christina Werner


Scheduled dedication of the artwork: November 3, 2016
Location: Julius Nyerere Peace and Security Building AU

Exhibition opening: Thursday, 3. November 3, 2016, 6 PM
Location: Modern Art Museum, Gebre Kristos Desta Center, Addis Ababa

Artist talk: Friday, November 4, 2016, 2pm – 5pm (TBC)
Tuning In: Conversations on Sonic Memories. With contributions from Elizabeth Giorgis, Meskerem Assegued, Anawana Haloba, Bekele Mekonnen, Emeka Ogboh. Moderation: N‘Goné Fall
Location: Goethe-Institut Addis Ababa




Emeka Ogboh lives in Lagos, Nigeria and in Berlin. He specialises in digital audio and video media. He is the co-founder of VAN (Video Art Network) Nigeria, a platform supporting artistic endeavours in new media within Nigeria. Emeka Ogboh was a 2014 invitee of the DAAD – Berlin Artists’ Program. He has presented his impressive sound installations in various international exhibitions, including Song of the Germans, which was selected for the main exhibition of the 56th Venice Biennale by curator Okwui Enwezor. In 2015, Ogboh previewed his installation for the African Union building in the exhibition PLAYBACK – The African Union: 20 to 20,000 Hz at ifa-Galerie Berlin. He presented his sound installation LOS-BER’16 (Lagos – Berlin 2016) in the context of the AKBP-Congress “Menschen Bewegen!” (Moving People!) by the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin and he was awarded the Kunstpreis der Böttcherstraße in Bremen.

The Modern Art Museum: Gebre Kristos Desta Center is the only museum for Modern art in Ethiopia. The museum funds and exhibits Ethiopian and international artists and houses the Modern painting collection of the Ethiopian artist, Gebre Kristos Desta.

The Federal Foreign Office financed the construction of the Peace and Security Building in Addis Ababa as a representative contribution to the development of the strategic management capabilities of the African Union in the realms of conflict prevention and containment. The building will be used for the planning and implementation of future peacekeeping missions in the African Union. With this endowment, the Federal Foreign Office recognises the importance of Addis Ababa as the seat of the African Union and supports the self-assurance and strengthening of identities in African societies.

ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen), an institute for international cultural relations, supports art and cultural exchange through exhibitions, dialogues and conference programmes. As a competence centre for foreign cultural and educational policy, it facilitates links among civil societies, cultural practice, art, media and science while also initiating, moderating and documenting discussions about international cultural relations. The German Federal Foreign Office entrusted ifa with conceiving and realising the competition and with overseeing the production of the selected project.


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