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Crossing Boundaries: Gender Transmogrification in African Art

Nkiru Nzegwu


At a 1997 international symposium organized at the National Museum of African Art in conjunction with the exhibition, The Poetics of Line: Seven Nigerian Artists, the white American curator and retired Professor Emeritus of anthropology, Simon Ottenberg, briefly recounted the history of the exhibition. He described how Professor Roy Sieber, the white deputy director of the National Museum of African Art, lured him from retirement with an offer of a Smithsonian Institution's Regent fellowship. On receiving the 1994 fellowship, Ottenberg surprised the museum by choosing as his project the research and organization of an exhibition on contemporary Nigerian art. The choice was surprising since it had been assumed that he would maximize his wealth of professional experience in anthropology, focus on an area of disciplinary strength, and possibly, organize an exhibition on some aspect of traditional African art. After extensive discussions with the late black director, Sylvia Williams, he received the mandate to curate an exhibition on the modern art of the Igbos, a group that included the Afikpo people, whom he had studied in the late 1960s.

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Ijele: Art eJournal of the African World. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editor: Nkiru Nzegwu; Film Review Editor: Phyllis J. Jackson; Exhibition/Curator & Book Review Editor: Azuka Nzegwu

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