Emeka Ogboh’s first reaction to the news that he had won the competition was as follows:
“This is great news for sound art and aspiring sound artists on the continent.”
The jury’s decision signals a fundamental change in direction with respect to art in public spaces. Emeka Ogboh specializes in digital auditive media and is one of Africa’s most promising young artists. A native of Nigeria, Ogboh is co-founder of VAN (Video Art Network) Nigeria. His impressive soundworks have been presented at a number of international exhibitions and art projects. The work he plans to develop for the African Union building will address the history, present, and future of the association of African states, forging connections between the building, its surroundings, and the city.
“Emeka Ogboh’s proposal is a poetic and yet enigmatically familiar sound installation combining recorded audio fragments to create an immersive but non-intrusive experience. It balances the intimacy of personal encounter and memory with a sweeping meditation on time, space, and language. The artwork is an intangible journey linking the African Union Peace and Security building to its garden, as well as to the AU compound and the city of Addis Ababa. It highlights the inherent tensions between ‘without’ and ‘within’, opening up a transitory space and locating a hidden pause within even the most fleeting, seemingly ordinary, moments. The result is an unpredictable imaginative experience embracing the cultural commonalities that define the soul of the African continent. This sound installation is an invitation to pause, to listen closely, and to escape. The jury hopes that it will give users and visitors of the building the inspiration to find the creative solutions that the increasingly complex problems they face daily so urgently require.”
Entries for the competition were submitted by a large number of artists from all over Africa. Alongside the winner Emeka Ogboh, the work of Theo Eshetu (Ethiopia/Senegal) and Anawana Haloba (Zambia) was singled out for praise. The jury sessions were attended not only by the all-African jury with voting rights, but also by several non-voting members: representatives of the German Foreign Office, the African Union, and the Stuttgart-based ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen), Institute for international cultural relations.
“The three-day international Future Memories conference was a critical and successful platform in which existing cultures of memory and memorials in different African cities were presented and discussed by professionals representing various African countries. The role of art in public spaces and how memory should be preserved, represented, constructed and maintained through the rapidly changing urban landscape of many African cities was reflected. The conference also generated an opportunity to develop alternative ways of thinking about how we understand memory and memorials, which actually informed and productively influenced the discussion and decision of the jury members evaluating the public art project proposals to take place in the African Union compound, at the Peace and Security building.”
Elke aus dem Moore, ifa (Director of the Art Department at the Institute for international cultural relations), summed up the process:
“I am absolutely thrilled about how fruitful the discussion has been and about the jury’s final selection of the sound artist Emeka Ogboh, which sends a crucial signal. Ogboh’s artistic practice constitutes a clear rejection of the monumental in art—of the manifestation of remembrance in monuments. The jury’s decision was clearly informed by the impressive discussion that took place at the Future Memories conference. At the same time, it represents a continuation of the trans-African discourse by other means.”
The German Foreign Office is financing the construction of the Peace and Security building in Addis Ababa as a visible contribution to strengthening the strategic management capability of the African Union with a view to conflict avoidance and conflict control. The building will be used to plan and administer future African Union peace missions.
The IFA (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen – Institute for International Cultural Relations) promotes art and cultural exchange in exhibitions, dialogue and conference programs. As a competence centre for foreign cultural diplomacy, it facilitates links among civil societies, cultural practice, art, media and research. It initiates, moderates, and documents discussions on international cultural relations.
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ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen – Institute for International Cultural Relations)
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