Moyo Okediji
Moyo Okediji is a good friend of mine, he is a professor of visual arts at the University
of Colorado at Denver and assistant curator of African, African American, and
Oceanic arts at the Denver Art Museum as well as an accomplished artist and author.
Polly Nordstrand (left) who is the assistant curator of American Indian Arts at the Denver Art Museum, and Moyo Okediji
at a Denver Art Museum /
Douglas Society event in September 2005
Some of his work and information
The Dutchman, 1995
acrylic on canvas
48 x 72 inches
Nigerian, born 1956

The Dutchman was painted after Okediji spent time in the United States and gained greater insight into the daily realities of African
Americans. He encountered firsthand how artists confronted that reality in their work. It was inspired, in part, by African American
poet Robert Hayden's poem about the Atlantic slave trade titled, Middle


Jesús, Estrella, Esperanza, Mercy:
Sails flashing to the wind like weapons,
sharks following the moans the fever and the dying;
horror the corposant and compass rose.

Middle Passage:
voyage thorough death
to life on these shores.

This painting perhaps best embodies the theme of this exhibition. It may also signify Okediji's own psychic reconnection to his long
lost ancestors strewn across the Atlantic and to those who survived in the New World.

Prominent tints of blue, competing with orange complements, have dual signification — the deep waters of the Atlantic and the pain
at the root of African American blues music. Here is the Middle Passage experienced through Yoruba eyes, now opened to the
deeper aspects of that passage.

This piece was in an exhibit called:
Transatlantic Dialogue: Contemporary Art In and Out of Africa
"Fela in Mamiwataland," a 2002 painting by Moyo Okediji, is among the artworks on display
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Photo by David Paul Morris for the Chronicle.
The Shattered Gourd
Yoruba Forms in Twentieth-Century American Art  

Moyo Okediji    

Release Date: 5/1/03
ISBN: 0295981504    
256 Pages

About the Book

The Shattered Gourd uses the lens of visual art to examine connections between the United States and the Yoruba
region of western Nigeria.

In Yoruba legend, the sacred Calabash of Being contained the Water of Life; when the gourd was shattered, its
fragments were scattered over the ground, death invaded the world, and imperfection crept into human affairs. In more
modern times, the shattered gourd has symbolized the warfare and enslavement that culminated in the black diasporas.

The "re-membering" of the gourd is represented by the survival of people of African origin all over the Americas, and, in
this volume, by their rediscovery of African art forms on the diaspora soil of the United States. Twentieth-century African
American artists employing Yoruba images in their work have gone from protest art to the exploration and celebration of
the self and the community. But because the social, economic, and political context of African art forms differs markedly
from that of American culture, critical contradictions between form and meaning often appear in African American works
that use African forms.

In this book-the first to treat Yoruba forms while transcending the conventional emphasis on them as folk art, focusing
instead on the high art tradition-Moyo Okediji uses nearly four dozen works to illustrate a broad thematic treatment
combined with a detailed approach to individual African and African American artists. Incorporating works by such
artists as Meta Warrick Fuller, Hale Woodruff, Aaron Douglas, Elizabeth Catlett, Ademola Olugebefola, Paul Keene, Jeff
Donaldson, Howardena Pindell, Muneer Bahauddeen, Michelle Turner, Michael Harris, Winnie Owens-Hart, and John
Biggers, the author invites the reader to envision what he describes as "the immense possibilities of the future, as the
twenty-first century embraces the twentieth in a primal dance of the diasporas," a future that heralds the advent of the
global as a distinct movement in art, beyond postmodernism.

About the Author(s)

Moyo Okediji is professor of visual arts at the University of Colorado at Denver and curator of African, African American,
and Oceanic arts at the Denver Art Museum.


"...Thought-provoking and unique in its exploration of the cultural extensions of the African diaspora and the artistic
opportunities afforded by the resulting fusion of traditions. This book is also a serious contribution to African American
social, political, and cultural history.
-- Library Journal
African Renaissance
Old Forms, New Images in Yoruba Art
by Moyo Okediji

ISBN: 0-87081-688-8
Binding: Hardcover Paper
Pages: 200
Illustrations: 20 color, 42 b&w
Published: 2002

African Renaissance: Old Forms, New Images in Yoruba Art describes, analyzes, and interprets the historical and
cultural contexts of an African art renaissance using the twentieth- and twenty-first-century transformation of ancient
Yoruba artistic heritage. Juxtaposing ancient and contemporary Yoruba art, Okediji defines this art history through the
lens of colonialism, an experience that served to both destroy ancient art traditions and revive Yoruba art in the
twentieth century.

With vivid reproductions of paintings, prints, and drawings, Okediji describes how Yoruba art has replenished and
redefined itself. Okediji groups the text into several broadly overlapping periods that intricately detail the journey of
Yoruba art and artists: first through oppression by European colonialism, then the attainment of Nigeria’s independence
and the new nation’s subsequent military coup, and ending with present-day native Yoruban artists fleeing their

Based upon extensive interviews with the artists and critical readings of the existing literature on contemporary Yoruba
art, African Renaissance: Old Forms, New Images in Yoruba Art will appeal to the art historian and art collector and
serve as a wonderful introduction to the canon of Yoruba art for the general reader.

Moyo Okediji is the curator for African and Oceanic arts at the Denver Art Museum and an assistant professor of
African and African American art history at the University of Colorado, Denver.
Below are pieces from his series called

Yoruba Genesis" - 1989
Rand African Art
home page