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  • From the Editor
  • Chika Okeke-Agulu

For many years, we conceived issues of this journal as collections of individual articles, reports, and reviews, each reflecting the broad spectrum of emerging scholarship on modern and contemporary African art. Because we took the widest possible view of Africa as a place and idea that goes beyond a continent's map, but also given that we were exploring uncharted waters as the only international scholarly journal dedicated entirely to this subject, our task was to make sure, with every issue, to give our readers wide coverage of a diverse area of critical inquiry. In doing this, we encouraged submissions from critics and scholars working within and outside the continent that tracked trends in the art and discourse across the African world. We have continued to keep this mandate, more because the barely existing field we met in 1994, constituted by artistic production, its markets, and scholarship, has grown in unimaginable ways.

In 2006, we introduced a new approach to our subject; we came out with the first single-subject issue of Nka. Since that special issue on visual practices and cultures associated with lynching, past and present, we have produced many more. Indeed, in the past thirteen years we have published so many of these monographic issues that it would be fair to say they have become normative.

One good reason for the special issues is that we recognized the need for in-depth examination of specific themes and topics in our field as it expands in multiple directions. In doing so, our hope was that these editions of the journal would catalyze and consolidate vigorous scholarship and critical networks on new and established subjects or lines of inquiry in modern and contemporary African art. Another reason was that we could not depend on the increasingly meager output of academic presses to publish monographs relevant to our field. Rather, we made the crucial decision to commit our modest resources toward the production of volumes that might not see the light of day if left at the mercies of publishers unable or uninterested in what, to us, is one of the most exciting fields of art scholarship anywhere today.

With this latest edition of Nka we stepped aside momentarily from the special issue to present an array of texts that reminds us, once again, of the deep and diverse chronological, geographical, and discursive spaces of modern and contemporary African art. The collection begins with two important studies by Erica Moiah James and Tamar Garb. James argues that a meaningful engagement with Caribbean art is only possible through a discursive decolonization of art history's normative understanding of time. To do this, she examines nineteenth-century portraiture by postrevolutionary Haitian painters who appropriated Western European portrait traditions in the process of picturing modern Haitian subjectivity. In her study of two recent photographs by two South African artists, David Goldblatt and Sethembile Msezane, on the removal of Cecil John Rhodes's statue at the University of Cape Town, Garb shows how their different approaches to the same subject reflect their generational, racial, political, and conceptual positionalities.

Cherise Smith's critical reexamination of Carrie Mae Weem's appropriation of archival images for her 1995 series From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried, and Theresa Sims's critique of Samuel Fosso's parodic self-portrait as The Chief: He Who Sold Africa to the Colonists (1997), speak to the need for deepening scholarship on leading artists by subjecting even their best-known work to new readings. In another cluster of texts, Fabiana Lopes discusses Oscar Murillo's performance piece, produced in Rio de Janeiro (2014) in response to his unpleasant encounter with the "quasicolonial" context of black art and subjectivity in contemporary Brazil. Chris Spring reflects on Leo Asemota's The Ens Project (since 2005)—an archival, documentary, performance, and object-based work—in which a mixing of past and present Edo arts and culture, royal Benin objects looted by Britain in 1897 and now held by the British Museum, and readings of Walter Benjamin's influential essay on mechanical reproduction produce a new form of ethnographic-conceptual art. Ana Nolasco examines two video installation works...


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