Call for papers

Conference: Positioning Nigerian Modernism

Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom
Deadline: 12 May 2017

Ben Enwonwu © The Ben Enwonwu Foundation

Ben Enwonwu © The Ben Enwonwu Foundation

On the occasion of Ben Enwonwu’s Centenary (1917-1994) Tate Modern organizes a Conference on Positioning Nigerian Modernism.

Invited are proposals for 15-minute presentations from academics, research students, curators, artists and other professionals in relevant fields that aim to consider afresh the origins and socio-political underpinnings of modernism in Nigeria and West Africa more broadly and the legacy of its key proponents. Particularly welcome are papers that propose or present theoretical and practical approaches to evaluating, documenting and presenting this aspect of art history, both in Africa and beyond. Contributors based in Africa are especially encouraged to submit proposals.

Central to the examinations will be the practice and writings of Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994), who is recognized as one of the pioneers of the modern period in Nigeria, a resolute defender of the value of African culture internationally and a vociferous supporter of the politics and philosophy of Negritude. As a government art advisor in the nascent independent federation of Nigeria (1959-1968), Enwonwu also left a written legacy on the rights of African artists to self-govern their cultural progress and to manage their own arts education. In light of a burgeoning pan-African contemporary art scene, and one hundred years after Enwonwu’s birth, it is timely to reappraise his contribution, reconsider the position of Nigerian Modernism and reflect on the various ways in which African modernists may be inscribed into an international art historical canon.

Proposed themes include:

– Arts education in Africa during the colonial period and its legacy

– Art and the decolonisation process

– Post-colonial modernism and artistic movements after independence

– Cultural imperialism and negritude

– Artistic antecedents and the legacy of Ben Enwonwu

– The role of family archives in preserving African art history

– Institutionalising memory and reevaluating art history

Selected papers will be considered for publication in Tate’s peer reviewed journal, Tate Papers.

Please submit abstracts of up to 300 words together with a 100 word biography by Friday 26 May 2017 to Aubree Penney (, with ‘Positioning Nigerian Modernism’ in the subject line.

This conference is being organised by Kerryn Greenberg (Curator, International Art, Tate Modern) and Bea Gassmann de Sousa (Independent Curator) with the generous support of Yvonne Alexandra Ike and Aigboje and Ofovwe Aig-Imoukhuede.


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