Becoming in America
A Conversation with Fitsum Shebeshe, Yvonne Osei, Helina Metaferia and Kimberli Gant
Presented in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition States of Becoming, this conversation will bring curator Fitsum Shebeshe together with two artists featured in the exhibition to discuss the experiences of African artists and curators working in the United States today. How do creative individuals navigate the conceptual terrain opened up through relocation from Africa to the U.S. in their artistic and curatorial practice? What questions and transformations shape their professional and personal journeys? And what happens if and when they return to their country of origin?
Kimberli Gant PhD is the new Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. She was previously the McKinnon Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, VA, and has also worked as the Mellon Doctoral Fellow at the Newark Museum, and Director of Exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (MoCADA).
She has curated numerous exhibitions and gallery reinstallations including Black Orpheus: Jacob Lawrence & the Mbari Club (2022), Journey’s Across the Border: U.S. & Mexico (2021-22), Tuan Andrew Nguyen: The Boat People (2021), Brendan Fernandes: Bodily Forms (2020), and John Akomfrah: Tropikos (2019). Gant received her PhD in Art History from the University of Texas Austin (2017), and holds both a MA and BA in Art History from Columbia University (2009) and Pitzer College (2002).
Gant has published scholarly work in academic books, such as Anywhere But Here: Black Intellectuals in the Atlantic World and Beyond (2015), art publications such as NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art, Art Lies and African Arts, and exhibition catalogues for The Newark Museum, The Contemporary Austin, the Studio Museum of Harlem, MoCADA, Paris Photo, and the Centre for Contemporary Art Lagos.
Fitsum Shebeshe is a curator and painter based in Baltimore and Washington DC. He is currently the Gallery Director at Harmony Hall Regional Center in Fort Washington, Maryland. Before moving to the United States in 2016, he was Assistant Curator at the National Museum of Ethiopia. In 2012, Shebeshe co-founded the 1957 Initiative to annually celebrate the liberation of African countries from colonialism through the arts. In 2013, he curated the 1957 Art Show at the National Museum of Ethiopia on the occasion of the 50th Golden Jubilee Anniversary of the African Union, and in 2017, he was the curator of Depart Africa, at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Shebeshe holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Curatorial Practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Helina Metaferia is an interdisciplinary artist working across collage, assemblage, video, performance, and social engagement. Her work interrogates the body’s relationship to sites, especially as it relates to notions of identity and citizenship. Metaferia received her MFA from Tufts University’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Recent solo and group exhibitions include Museum of African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Detroit, MI; New York University’s The Gallatin Galleries, New York, NY; Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY; Modern Art Museum Gebre Kristos Desta Centre, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Alabama Contemporary Art Center, Mobile, AL, among many others. Her solo exhibition, “Generations,” will open at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in Fall 2021. Metaferia’s work has been supported by several artist residencies including MacDowell, Yaddo, Bemis, MASS MoCA, and Triangle Arts Association. She is a participant of the 2021 Drawing Center’s Viewing Program. Her work has been featured in publications such as Hyperallergic, Artnet News, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and San Francisco Chronicle. Helina is currently an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow / Assistant Professor at Brown University, and lives and works in New York City.
Yvonne Osei is a Ghanaian artist living in the United States. Her transnational practice explores the topics of beauty and colorism, the politics of clothing, and how global trade and colonialism impact post-colonial West African & Western cultures. As a Visiting Artist Scholar, Osei has been invited to Pentecost University in Accra, Ghana, Sterling College in Kansas, Indiana University Bloomington and TEDxGatewayArch in St. Louis. She led a Scientist-Artist Collaborative titled “Fashion and the Brain” through the Missouri Institute of Mental Health at University of Missouri in St. Louis. Osei is the 2016-17 Romare Bearden Graduate Minority Fellow at the Saint Louis Art Museum and the inaugural Curator-In-Residence for the Millstone Gallery at the Center of Creative Arts. Her solo exhibitions “Who Discovers the Discoverer?” and “Sea to Shining Sea” were recently on view at the Bruno David Gallery, where she is represented.
States of Becoming is a traveling exhibition curated by Fitsum Shebeshe and produced by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York. It is the result of a series of programs, pioneered with the support of the Hartfield Foundation, aimed at providing opportunities to alumni of ICI’s Curatorial Intensive as they move through the stages of their career, and reflecting ICI’s commitment to fostering and championing new curatorial voices who will shape the future of the field. States of Becoming is made possible with the generous support of ICI’s Board of Trustees and International Forum. Crozier Fine Arts is the Preferred Art Logistics Partner. The presentation at The Africa Center is made possible with support generously provided by The Africa Center’s Board of Trustees and patrons.