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The 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 Atrium.

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 fall.”

Ogboh grounds Ámà: The Gathering Place in Igbo traditions that he reframes through a global contemporary perspective. In 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.

Presenting Sponsor: Sandy and Sally Cutler Strategic Opportunities Fund.

Programming: International Cleveland Community Day (ICCD)
Sunday, October 6, 11:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Ames Family Atrium and Gartner Auditorium
This annual 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.



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Revised: 08/13/19 11:14:40 -0700.




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