Ikem Stanley Okoye

Elusive Things: Materialities and Spatialities in the vicinity of Nigér

Architects, architectural historians, and conservators from across three continents, all pursuing their own agendas and interests, have worked rather more intensively in the Sahel over recent years than in the past, African practitioners included. The context is one, however, in which architectural histories that are only ever partial, produced here under constraint, can leave unreliable interpretations of the architectural past to which at least some architects and conservators refer, or from which they seek inspiration or direction. Overcoming the reading of historical architecture through the lens of the traditional conceptualizations of space and medium with which architectural knowledge has worked, in favor of critical engagement with dynamic intersections of spatiality and materiality, and their forms of situatedness, offer superior ground not only for historical reconstruction, but for contemporary architecture and conservation. This might be especially true, if we do so imagining the possibility of architectures and historiographies of decoloniality.

Ikem Stanley Okoye

Associate Professor, Art History Department / Africana Department, University of Delaware

Ikem Stanley Okoye teaches in the Art History Department at the University of Delaware, on whose faculty he has been since 2000. There, he holds a joint appointment in the Africana Studies Department (formerly the Black American Studies Program), has served as Director of the African Studies Program, and as a member of the Delaware Design Institute. Okoye is currently a Mellon Researcher with the Canadian Center for Architecture, working on the “Centring Africa” project, in relation to his writing project called Where was Modernism. He has held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and the Center for Modern Oriental Studies, Berlin, among many other fellowships and grants. His essays on architecture, art, and the landscape are widely published in journals including Interventions-- journal of Postcolonial Studies; RES _Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics; Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians; Critical Interventions, and NKA; and in book anthologies such as the forthcoming title Radical Pedagogies (Beatrice Colomina and Anna-Marie Meister, (eds.); Cultural Heritage Landscapes in Sub Saharan Africa, John Beardsley (ed); Art History and Fetishism Abroad, Genge and Stercken (eds.); Exiles, Diasporas and Strangers, Kobena Mercer [ed.]; and Architecture and Pictures (Koehler and Anderson (eds.). His work has also focused on the African architecture of early colonial Nigeria, and is the subject of a long in-process forthcoming book Hideous Architecture (Leiden: Brill). He has two other books nearing completion, the above mentioned Where was Modernism, as well as a book with a wider artefactual breadth that is exploring sculpture, diminutive architecture, and landscapes of West Africa in the latter years of the Transatlantic slave trade and its immediate aftermath. With the preliminary title Fetish, Landscape, Architecture—this work asks questions about how we have grappled with the definition of architecture such that it brings us to the troubling place in which Africa comes to be represented neither in the history of architecture nor in landscape history, even when these histories are globally thought.

Professor Okoye occasionally enjoys a research-oriented practice in architecture as “Ikem Okoye + Anubis Architecture”.