Cleveland Museum of Art presents Emeka Ogboh’s Ámà: The
Gathering Place as its first commissioned artwork for the
Ames Family Atrium
CLEVELAND, August 6, 2019: Ámà: The Gathering Place, a new site-specific commission by Emeka Ogboh (Nigerian, b.
1977), is now on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art through
December 1, 2019. An immersive installation featuring sound,
textiles and sculpture, Ámà: The Gathering Place is the
CMA’s first commissioned artwork for the museum’s Ames Family
Ámà: The Gathering Place is based on 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 meeting 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 settings.”
“Enlivening one of Cleveland’s largest freely accessible indoor
civic spaces with this first in a series of large-scale
contemporary art installations that will be periodically
presented in this space is a wonderful extension of the CMA’s
mission,” says William M. Griswold, director and president of
the CMA. “Ogboh is an extraordinary artist whose work previously
has engaged audiences in Africa, Europe, and a very small number
of other American institutions. His work beautifully aligns with
the CMA’s global approach, and the installation of Ámà: The
Gathering Place in the Ames Family Atrium is certain to
captivate all those who visit us during the late summer and
grounds Ámà: The Gathering Place in Igbo
traditions that he reframes through a global contemporary
the Igbo ámà, music is performed both for entertainment and
sacral ceremonies. At the CMA, new recordings of Igbo folk songs
sung by a choir and rendered through instrumentals fill the
space that Ogboh has composed to create three distinct areas of
sound, transmitted through multichannel speakers. The music
travels unpredictably from one area to another; for a continuous
listening experience, visitors must physically follow the music.
A sculptural rendering of a tree anchors the work at the east end
of the atrium and evokes the Iroko tree found in the Igbo ámà,
marking the site as a meeting place and inviting pause in its
shade. Complementing the music, and sharing its source in Igbo
folk traditions, regionally specific akwétè cloth—named
after the Igbo community Akwétè—augments this project.
One of West Africa’s oldest and most celebrated textile
traditions, akwétè’s bold colors and striking patterns are worn
on ceremonial and festive occasions in the ámà. Maintaining its
functional role, the akwétè in Ogboh’s project serves as bark on
the tree and covers beanbag chairs for visitors to recline and
listen. The patterns on display were created by akwétè weavers
and Nigerian graphic designers who combined traditional patterns
and contemporary designs.
“Ámà: The Gathering Place continues Ogboh’s multisensory
approach to interpreting place, which is at the core of his
art,” says Emily Liebert, CMA curator of contemporary art, who
is organizing the project with Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, CMA
curator of African art.
“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,” says Nzewi.
Ogboh has participated in numerous international exhibitions,
including documenta 14 (2017); Skulptur Projekte Münster (2017);
the 56th edition of La Biennale di Venezia (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. From 2018-19 Ogboh was one of the
inaugural fellows at Columbia’s Institute for Ideas and
Imagination in Paris.
Sandy and Sally Cutler Strategic Opportunities Fund.
International Cleveland Community Day (ICCD)
Sunday, October 6, 11:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Ames Family Atrium and Gartner Auditorium
festival is a day for honoring your heritage, celebrating your
identities, and displaying them proudly. The day will
include music and dance performances, art activities for every
ability, in-gallery experiences cultural displays, and dialogues
featuring our city's global community members, uniting them
within the context of the museum’s global art collection. The
day will also include a Naturalization Ceremony to welcome new
U.S. citizens, and a line-up of short films from the New York
International Children's Film Festival.