Insistent Presence Contemporary African Art from the Chazen Collection

Margaret Nagawa, Katherine Alcauskas, Amy Gilman

The definitive publication commemorating the Chazen Museum of Art’s groundbreaking new collection of contemporary African art and its accompanying exhibition.

Drawing on curator Okwui Enwezor and art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu's observation of an "insistent presence of the human figure in the work of contemporary African artists," Insistent Presence features writing by guest curator Margaret Nagawa that extends existing scholarship on African art. Nagawa’s work explores how artists of today continue to leverage the image of the African body to negotiate issues of political and social power, identity, and belonging.

With notions of the presence and absence of the human body as its organizing principle, this publication features forty-five works of sculpture, painting, ceramics, printmaking, and photography by twenty-four artistsin three sections: "The Body in Society" explores identity in relation to others; "The Artist Is Present" portrays the body of the artist as a performer sharing their personal histories through theatrical performances, photography, and sculpture; and "The Absent Body" invokes only a mental image of the body through the depiction of accessories and accoutrements. Each section in Insistent Presence highlights twenty-first-century ways of being in the world and invites us to reflect on ourselves, our relationships, and the worlds we inhabit.


Margaret Nagawa


Margaret Nagawa is a PhD candidate specializing in African art at Emory University. Her research centers on the intersectionality among visual, literary, and performance art and the interplay between so-called traditional and contemporary arts as sites for material experimentation. Nagawa studied painting and sculpture at the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Art at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, and graduated with a first class honors degree. She attained her MA in curating from Goldsmiths, University of London, UK, before working with the October Gallery in London, teaching and curating exhibitions at the Makerere Art Gallery, and leading several collaborative artists' initiatives in Uganda.

Katherine Alcauskas


Katherine Alcauskas is chief curator at the Chazen Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Alcauskas received an MA in art history from Williams College and has held curatorial positions at the Museum of Modern Art, Yale University Art Gallery, and the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College.

Amy Gilman

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