One of the goals of the AKALA project is to figure out ways to make digital image collections useful for teaching and research. Collections like these really come alive by providing contextual information about works of art and the artists who created them. One of the challenges in providing this material, however, is the fact that we don’t know who our audience is made up of. For now, we will be working with the assumption that this digital image collection will be made available to college- and university-level faculty and students.
A term that comes up in this regard is “rich metadata,” i.e., information beyond “artist,” “title,” “medium,” etc. Rich metadata is descriptive, interpretive information about digital images. It’s the material that provides a means of access to understanding works of art. Our curator of visual resources, Jessica Bailey, wrote this about Uzo Egonu after having cataloged his 52 prints.
Uzo Egonu’s work is powerful and easy to admire but also challenging to place within the usual contexts of art criticism: the social, historical, geographic and cultural. His art is both accessible and representative, although it was created while he was often detached either literally or figuratively from the peoples, places and events he depicted. This unique combination of qualities, and how to explain their co-existence, should make Egonu an especially attractive subject for teachers and scholars.
Egonu spent most of his life as an outsider, both culturally (living and working in England, far from his native Nigeria) and as an artist, experimenting with contemporary styles but never solely defined by them and hardly recognized within the ranks of Modernism or Post-Modernism. In particular, his oeuvre raises questions about the intrinsic and the influential (i.e., the nature versus the “nurturing” of an artist) and embodies a distinct sensitivity for the human experience of separation and isolation as well as connection. Egonu’s work is an excellent source for exploring a wide range of topics and concepts including Igbo culture, the Nigerian Civil War, Postcolonialism, gender roles, metaphor, and Western reception, interpretation and consumption of African art in the twentieth century.
“Strangers in their Own Land” by Uzo Egonu