Final Symposium: Mining Collections

Mining Collections FINAL small

Friday 29th of June – Saturday 30th of June 2018

Some configurations of African Modernisms in institutional collections

This final public symposium brings together the international researchers of the project African Art History and the Formation of a Modern Aesthetic. Since 2016, they have been engaged with three collections of African modernism: the Makerere Art Gallery / IHCR, Makerere University in Kampala, the Weltkulturenmuseum in Frankfurt a.M. and the Iwalewahaus, Bayreuth University. The different research topics are very diverse and span from an in-depth engagement with singular artworks to broader questions about collecting art for public collections.

The team of this research project is composed of experienced and young professionals in art history, visual studies, curatorial studies, museology, archival studies and anthropology as well as artists. Hailing from Germany, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, Great Britain and the US they came together to examine notions and configurations of African modernism and modernity in a trans- and interdisciplinary frame, starting from the three art collections. Marked by the collectors Ulli Beier and Jochen Schneider, the main focus of the collections at Iwalewahaus and the Weltkulturen Museum is on artworks from Nigeria and Uganda respectively. Schneider acquired the bigger part of his collection directly from the Makerere art school and gallery environment. Beier started to collect modern Nigerian art while living in Nigeria in the 1960s. His collection forms the core of today’s Iwalewahaus Collection. The individual (hi)stories and contents of the three collections are suitable as objects of research in order to understand collector’s motivations and strategies but also the role of institutions in the formation of the modern canon. In addition, their complex connections have to be part of the revisiting. Hereby, the focus lies also on the artworks themselves and the collections understood as structures and networks.

The research was accompanied by an extended programme of internal and public workshops, for instance the public symposium “(Hi)Stories of Exhibition Making / 1960-1990” at the National Museum in Kampala during the Kampala Art Biennale 2016, a lecture series organised by the BIGSAS workgroup “Aesthetics” at Iwalewahaus in Bayreuth with speakers like Salah Hassan (Cornell University, Ithaca) Atta Kwami (Kumasi, Ghana), Smooth Nwezi-Ugochukwu (Cleveland Museum, Ohio), Raphael Chikukwa (National Gallery of Zimbabwe), Elsbeth Court (SOAS London) as well as panels and paper presentations at international conferences (among others ECAS in Basel, ACASA in Accra). Another highlight is the exhibition “Feedback – Art, Africa and the Eighties” that is currently on display at Iwalewahaus. The research will eventually be disseminated in a number of publications in books and peer-reviewed journals as well as doctoral dissertations.

In the context of the symposium, the first results of the research project will be publicly discussed. From different perspectives, the three art collections have been investigated by the international researchers. The collection practises have been in the centre of attention: who collected what and when? How can we contextualize these practises? How did they contribute to the constitution of a canon of African Modernism? What can we learn for collection and exhibition practises of today?

The symposium brings together experts to give possible answers to these questions in different formats – lectures, conversations and Icon Lab Session.

Next to the presentations of the core team members Katharina Greven (Iwalewahaus); George Kyeyune (Makerere Art Gallery / Institute of Heritage Conservation and Restoration, Kampala); Katrin Peters-Klaphake (Makerere Art Gallery/IHCR and Iwalewahaus); Yvette Mutumba (Contemporary And, Berlin) and Nadine Siegert (Iwalewahaus) we are very happy to welcome our international advisory board members Chika Okeke-Agulu (Princeton University, New Jersey), Rowland Abiodun (Amherst College, Massachusetts), Elsbeth Court (SOAS, London) and Salah Hassan (Cornell University, Ithaca) and the guest researchers Julia Friedel (Weltkulturen Museum Frankfurt/Main), Bea Gassmann de Sousa (Agency Gallery, London), Angelo Kakande (Makerere University, Kampala), Bärbel Küster (Kunsthistorisches Institut, Universität Zürich), Ijeoma Uche-Okeke (Uche Okeke Foundation, Johannesburg), Polly Savage (SOAS, London) and Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa (University of Bergen). The junior researchers Lena Naumann (Iwalewahaus) und Siegrun Salmanian (DAAD, University of Khartoum) will also present their first research steps.

We are also very glad to welcome Ibrahim El Salahi as our Guest of Honour. Some of his early works are part of the Iwalewahaus collection and he has already been a guest of Iwalewahaus in the 1980s.

The project is hosted by Iwalewahaus, University of Bayreuth and sponsored within the program “Forschung in Museen” (research in museums) by VolkswagenStiftung. The conference is generously supported by BIGSAS and the Institute of African Studies (IAS), both University of Bayreuth.

Please register here if you are interested in attending the symposium:

You can find the detailed program here.

Symposium African Modernisms

Public Program

Friday, 29.06.2018

9:00 h Coffee and registration

9:30 h Welcome Notes

10:15 – 11:45 h: Panel I
Moderation: Fabian Lehmann

  1. Rowland Abiodun: “A River that forgets its source will dry up”: In Search of the Source of “Modernism” in African Art
  2. Bea Gassman de Sousa: What Ulli Beier loves: On collecting and (self-)perception
  3. Katharina Greven: Longing for a ‘Home’ – The Phantasy Africa of the Art Patrons Ulli and Georgina Beier within their archive
  4. Nadine Siegert: Politicizing Collections: Modern African Art in the Cold War Context

11:45 – 12:15 h: Coffee/Tea break

12:15 – 13:00 h: Tour through the Iwalewahaus collection

13:00 – 14:00 h: Lunch Break

14:00 h – 15:30 h: Panel II
Moderation: George Kyeyune

  1. Julia Friedel: Unknown Aspects in the Collection of Contemporary Art at the Weltkulturen Museum
  2. Yvette Mutumba: Two-week Research at Makerere Art Gallery
  3. Katrin Peters-Klaphake: Can a collection speak?
  4. Angelo Kakande: ‘Schneider’s Collection in Germany’: Overlapping interests, shared experiences, visually productive negotiations

15:30 h – 16:00 h: Coffee/Tea break

16:00 h – 17: 15 h: Panel III
Moderation: Katrin Peters-Klaphake

  1. Elsbeth Court: ‘Feedback’ with Jak (Katarikawe)
  2. Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa: How the discourse of free expression figures in the foundational narratives of art education in Nigeria and the Ugandan Protectorate (Working title).
  3. Bärbel Küster: Slade as a Facilitator of African Modernity
  4. Atta Kwami: Ghana Art Worlds – A Chronology for the Emergence of Modern Art in Ghana (Text)

17:15 h: Guided tour Feedback exhibitio

Saturday, 30.06.2018

9:00 h -10:30 h: Panel IV
Moderation: Siegrun Salmanian

  1. Lena Naumann: From „Devil’s Dog” to the Flying Tortoise – towards a Phd project
  2. Chika Okeke-Agulu: Printmaking and the Nsukka School
  3. Ijeoma Okeke: What kind of Work would be pertinent to Natural Synthesis in the 21st. Century?
  4. Iheanyi Onwuegbucha: From Agony to Ecstasy: Finding Colette Omogbai

10:30 h – 11:00 h: Coffee/Tea break

11:00 h – 12:30 h: Panel V
Moderation: Katharina Greven

  1. Salah Hassan: Cracks in the Colonial Wall: Western expatriate and the Khartoum School
  2. Siegrun Salmanian: Recollected: The “Sudanese” artworks
  3. Polly Savage: Rethinking Malangatan
  4. George Kyeyune:‘New Conversations’ – New Strands in Art

12:30 h -14:00 h: Lunchbreak

14.30 h – 16:00 h: Final plenary discussion on achievements and prospects
Moderation: Nadine Siegert

16:30 h – 18:00 h: Icon Lab
Moderation: Lena Naumann and Siegrun Salmanian

Project Manager:

Nadine Siegert, Iwalewahaus, Universität Bayreuth,, 0921-554503

Symposium Organisation:

Katrin Peters-Klaphake, Iwalewahaus, Universität Bayreuth

Katharina Greven, Iwalewahaus, Universität Bayreuth,

Press Contact:

Workshop #3 and ACASA Conference

ACASA 17th Triennial Symposium on African Art (August 8th-13th 2017)

“Collections as Networks, Artworks as Agents: African Modernism and Institutional Art Collections”

Sunday, 11.08.2017, Main Conference Room, University of Legon

9h-12.30h Presentations with Nadine Siegert and as Chair
Chika Okeke-Agulu as Discussant

This panel presented the research project “African Art History and the Formation of a Modern Aesthetic” – a cooperation between the Iwalewahaus (Bayreuth), Makerere Art Collection (Kampala) and the Museum of World Cultures (Frankfurt) that are all connected to German collecting activities. Based on the assumption that African Modernism is linked with the imposition of modernity, the colonial experience and decolonization in the context of the independences, the works from the collections reflect African artists’ encounter and critical response to the modern condition but also the engagement of European art patrons and collectors, whose motivations undoubtedly shaped thecomposition of collections of modern African art. Therefore we examine not only the individual collections but also the links between them. This is done by critically reconstructing them as networks and by exploring object biographies of selected works. The first part of the panel presented rather conceptual and methodological approaches of the project whereas the second part focused on different individual research
projects within the research group.

  • Collections as Networks: Methodological Approaches within the Research Project, African Art History and the Formation of a Modern Aesthetic (Lena Naumann)

This paper seeks to examine the methodological approaches within the research project „African Art History and the Formation of a Modern Aesthetic“. It explores the three collections of Iwalewahaus, University of Bayreuth, Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt and the Makerere Art Gallery, Kampala from an innovative angle by highlighting the complexities and interconnections that lie behind all collections and their very own histories. The project will map the trajectories that the artworks in focus have followed, the networks that both formed and have been formed by the collections through time and the various kinds of agency interacting with them. The histories of the collections will be examined by applying basically three different methodological approaches, which are reconstructing object biographies, investigating collections as networks including Latour’s Actor-Network-Theory and considering collection strategies and agencies. The idea of object biographies builds on the concept of sequences of production and consumption of artifacts and underlines how practices of exchange, ownership and use affect the way in which an artifact is understood. An analysis of networks shall be carried out, thus taking the collections and artworks serious as agents active in forming social relationships. By reference to selected examples out of the collections like the „Devil’s Dog“ by the Nigerian artist Twins Seven Seven, the paper will present intermediate results and outcomes.

  • The Construction of a Modern Artist: The Phantasy Africa of the European Art Patrons Ulli and Georgina Beier (Katharina Greven)

This presentation deals with images sensu lato produced by the European art patron, literary critic, linguist and teacher Ulli Beier and his wife, the artist Georgina Beier, who lived in Nigeria from 1950 to 1967, and again from 1974 to 1978. Their archive includes a collection of predominantly modern art from Africa, the estate containing various documents and photos, and the institutions they created in Nigeria (as well as in Papua New Guinea, Germany and Australia). It also shows first of all how the Beiers generated their own image of Africa developed during the time they lived in Nigeria and how they perceived their own role within the emerging art scene as well as the construction of the ‘modern artist’. However, these personal matters were clearly linked to the political climate in the newly independent Nigeria, to the emerging generation of postcolonial intellectuals, and to the merging of different narrations and interpretation of individual and collective histories. An exemplary iconological analysis of images, proposed as one possible reading of an archive, covering a period between 1950 and 1982 from the Beier archive is provided, following common steps, i.e. description, interpretation and analysis (according to Panofsky 1975) and will show their artistic and political agenda, their idea of a ‘modern art’ canon but also their personal search for a ‘new home’: a place of belonging and existence, where they could live their phantasies and fulfill their desires.

  • Nigerian Modernism and the Iwalewahaus Collection (Smooth Ugochukwu-Nzewi)

The emergence of nation-states in postcolonial Africa helped to fashion national modernisms out of the multivalent idiosyncratic sensibilities of the different cultural groupings in each of the countries. These many modernisms would evolve as countries grappled with the cycles of nation building, moving from the promises of political independence to the nightmarish realism of the postcolonial. The 1980s was a decade of transition in the fields of culture and the arts as a result of changes in the economic and political fortunes in many African countries. As postcolonial aspirations unraveled, artists began to seek individual career opportunities, moving outside of their countries of origin, and establishing contact with networks with western institutions. Germany was a receptive space for African artists through the Goethe-Institut, which facilitated linkages and exchanges between African artists and a coterie of German institutions. Established by the late Ulli Beier who had a longstanding relationship with Nigeria, Iwalewahaus was one of the few exceptions that forged direct linkages with artists. It served as an important gateway for African art in Germany in the 1980s. Many Nigerian artists, including Obiora Udechukwu, Rufus Ogundele, and Muraina Oyelami, spent considerable amount of time in Bayreuth making art and participating in a range of activities under the auspices of the artist residency offered at Iwalewahaus. My paper explores a domineering portrait of Nigerian modernism that has since emerged at Iwalewahaus by looking at the institution’s activities, exhibitions, and collecting practices particularly in the 1980s.

  • Trajectories of Modern Artworks and Collections: A Study of Links Between Uganda and Germany (Katrin Peters-Klaphake)

This contribution is a presentation of my on-going research on concepts and manifestations of modernism in the collection of Makerere Art Gallery/ Institute of Heritage Conservation and Restoration (IHCR), Kampala, and in collections comprising of artworks assembled by German collectors mostly in the Makerere environment between the 1960s and 1990s. The estate of the late Jochen Schneider is a large private collection that has been incorporated into the collection at the Museum of World Cultures in Frankfurt/Main. Another smaller one is still with its German collector Klaus Betz in Kampala. Since the repository at Makerere Art Gallery/IHCR can be seen as a source for the other collections, the comparative analysis of the three collections and their specific histories is a core element of my study. The research aim is a reconstruction and analysis of the entangled collection histories through an examination of the trajectories of individual objects as well as the transition of collections. Another important part is the research of the very under-documented history of exhibition practices in Uganda and of art from Uganda abroad. The presentation will take an exemplary look at the biographies of selected objects by taking the histories of the collections into consideration, i.e. Makerere collection as an archive of the art school, Schneider’s and Betz’ different approaches to private collecting and Agthe’s acquisition of art works within the strategic framework of building a collection of contemporary art from African countries in an ethnographic museum in Germany.

  • Modern Art in Uganda in the last 15 years: Stretching the Boundaries (George Kyeyune)

Ronex is a painter who graduated from Makerere Art School in 2000, at the time of reawakening and expansion of Uganda’s visual culture. Ronex has argued as follows “I did Fine Art at Makerere …. no it does not feature [the technique], but I did learn the basics. Art education is a springboard…. no one can teach you art, but it is good to know the history and principles” (Ronex interviewed by Mildred Apenyo, Dec. 3rd, 2012). Ronex represents a new dynamic in art in Uganda where college art education has found itself often at variance with the realities and expectations of local audience. Yet at the same time, Ronex’s remarks also suggest that within these apparent regimented training conditions it was possible for a blend of tradition in the wake of modern realities to occur. The Ugandan audience today is varied and complex, so is the art produced. While the expatriate community still control much of the art market, and therefore have in certain ways influenced its direction, the mediation of the private sector and progressive collectors have in the recent past made it possible for artists to hold their own. The scope of art has expanded from a narrow and predictable “painted image” to more versatile and adventurous bold statements. Artists are unbounded by the phobia of approval. This paper examines these new strands in Uganda’s art production, education consumption and display in the last 15 years; strands that have changed our perception and
appreciation of art.

  • Modern Aesthetics? A Study of the Work of Kamala Ishaq (Siegrun Salmanian)

Throughout the oeuvre of one of the first female Sudanese artists in the 20th century, Khartoum School Graduate Kamala Ishaq, the engagement with the features of the human face constitutes the pertinent characteristic. This paper analyses selected pieces from her work and also examines it in relation to a specific subject matter appearing in the compositions of Ibrahim El Salahi. Both artists, from the same century concentrate in many works on the capture of the human and the suffering. Their works represent a fruitful comparison as El Salahi and Ishaq make use of similar expressive iconography in parts of their work. Regarding the evolution of modern aesthetics in (African) art history, this presentation seeks to decipher significant elements beyond form. This research is part of the project African Art history and the Formation of a Modern Aesthetic. It is part of the field of (Re-)Writing African art history, which aims to position the work of African artists in the context of broader art history and to contribute to its critical debate.

Prague and Collection Iwalewahaus pt.3

Our research in the collections brought us to reveal links between the formerly private collection of Ulli and Georgina Beier and the collections of the Náprstek Museum in Prague. In February 2017, senior researcher Katharina Greven and junior researchers Lena Naumann and Siegrun Salmanian went to visit the custodian of the collection, Jana Jiroušková and could confirm the strong links of the collections. In the early 1970s, via diplomatic transfers, the Beier’s collection travelled to exhibitions and Europe, one important point was the ethnographic museum in Prague which never saw a contemporary art exhibition before and which focused on a progressive program under the directorship of Dr. Erich Herold. Interesting is, that parts of the formerly whole collection ended up in Prague – first as permanent loans, later as a donation.  This part of the collection is complementary to works preserved in Iwalewahaus collections and includes pieces by Asiru Olatunde as well as a series of behind glass paintings from different artists from Benin as well as some hardboard paintings and a few calebasses. These works were formerly longtime exhibited in the Museum of Popular Art in Oshogbo.

(c) Katharina Greven, Collection Research in Náprstek Museum Collection, Katharina Greven, Jana Jiroušková, Lena Naumann, Siegrun Salmanian
(c) Katharina Greven, Collection Research in Náprstek Museum Collection, Katharina Greven, Jana Jiroušková, Lena Naumann, Siegrun Salmanian


Cooperation with L’internationale

Our project is manifesting itself on a relevant and exciting place within the internet! L’internationale platform contains research topics and projects as well as publications and opinions by wonderful contemporary authors who comment and reflect on nowadays artistic practices and its political, social and future entanglement. A strong parallel of interest with our project is the analysis of and engagement with the modernist period in neglected art geographies and the urge to rewrite and apply critical approaches to art history. Every week a contribution by one of our core researchers will reveal some insight into our research interests – projects and thoughts. Follow us here as well!


Collection Makerere Art Gallery & Iwalewahaus pt.2

Since end of January, junior researcher &  manager of Makerere Art Gallery,Kampala, Hasifa Mukyala is doing a training in archiving and working in all different museum tasks at Iwalewahaus, Bayreuth. Her focus lays on working with the collections, especially in what concerns inventorisation and preservation due to the difficulties of a continuous documentation of the collections and of proper storing of graphic works and paintings in Kampala.

In Bayreuth, Hasifa Mukyala continues working on Makerere’s painting collection using a standardised format and developing the one’s still to be done such as loan contracts. In addition, she also uses the time at Iwalewahaus for readings of the texts  and writes an object biography about Kefa Sempangi’s Mother and Child, a sculpture of Makerere Collection which is situated in a church on campus.

Through supervised work with the different collections at Iwalewahaus, Hasifa Mukyala gains professional knowledge with textile works, graphic works, paintings, sculptures as well as archival materials such as photographs, diapositives etc. Other advices were given and practically applied like strategies and preparations of press work, exhibition preparation, photography.

(c) Siegrun Salmanian. Hasifa Mukyala preparing the storing of a graphic by Uche Okeke in Iwalewahaus Collection

Collection Makerere Art Gallery pt.2

From October 2016 on, Martha Kazungu continued the whole process of inventorization that Lara Buchmann and Siegrun Salmanian began in August/September with assistance and in close communication with the East Africa-based team members George Kyeyune and Katrin Peters-Klaphake as well as with Iwalewahaus-based research group. Her focus lay on completing the documentation and preservation of the remaining works of the graphic collection. Emerging difficulties such as the temporary closing of the university campus by the government were overcame with further work with the already gathered object-based data in form of reports.

(c) Hasifa Mukyala, Martha Kazungu working in Makerere Art Gallery Collection

Collection Makerere Art Gallery Pt.1

After the public symposium (Hi)Stories of Exhibition Making 1960 -1990, a further, more practical cooperation between Iwalewahaus colleagues and the Kampala based research group at Makerere University began. Siegrun Salmanian and Lara Buchmann were invited to suppport the work with the collection at Makerere Art Gallery. The rest of the month September until October, both of them inventoried a major part of the graphic collection at Makerere Art Gallery. That process included cleaning, minor restoring techniques such as removing mounting boards, measuring, gathering data, photographing, creating a standardized system, digitizing as well as the proper storing of the work. This task became a necessity not only as it is crucial for the research with the collection but also because the first consequent inventorization process of the collection was begun only for the major part of the collection – paintings, and no archival base neither for graphics, photographs, sculptures, ceramics nor installations was made. Meanwhile junior researcher Hasifah Mukyala continued with the process of inventorying the paintings.Senior researchers George Kyeyune and Angelo Kakande were consulted from time to time to clarify questionmarks concerning the artists of the graphics. The last days of their work, they introduced Martha Kazungu to the tasks to continue the project as a pile of graphics was found again, between the major part of stored paintings, when they had finished their work.

(c) Martha Kazungu - Siegrun Salmanian & Lara Buchmann workin g at Makerere Art Gallery Collection (1).JPG
(c) Martha Kazungu – Siegrun Salmanian & Lara Buchmann working at Makerere Art Gallery Collection