Ámà: The Gathering Place Celebrates Igbo Culture All The Way From Cleveland
By Iwedi Ojinmah 4 months ago
Ámà: The Gathering Place, a new site-specific commission by Emeka Ogboh (Nigerian, b. 1977), will be presented in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Ames Family Atrium. An immersive installation integrating sound, textiles and sculpture, Ámà: The Gathering Place takes as its point of departure the social role of the atrium within the museum. A soaring light-filled space at the center of the building, the atrium is used by visitors as an area for gathering and exchange, offering a lively frame for the art on display. Ogboh describes it as the “heart and soul of the museum,” and compares it to the ámà—or village square—the physical and cultural center of Igbo life in southeast Nigeria, where he was born. “Both sites,” Ogboh explains, “are contact zones, spaces of gathering and ritual activities in their respective settingsRelated: Stepping Back In Time: Visiting Igbo Ancestors And Their Gods [Part V] .”
Following from this analogy, Ogboh (above) determined the key components of Ámà: The Gathering Place—choral music, a sculptural rendering of a tree, and textiles—all of which have roots in a traditional Igbo context but are reimagined through a contemporary global lens. In the Igbo ámà, music is typically offered for entertainment and during solemn periods by performers wearing vibrant textiles. At the CMA, recordings of original compositions performed by an Igbo choir will fill the atrium. Sharing the music’s source in Igbo folk traditions, regionally specific Akwete cloth will be integrated with sculptural objects situated throughout the space.
The Akwete on display will bear unique patterns that Ogboh has developed in collaboration with Nigerian designers. Ámà: The Gathering Place will at once respond to and transform the atrium, offering an immersive welcome to museum visitors as soon as they enter the building. This is the CMA’s first commissioned artwork for its Ames Family Atrium and part of an ongoing series of large-scale contemporary art installations that will periodically be presented in that setting.
“Ámà: The Gathering Place continues Ogboh’s multisensory approach to interpreting place, which is at the core of his art,” says Emily Liebert, curator of contemporary art, and Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, curator of African art, who are organizing the project. “Through previous audio installations, Ogboh has explored how sound impacts our experience of the world around us and has used his work to address topical issues of immigration, globalization, and postcolonialism.”
Ogboh has participated in numerous international exhibitions, including Documenta 14 (2017); Skulptur Projekte Münster (2017); the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale (2015); and Dakar Biennale (2014). In 2014 he was selected to create a public commission for the new Peace and Security building of the African Union in Addis Ababa. He was a finalist for the 2018 Hugo Boss Prize, and in 2016 he was awarded the Prize of the Bottcherstraße in Bremen. Ogboh is currently one of the inaugural fellows at Columbia’s Institute for Ideas and Imagination in Paris.