Okeke-Agulu: Karen may be keen to respond to Laurie’s question, but I would rather that we move forward, in a slightly different direction. Even so, I am sure there will be opportunities to revisit some of the issues still on the table. At this point, I want us to shift to the function of the museum as a repository of what is considered valuable and important art and material cultures. I am interested in the dynamics of accessioning modern/contemporary African art, especially in museums with traditional African art collection and curatorial division. Is it more or less difficult to make the case for the work of modern/contemporary artists? And does it require conversations between curatorial departments in ways that traditional African art does not?
Although this has been addressed indirectly in the earlier threads, I would like to hear a bit more about the kinds of discursive pressures the inclusion of contemporary African art in the permanent collection brings to the ways that the African department or section imagines itself, especially in relation to other sections/departments in the museum. Let me put it in another way: does modern and contemporary work, because it can belong to the domain of other sectional curators (for instance the photos of Mthethwa can “belong” to either the photography or African department, while you are unlikely to have competing claims to an Igbo ikenga sculpture) weaken, strengthen or complicate the position of the African art curator within the museum? In asking these questions, I realize that not all of us are currently in museums where these issues are relevant (feel free to draw on past experiences), but I think they are crucial to our understanding the journey of modern/contemporary African to what I consider the institutional last frontier: the museum permanent collection.