Counterculture ‘Burning Man’ Art Takes Washington By Storm

“Paper Arch” by Michael Garlington and Natalia Bertotti is seen during a preview of the “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” exhibition at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC on March 29, 2018. Mandel NGAN / AFP

 

Immersive art from a famed desert festival in the American West has swept into Washington, infusing the buttoned-up US capitol with countercultural spirit.

“No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man,” which opens Friday at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, celebrates the annual late-summer gathering that sees a temporary city of some 75,000 people spring up in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

For a single week, massive experiential art installations tower over the dusty metropolis before Burning Manparticipants torch many of the works, including a giant wooden statue of a man, as a ritual embracing decommodification and temporality.

Thought it is perhaps best known for its bacchanalian atmosphere favoring sex and drugs, the annual event that started small in 1986 has evolved into a serious cultural and artistic movement, said the Renwick’s crafts curator Nora Atkinson, who spearheaded the show.

She pushed to welcome the radical art of the desert to the rarefied environment of the museum because “it really stands out from a lot of the work being done in the contemporary art world,” she said.

She also highlighted the freewheeling show’s location just steps from the White House.

“I think it’s really important at times like this — when the world is so cynical, when people are so at odds — that we have this kind of healing force,” she said. “It’s all about empowering people.”

“We build the world that we want to live in.”

– Visual hedonism –

Though it drew comparisons to predecessors including the anarchic Dadaists and large-scale land art movement, Burning Man is a choice destination for techies from neighboring Silicon Valley looking to unwind.

That’s no coincidence, according to Atkinson, who attended her first Burning Man last year.

“The further we get into our digital sphere the more we sort of strive for that humanity around us,” she told AFP at an exhibition preview, standing in the massive, intricate wooden “Temple” installation that encompasses the museum’s cavernous Grand Salon hall.

The show — which follows “The Art of Burning Man” exhibition that went on display at a Virginia museum last year — includes both surviving pieces from past festivals and newly commissioned works.

The visually decadent installations — 14 in the 19th-century era Renwick building and six spilling outdoors into the surrounding neighborhood — featured in the show bridge the worlds of fine art and craft, with a focus on works that make use of reclaimed materials.

“Tin Pan Dragon,” for example, is a dragon-esque vehicle crafted from reclaimed aluminum cookware.

And the 14-foot “Ursa Major” sculpture — one of the several public art pieces installed in the surrounding streets where politicians and lawyers roam — is a grizzly bear fashioned from 170,000 pennies.

– ‘Major’ cultural movement –

Yelena Filipchuk of the duo behind the “HYBYCOZO” installation of large-scale glowing polyhedrons with elaborate laser cut-outs praised the Renwick’s move “to go full on with the interactivity” in line with BurningMan’s participatory ethos.

Translating works from a festival in the expansive, inhospitable desert to a museum setting also offered artists the chance to “create a totally immersive environment” she said, as shadows generated from her geometric sculptures danced on the gallery walls.

For Filipchuk, the show underscores Burning Man’s status as a cultural petri dish but also as an “American institution.”
“It really represents American values, like creativity, freedom, innovation,” she said.

Acclaimed artist Leo Villareal, whose mirrored light installation glitters above the museum’s staircase, sees the normally ephemeral Burning Man’s entrance into the museum world as part of a “major worldwide cultural movement that has taken on a life of its own.”

“I think people are responding in a huge way,” said Villareal, who is working on a large-scale piece in London to light up more than a dozen bridges over the Thames River.

“For the Smithsonian to get behind the ideas of Burning Man and put it in a show like ‘No Spectators’ is truly remarkable.”

Ooni Of Ife Calls On Africans To Embrace Their Cultural Heritage

 

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, has called on Africans to embrace their cultural heritage as a tool for development.

Oba Ogunwusi made the call while speaking at the Annual Aje Festival (Wealth Festival) in Ile Ife, Osun State.

According to him, the promotion of culture encourages unity which is important for development in all aspects of life.

The Ooni is unhappy that despite the diversity of the Nigerian culture, the government is not doing enough to explore the opportunities inherent in the development of culture and heritage.

“There is no nation that will grow without culture and heritage, go and find out; all developed nations in the world decided to put their heritage, culture and tradition as number one. But we have jettisoned our heritage and culture. Both of them are stronger than religion, they should be number one,” he said.

“We have a very diverse culture in Nigeria and common ancestral roots as Africans. Our culture is the only way forward for growth and development. It is unfortunate, the government is not paying attention to it as they used to.”

He lamented that since Festac 77, 41 years ago, there hasn’t been a festival of that calibre.

“The Largest gathering of the entire black race happened in 1977 in Nigeria; that’s over 40 years ago. The way forward for the entire black race is to continue to uphold our culture and heritage and that is what we are doing in Ife land we are very proud of it,” he said.

“Our faith still stands and nothing can shake it but our culture must be allowed to thrive.”

‘Akinwunmi Ishola’s Death, A Monumental Loss To Nigerian Culture’

The late Professor Akinwunmi Ishola

 

Oyo State Government has described the death of Professor Akinwunmi Ishola as a monumental loss not only to his hometown Oyo State and but Nigeria generally.

Born in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, Isola a giant literary scholar, actor, dramatist, culture advocate and was known for promoting Yoruba language. Some of his popular plays Agogo Ewo, Campus Queen, Koseegbe and O leku were adapted into movies by foreknown cinematographer Tunde Kelani.

Isola died in Ibadan on Saturday, February 17.

The State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Toye Arulogun on Monday led other top officials on a visit to the family of the late playwright in Akobo area of Ibadan.

READ ALSO: Isola Played His Part Meritoriously, Exited Gloriously – Ajimobi

Arulogun during the visit described Professor Isola as an epitome of Yoruba Culture who had left an indelible mark that would forever be remembered.

“He stood tall in the culture and theatre landscape as his scholarly output and theatrical contributions in the world of art and culture would be sorely missed,” he said.

The Commissioner urged the family not to be bereaved but rather thank God for the contribution of the deceased to the development of the country, the uplift of the Yoruba culture saying that Professor Isola’s name will remain as a household name in both civil and academic societies.

He said that the state government will support the burial arrangement of the renowned playwright and that the honour given to him while he was alive will be replicated with a befitting burial to celebrate him.

Responding on behalf of the family, the son of the deceased, Mr Akinjide Isola appreciated the effort of the state government for the visit.

Nigerian Govt. Has Inherited A Heavy Baggage – Wole Soyinka

SoyinkaNobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka believes the Nigerian government inherited a burden that may take a while to lessen but it must sustain efforts at improving the economy.

This comes as Nigeria assesses the Buhari administration after one year in office.

He was speaking to Channels Television in Johannesburg where he is expected to speak at a public lecture entitled Politics, Culture and the New Africa.

“This administration has inherited a heavy baggage. While I am critical in some aspects of the priority, I think that to clear up the mess left by previous administrations is going to take quite a while especially in the sector of economy.

“So I don’t use words like optimism or pessimism, I’m just pragmatic. I look at what there is on the ground and of course wherever I can intervene, I do both privately and publicly,” he said.

Kole OmotosoRenowned Nigerian author and playwright, Professor Kole Omotoso, also said that the current administration has ticked a number of little things but there must be more effort to alleviate the sufferings of the people.

“We are going in the right direction but in the process, we need to do so many things. We need to look at not just the suffering of the people but the way people seem to indulge in bearing suffering.

“It is as if even if you try to solve the problem for them they will prefer to be suffering and smiling,” Prof. Omotoso said.

France Returns Nigeria’s Stolen Artefact

Stolen ArtefactThe Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has warned against the trafficking of the nation’s cultural heritage.

The Minister was speaking at the handover of the trafficked Nok terracotta by the Ambassador of France in Abuja.

He appealed to other countries who are yet to return trafficked artefacts from Nigeria to borrow a leaf from the French government.

On his part, the Director General of the National Commission for Museum and Monuments, Mr Yusuf Usman, urged Nigerians to pay more attention to their cultures.

He said that the nation is blessed with diverse cultural landscapes that could serve as a major revenue earner for government if well harnessed.

Nigeria Our Heritage: Davido, Rita Dominic, Don Jazzy, Flavour, Pres. Jonathan Storm DC

Nigeria-Heritage-Project-in-Washington-DC-August-2014-BellaNaija006-600x600The Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and National Orientation, on Monday August 4, 2014 oragnised an evening of entertainment for the “Nigeria: Our Heritage Project.”

The project,which is centered on the centennial of Nigeria’s commonwealth was held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall in Washington D.C.

Guests at the event were President Goodluck Jonathan, as well as celebrities including, Don Jazzy, Rita Dominic, Ali Nuhu, Davido, Flavour, Tiwa Savage, Tee Billz, Masterkraft, Tola Odunsi, Leslie Kasumba, Di’ja, Lola Ogunnaike, Obi Asika, Ubi Franklin, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, and Iyanya.

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Folorunso Alakija Launches Book For Widows And Orphans

In this episode of the Channels Book Club,  Folorunso Alakija – ranked by Forbes as one of Africa’s top 40 richest persons –  reviews her new book and mission to support widows and orphans.

Also, Kayode Aderinokun former Authors Association of Nigeria chairman, Lagos chapter, talks about his experiences and thoughts on Nigeria’s book culture.

There’s also a peek into what the corporate world has planned for books and writers.

Enjoy!

Discussing Culture and Tourism with Edem Duke

Discussing the values of culture and tourism,Ayotunde Balogun was with the Minister of Culture and Tourism; Mr.Edem Duke