NKATA is an Igbo word from the language spoken by the Igbo people of Nigeria. It simply means "Conversation". Thus this podcast series will feature conversations with selected individuals (artists, cultural operators, and creatives) whose work I have known – some over many years and others, a little less so. What sets them apart is that I consider them and their works to be compelling, engaging and relevant to the time. The idea of this podcast is to have in-depth but also accessible conversations about who these individuals are, their life’s journeys and how this translates into their vocation as creative people. Conversations will depart from exploring the background of the artists' personal history while meandering through key themes, positions, and ideologies central to their works. Each episode will feature one conversation with a selected artist. Emeka Okereke (Host).
EP14: "Move one foot in front of the other, and you will find your road". Nkata with Jide Adeniyi-Jones
Jide Adeniyi-Jones (b. Lagos, 1952) is a Nigerian documentary photographer based in Lagos and Washington, DC. He credits the English photographer John Vickers for paving his way into photography in 1972. Since then, he has worked across various sectors of the discipline, including advertising, private media, civic service, and contemporary art.
Having been a photographer for most of Africa's post-independence era, he has witnessed and documented many key political events in the continent as they unfolded. Yet, to those who know him within the profession, Adeniyi-Jones has put his humanity and nuanced way of reading the world at the service of those behind the viewfinder as much as he has of his camera. Moreover, through masterclasses, mentorship programs, jury activities, and informal tutelage, he has, over the years, transmitted his sensibilities to younger professionals in ways that transcend the scope of any documented account. Thus, in many ways, he has contributed to the foundation of thought and ethics of contemporary Nigerian photography, of which many photographers/artists of today are fortunate beneficiaries.
In the 14th episode of Nkata: Art & Processes, Adeniyi-Jones takes us back on memory lane through expansive recollections of noteworthy events of his life and practice that underscores his passion for photography and devotion to social issues. He takes the listener through the ethics of photography accrued over so many years of experience telling stories of everyday persons to explain what he means when he says, "Photography forces you to establish a point of view."
For those searching for the wealth of hindsight, this podcast conversation is an encouraging companion in the interminable journey of growth. This is aptly captured, towards the last minutes of the conversation, when he says, "Move one foot in front of the other, and you will find the road."
Guest: Jide Adeniyi-Jones
Host: Emeka Okereke
Production: Atelier E.K Okereke
Production Assistant: Tom Saater
Photography: Tom Saater
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Ep13: "When I use the term Afropolitanism, it refers to the "becoming planetary" of our predicament." Nkata with Achille Mbembe.
Achille Mbembe is no doubt one of the most influential philosophers of the 21st century. Born in Cameroun in 1957, the year that ushered in a ricochet of the independence of African nations – also known as the year of Kwame Nkrumah – in many ways, his work and disposition could be summarised as an embodiment of the spirit of the future. In this conversation moderated by Emeka Okereke for the 13th episode of Nkata Podcast, Art and Processes, Mbembe generously opens up personal spaces to offer intimate knowledge through which the intentions behind his work can be grasped.
Starting with key moments that marked his childhood, he weaves strands of trajectories together while paying tribute to the two people that mattered most in his life: his parents. He speaks of his mother as the one who taught him what joy is all about such that his life's work becomes an ongoing attempt to transform joy into hope.
The passing of his father was the most remarkable moment for him. It was also the moment he became, in all sense of the world, a person born into a "planetary world".
Throughout the conversation, his voice is measured, calm, and thoughtful, yet grounded in the conviction of its cadence. He expands on Afropolitanism, a concept which he helped to coin:
"When I use the term Afropolitanism, it refers to the "becoming planetary" of our predicament."
Most remarkably, the conversation incites the listener to contemplate a world whose cartography is in contestation without evading the indispensable question: what will become of our future in such a world whereby the rate at which we encounter each other is intensified? Mbembe offers a few pointers:
"The question becomes: What are the lines of flight that allow for a modicum of respiration – that allow for the disruption of the logic of suffocation?"
"We live in a state of interminable predicament. We have to learn to live with it in a way that is not sterile – that allows an opening to keep nurturing, at the very least, the spirit of resistance. We have to keep open the possibility of a horizon".
Although not directly, he invites the listener to re-read and re-understand the works of such influential thinkers as Frantz Fanon, Edouard Glissant and Toni Morrison for how they elucidate our times and serve as beacons for the future.
This conversation adds yet another layer of lucidity to thoughts, ideas, and propositions expounded in such seminal works as "The Critic of Black Reason", "Necropolitics", and "Out of The Dark Night" for which Mbembe is deservedly known.
Who would benefit from listening to this conversation? Anyone who is genuinely committed and, by extension, tangibly hopeful about the future of our planet.
Runtime: 73 mins.
Photo Credit: Herby Sachs
Production: E.O Multimedia LTD.
Conceptualisation: Atelier E.K Okereke
Host: Emeka Okereke
Guest: Achille Mbembe
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EP12: "We are workers of the Spirit". Nkata with Koyo Kouoh
The 12th episode of Nkata Podcast: Art & Processes features a conversation with Koyo Kouoh.
Koyo Kouoh is a Cameroonian-born curator. She is a leading figure in the Contemporary art world. More specifically, she is one of the pioneers who helped shape and articulate contemporary art practices from the African continent and beyond. Her work is rooted in community and institution-building through collaborations. She is the founder of RAW MATERIAL COMPANY, an art space in Dakar that promotes critical thinking and knowledge production through artistic activities. She is currently the Executive Director and Chief Curator of Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town.
Her work spans geography in a tentacular manner and no given order. So, suppose one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century is the limitations that come with mapping and shaping of the borders of the world. In that case, she is one of those remapping and tangibly affecting culture through her movement and way of being in the world.
The podcast conversation starts with Koyo recounting her earlier days. Then, prompted by Emeka Okereke, she dwells extensively on the experiences that propelled her towards her vocation as a curator.
She speaks of her encounter with Toni Morrison's Beloved, the birth of her son; her work as the editor of the German version of Magaret Busby's Daughters of Africa (1992), and meeting of the late avant-garde Senegalese artist Issa Samb. These encounters – layered unto her upbringing (having been born, raised and "bathed in the care of extra-ordinary women") in Cameroun before moving, with her mother, to France and Switzerland at the age of 13 – served as the earliest compass in a world and discipline that she would eventually help forge.
Yet, throughout the conversation, Koyo reiterates the half-truth of merely understanding her work simply as a curator.
"This is not a job. We are workers of the spirit".
The conversation meanders through myriad recollections of Koyo Kouoh's trajectory while elaborating on how they feed into her professional practice.
"I believe in Professional Genealogy".
Faithfully keeping steps with her pace of thoughtful word choices, the conversation makes a running thread from Koyo's dedication to her relationships with artists and young professionals and how that has shaped her notion of institution building.
Koyo's words are a beacon, just as they are a backbone, for artists and art practitioners interested in the wealth of hindsight.
If not for the nuggets of wisdom scattered across the length of the episode, let it be for her concluding words when she speaks of her responsibility in managing a 9,500 square metres space as the Director of Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Arts in Cape Town. It exemplifies the disposition Toni Morrison refers to as "Careful Optimism". In other words, we do this for joy. We do this for hope. We do this for posterity. There is nothing to prove beyond that. Yes, the work is cut out for us. Yet, the possibilities of our agency and subjectivity are humbling as much as they are empowering.
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Bonus: Welcome Message to Paid Subscribers
A short message from host and producer, Emeka Okereke to (paid) subscribers. We look forward to making this journey with you.
EP11: "We were brought up to strive for Eloquence". Nkata with Olu Oguibe
Olu Oguibe (b.1964, Aba) is a Nigerian artist and academic living and working in the United States of America. He is one of the foremost scholars of his generation whose work constitutes a pillar of what we now know as Contemporary African art and post-colonial studies. Since 1988, he has saddled a rigorous and prolific artistic practice as a visual artist, writer, curator, professor and art historian. Put succinctly, a credible account of the history and trajectory of Post-colonial/Contemporary art from Africa and the Diaspora is unimaginable without referencing the work of Olu Oguibe.
In conversation with Emeka Okereke for the 12th Episode of Nkata: Art & Processes, Oguibe relives his childhood days growing up in the East of Nigeria. He credits his artistic inclinations to the peculiarity of his childhood upbringing and the circumstances into which he was born. Like James Baldwin or Fela Kuti, Oguibe was born a preacher's son. In the same vein, his birth preceded, by just three years, one of the most defining wars of independence struggles in the 20th century: The Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967 - 1970.
The two hours long conversation takes, as a marker, three poems from the book, "I am Bound To This Land By Blood" – an anthology of poems by Oguibe, written over 25 years. This anthology could easily be considered a sojourner's handbook. To say the least, it lays bare some of the thoughts and emotions underpinning the condition of Exile. It allows us a glimpse into visceral yet convoluted experiences of Patriotism, Love, Conscience, Self and Home(lessness).
The poems set the premise for delving into anecdotes and recollections upon which Oguibe's lifelong preoccupation threads.
He comes full circle when he insists that, all along, his has been "a search for eloquence". However, he anticipates a misreading here by grounding this notion of eloquence in the Igbo cosmology and artistic aesthetics as embodied in the works of Obiora Udechukwu and Chinua Achebe.
The conversation is riddled with references to pioneers who, working in the 20th century, paved the way for the 21st. Each name referenced is a door of history opening out to divergent trajectories. We encourage the listeners of this podcast to further research the practices of all those referenced. The tapestry of history is rich and multilayered!
The podcast is marked with timestamps to help the listener navigate the conversation.
0:00 – Early days, Family home, being Biafran and Nigerian.
10:15 – I am bound to this land by blood. The prophetic vision.
36: 40 – Conscience as a sojourner's totem
49:50 – Do Not Forget where you come from/ new Diaspora.
59:00 – The disposition of those who came before us.
90:30 – In Search of eloquence from earlier to recent body of work.
97:20 – Love, Self-love, The Road, Home(lessness).
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EP10: We are trying to remember the future and rewrite the past. Nkata with Qudus Onikeku
In episode 10 of Nkata: Art & Processes, Emeka Okereke is in Conversation with Qudus Onikeku (b. 1984, Lagos), a Nigerian contemporary dancer, performer and Choreographer. He has been active and consistently prolific since 2004, so much that one cannot knowledgeably talk about the practice and evolution of contemporary dance in the 21st century without stumbling on the name Onikeku. As with many notable artists who came of age at the dawn of the century, he embodies the belief that art is only as important as what one can do and change with art.
This long-form conversation builds on the cordial, professional and collaborative relationship between the two artists dating back to their encounter as art students in Paris in 2004. It is a reminiscence of how much of the longs hours of exchanges on ideas, concepts, urges and dreams have coalesced into tangible forms and methodologies today. In this episode, we get a sense of the fundamental beliefs that, over the years, have stacked up to form an indomitable propellant for this tirelessly itinerant artist.
“It was already by then that I realised that freedom of expression is not free”.
He starts with his childhood days, and how growing up in a polygamous home taught him one of the first lessons that would be crucial for his artistic practice: co-existence. The only way to walk towards a sense of self and freedom is to allow space for others to express their freedom as well.
Much of the conversation dwells extensively on the complexness, language and constitution of the body as with when he says: “There is something divine about dance and this whole conversation about the the body. Our body is the house of everything”.
All through, Onikeku manages to ground his inferences on his knowledge of the Yoruba cosmology. His delineation of the connection between image, performance, remembering and reincarnation in this regard, is one of the most vivid and picturesque illustration of this relationship which is often at the heart of any visual art-making.
The overarching premise could be surmised in this reference made in the course of the conversation:
“Bob Marley said “We have to fulfil the Book”, but now the book has been shattered, thorn into pieces and thrown into different parts of the world. To gather that book together [to articulate, to re-imagine history], you must be attentive. You must be observant, you must see with your inner eyes.”
Here, we return to the dispersal, the truncated cartography, a damaged, disparate and multi-contextual world within which our proactive movement engender its healing and, in turn, the restitution of consciousness.
When Onikeku speaks of the “wholeness of consciousness”, he speaks of a possible culmination of the Fanonian human being – those whose struggles, grit, defiance are transformed into a celebration of the imagination rather than an indictment. In other words, “we are trying to remember the future and rewrite the past.
Duration: 103 mins.
Host: Emeka Okereke
Guest: Qudus Onikeku
Production: Atelier E.K Okereke / E.O Multimedia
Photography: Kayode Oluwa
Listen on: nkatapodcast.com
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