Associate Professor of Art History Jordan Fenton helps secure $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities
The NEH grant will support costs for the execution, installation, community engagement, programming, and Implementation of this exhibition to its various venues.
This $500,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant supports the implementation of the internationally traveling art history exhibition, New Masks Now: Artists Innovating Masquerade in Contemporary West Africa. The NEH grant will support costs for the execution, installation, community engagement, programming, and Implementation of this exhibition to its various venues.
The grant is co-authored by Amanda Maples (curator, New Orleans Museum of art), Jordan Fenton and Lisa Homann (Associate Professor, UNC Charlotte). The home institution for this grant is New Orleans Museum of Art, since it will be the opening venue in April of 2025. The show will travel to other participating venues in North America and West Africa thereafter. The exhibition will close for six months at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution. $100,000 of this grant will support a 2-year public humanities position related to public engagement and programing for the internationally traveling exhibition.
The grant additionally covers the publication of a 250-page edited volume that will carry the same title of the exhibition.
Fenton said, “This exhibition provides a wonderful opportunity to showcase the artistic and intellectual contributions of artists that work in formerly colonized spaces as well as develop ethical approaches in working with underrepresented artists from Africa.”
About the exhibition
New Masks Now: Artists Innovating Masquerade in Contemporary West Africa tells the stories of four contemporary artists working with the medium of masquerade (Hervé Youmbi from Cameroon, Chief Ekpenyong Bassey Nsa from Nigeria, David Sanou from Burkina Faso, and Sheku Fofanah from Sierra Leone). In featuring individual artist expressions from Africa, the exhibition highlights their artistic contexts, motivations, choices, and the patronage and economic networks with which they engage. The show demonstrates that African masquerade is fundamentally contemporary. This is the first major exhibition on contemporary masquerade artists to focus on individual creators rather than the typical presentation of masquerades as products of entire cultures, which undermines the nuanced and layered stories that individual artists and masquerades actually tell and communicate. The exhibition is also transparent with the ways in which Western institutions and researchers forge ethical methods and approaches with artists who occupy formally colonized spaces. The edited volume will further unpack the research methodologies, commissioning practices, representation of these artists, and ethics in working with them.
Venues include: New Orleans Museum of Art, Frist Art Museum, Nashville, Mint Museum, Charlotte, Sierra Leone National Museum, Freetown, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, Calabar branch, Museum of Black Civilization in Dakar, Senegal, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian, and Museum of Fine Arts, St Petersburg, FL.
Part of the Heritage exhibition is the Idem Nkanda masquerade ensemble that was the product of an ethical commission acquired for the Richard and Carole Cocks Art Museum. It is one of the masquerade ensembles that will be part of this international exhibition. Read a blog post about the work online.