From 29 April to 15 October 2022, the Iwalewahaus of the University of Bayreuth presents drawings and paintings by the Nigerian artist Uche Okeke (1933 – 2016). The exhibition entitled We will now go to Kpaaza. Transitions and journeys through Uche Okeke’s work highlights the significance of his oeuvre for contemporary and modern African art and aims to stimulate discussion about art as a factor of social renewal. The public is cordially invited to the vernissage on 28 April 2022, 18:00; admission is free.
Internationally, We will now go to Kpaaza. Transitions and journeys through Uche Okeke’s work is the most recent exhibition dedicated solely to the artistic work of this representative of Nigerian modernism. It was generously supported by the Cluster of Excellence Africa Multiple at the University of Bayreuth and was produced in close collaboration with the Asele Institute and the Professor Uche Okeke Legacy Limited. The exhibition highlights the importance of Uche Okeke not only as an artist but also as an educator and cultural activist. Kpaaza is a metaphor he uses for spiritual, intellectual, and creative journeys in search of self-knowledge. It appears frequently in his writings when he describes journeys to the homeland of his ancestors or to foreign countries. At the same time, Kpaaza also stands for critical questioning and lifelong learning.
The exhibition mainly shows drawings and paintings by Uche Okeke from his private collection. These days, this is known as the art collection of the Asele Institute and, in addition to his own works, includes works by his students and other artists who are now also regarded as representatives of Nigerian modernism. Materials from the archives of the Asele Institute are also on display, including exhibition posters, brochures, photographs, and objects that Uche Okekes brought back from his travels to Germany in the 1960s.
A highlight of the exhibition is a series of installations by Nigerian artist Jeremiah Ikongio. Exclusively for We will now go to Kpaaza, he has transferred Uche Okeke’s drawings and sculptures into virtual spaces through sound installations and 3D modelling, thus creating an artistic augmented reality.
We will now go to Kpaaza shows how experiences of travel and migration have influenced Uche Okeke’s artistic practice. He lived in Munich for two years, where he studied glass and mosaic techniques at the Mayer’sche Hofkunstanstalt. Here, as elsewhere, he made contacts and built up personal and professional relationships that enabled wide-ranging dialogue with many artists and cultural institutions. He described his time in Germany in his book Art in Development – A Nigerian Perspective.
Ijeoma Loren Uche-Okeke (Nigeria / South Africa) and Nantume Violet (Uganda / Germany) curated the exhibition. They link Paul Klee’s aphorism A line is a dot going for a walk with the Nigerian uli, an Igbo drawing style traditionally practised by women. Lines that connect various moments in the artist’s life and work guide visitors through the exhibition rooms. Using the oeuvre of Uche Okeke as an example, they allow visitors to share in the cultural richness that lies in the movement and encounter of people and their creative ideas.