The Exhibitions

In Spring 2024, The Chrysler Museum of Art and Hampton University Museum will open two joint exhibitions curated by Tashae Smith, the Andrew W. Mellon curatorial fellow. Both exhibitions will feature art from Hampton University Museum’s Harmon Foundation Modern African Art collection and the Chrysler Museum of Art’s African Art collection.

Sankofa: Constructing Modern African Art

Sankofa means to “go back and fetch it” or “return to your past.” It is an Adinkra (series of pictorial images) used by the Akan people of Ghana to convey wisdom. The concept of returning to “the past” was fundamental to the construction of Modern African art undertaken by emerging African artists and European expatriates of the early to mid-1900s. Although there were numerous beliefs on what a new African art aesthetic should do, see, and feel like, a common thread was a “return to the sources,” which was the act of reclaiming and rehabilitating African cultures desecrated by colonization. Artists reclaimed the past for the future of African art by utilizing indigenous art forms to construct art for the modern age of African independence and globalization. They also presented the unique beauty of the African landscape and its numerous ethnic cultures and birthed new artistic identities by forming deeper connections to one’s own or foreign cultural heritage. The art within this exhibition captures artists’ utilizations of the past (i.e. pre-colonial, cultural heritage, and traditional values) to construct their versions of Modern African art. 

This exhibition will open at Hampton University Museum on April 12, 2024. It will feature paintings, prints, and sculptures from artists such as Jimo Bola Akolo, Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian, John Biggers, Rene Bokoko, Miranda Olayinka Burney-Nicol, Peter Clarke, Afi Ekong, Ben Enwonwu, Lamidi Fakeye, Vincent Kofi, Amon Kotei, Elimo Njau, Rufus Ogundele, Uche Okeke, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Gerard Sekoto, and Clara Etso Ugbodaga-Ngu.

I am Copying Nobody: The Art and Political Cartoons of Akinola Lasekan

“I am copying nobody” was stated by Akinola Lasekan (1916 – 1972) when his artistic practice was called into question. His statement reminds us that Lasekan is a pioneer of Nigerian Modern art and political cartoons. Lasekan’s art career, which only spanned thirty-eight years due to his untimely death, was brimmed with beauty, innovation, and advocacy. Lasekan utilized easel painting to capture the beauty and humanity of Nigeria and its people, while simultaneously attacking the British colonial system with nationalistic political cartoons. He mastered and used both art forms to contradict the narrative of European superiority and African inferiority. 

Lasekan’s drawings, paintings, and political cartoons showcase his hopes and dreams of a unified Nigeria rich in diversity and cultural heritage. This exhibition will encapsulate the early trailblazing career of Akinola Lasekan, an artist who can rightfully claim that he copied nobody.

This exhibition will open at the Chrysler Museum of Art on April 13, 2024. It will feature drawings and paintings Lasekan sent to the Harmon Foundation in 1947 and 1961.