Chika Okeke-Agulu Associate Professor
Ph.D., Emory University, 2004; M.F.A (painting), University of Nigeria, 1994
Professor Okeke-Agulu specializes in African and African Diaspora art and visual cultures. He is particularly interested in the history of modernism in Africa, and the intersection of art and politics in modern and contemporary art. He has a joint appointment with the Department for African American Studies, and is a member of executive board of the Program in African Studies. His is the author of Obiora Udechukwu: Line, Image, Text (Skira, 2016); Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria (Duke UP, 2015); and, with Okwui Enwezor, of Contemporary African Art Since 1980 (Damiani, 2009). He is coeditor of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art; guest editor of an issue of the journal African Arts on African Modernism (2006); and coeditor of Ezumeezu: Essays on Nigerian Art and Architecture, a Festschrift in Honour of Demas Nwoko (Goldline & Jacobs, 2012), and Who Knows Tomorrow (König, 2010).
As an independent curator, Okeke-Agulu has written catalogues for and organized or co-organized several canonical exhibitions, including the first major retrospective of Uche Okeke (Lagos, 1993); Nigerian pavilion at the First Johannesburg Biennale (1995); Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa (London, 1995); The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994 (Munich, 2001); Gwangju Biennale (2014), and Who Knows Tomorrow (Berlin, 2010). As an art critic, his writings have appeared in The Guardian (Lagos), Daily Times (Lagos), Artforum International (New York), Art South Africa (Johannesburg), and Bonhams Magazine (London). He sits on the editorial boards of the Journal of African American Studies, the Journal of Igbo Studies, and Calalloo-Art. A member of the board of directors of College Arts Association, and of the College & University Advisory Committee of the Barnes Foundation. He sits on the executive board of Princeton in Africa, and on the Scientific Advisory Board of the “Museum Global” project at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf.
Professor Okeke-Agulu has lectured and participated in symposiums at museums and universities in Africa, the Americas, and Europe. He has been a Woodrow Wilson Fellow (2010–11), a Fellow of the Clark Institute (2008), and Clark Visiting Professor at Williams College (2007). In 2016, he received the Frank Jewett Mather Award for Distinction in Art Criticism from the College Art Association; the Melville J. Herskovits Award, given by the African Studies Association to the author of the most important scholarly work in African studies published in English in 2015; and Distinguished Alumnus Award for contributing to the Arts, from The College of the Arts, University of South Florida. Okeke-Agulu is also an artist with more than thirty-five one-person and group exhibitions in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the United States. He writes a column for The Huffington Post, and maintains an active personal blog, Ọfọdunka: Art, Life, Politics.
Professor Okeke-Agulu teaches a broad range of graduate and undergraduate courses on African and African Diaspora arts. His seminars include “Art and the Lifecycle in Africa,” which examines the role of art in rites-of-passage events in various African societies; “Post-1945 African Photography”; “Art and Apartheid in South Africa,” which focuses on how art participated in the rise and fall of Apartheid; “Masking and Theory,” a study of theories of masking in Africa; “Postblack,” on racial identity in the work of contemporary African American artists; and “Art and Politics in Postcolonial Africa,” which examines the ways art and artists confront socio-political realities in African after the decade of political independence.
He is working on a book-length study of art in during the late-20th-century military dictatorships in Nigeria, and is preparing an exhibition of the work of Nigerian artist Obiora Udechukwu.
“Globalization, Art History, and the Specter of Difference,” in Contemporary Art: 1989 to Present, ed. Alexander Dumbadze and Suzanne Hudson (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013).
“Rethinking Mbari Mbayo: Osogbo Workshops in the 1960s, Nigeria,” in African Art and Agency in the Workshop, ed. Sidney L. Kasfir and Till Foerster (Indiana University Press, 2013).
“Ibrahim El-Salahi and Postcolonial Modernism in the Independence Decade,” in Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Visionary Modernist, ed. Salah M. Hassan (Museum for African Art, 2012).
“Mark-Making and El Anatsui’s Reinvention of Sculpture,” in El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You About Africa, ed. Lisa Binder (Museum for African Art, 2010).
“The Art Society and the Making of Postcolonial Modernism in Nigeria,” South Atlantic Quarterly 109.3 (Summer 2010).