October 14, 2022–February 26, 2023
States of Becoming, curated by Fitsum Shebeshe, will begin its fall tour this year at The Africa Center in New York City. The exhibition contributes to the conversation about identity construction in the African Diaspora by examining the dynamic forces of relocation, resettling, and assimilation that shape the artistic practices of a group of 17 contemporary artists of African descent who have lived and worked in the United States over the past three decades.
Fitsum Shebeshe, the curator, developed States of Becoming as a result of his own experience moving from Addis Abeba to Baltimore in 2016 and seeing personally the weight of cultural assimilation. Shebeshe’s approach to institutions and culture was formed by the numerous existential issues he faced when he was thrust into a new society. Shebeshe also realized for the first time that his skin tone made him appear to be a member of a minority and that the traditional and conservative Ethiopian culture he grew up in had a significant negative impact on his feeling of self.
Having found kinship among cultural practitioners from the African Diaspora who shared his experience, Shebeshe has united artists with States of Becoming who either came to the United States over the past thirty years or who are first-generation born. The artists represented in the exhibition relocated from twelve countries in Africa and one in the Caribbean–Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe–with roots in cities across the US, including New York, Washington, D.C., New Haven, Detroit, and Los Angeles.
Every artist in the show, like Shebeshe, has a distinctive relationship to the US setting that is represented in their work. States of Becoming reveals viewpoints into many states—both geographic and emotional—in a continuous flux of social and cultural adaptations by examining these artists’ ongoing processes of self-identification, self-redefinition, and self-becoming in both local and global contexts. Work in a variety of media, including painting, photography, sculpture, installation, and video, is on display in the show and expresses the various ways in which identity is reinvented and reimagined. For instance, Amare Selfu shifts from figuration to abstraction to express transformation brought on by relocation, while Nontsikelelo Mutiti looks to hair braiding parlors of the African Diaspora.
These distinct experiences produce a sense of hybrid culture emerging out of real and imagined genealogies of cultural, racial, national, and geographic belonging.
Artists: Gabriel C. Amadi-Emina, Kearra Amaya Gopee, Kibrom Araya, Nadia Ayari, Vamba Bility, Elshafei Dafalla, Masimba Hwati, Chido Johnson, Miatta Kawinzi, Dora King, Helina Metaferia, Nontsikelelo Mutiti, Yvonne Osei, Kern Samuel, Amare Selfu, Tariku Shiferaw, and Yacine Tilala Fall
States of Becoming tours through 2027. Contact ICI’s Exhibitions Manager, Becky Nahom, at becky [at] curatorsintl.org for booking information.
Opening program: Becoming in America
Friday, October 14, 2022, 6pm EDT
Purchase tickets here.
Join Kimberli Gant (Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum), curator Fitsum Shebeshe, and artists Yvonne Osei and Helina Metaferia for a discussion . They will go through how artists and other creatives negotiate the new conceptual landscape that comes with migration, as well as how the experience of relocating between the United States and African nations is reflected in—and transformed by—their curatorial and artistic practices.
Visit The Africa Center’s website for information on future programs and tickets.
Fitsum Shebeshe is the curator of the traveling exhibition States of Becoming, which was created by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York. The Hartfield Foundation is providing lead financing as part of a program to support ICI’s dedication to young curators who will determine the field’s future and ICI’s Curatorial Intensive graduates as they advance in their careers. States of Becoming is made possible by the ICI Board of Trustees and International Forum’s kind donations. The Preferred Art Logistics Partner is Crozier Fine Arts. The Board of Trustees and donors of The Africa Center graciously donated funds to make the presentation at The Africa Center possible.
The Africa Center at Aliko Dangote Hall
1280 5th Ave
10029 New York NY