WMU News

African sculptor Lamidi Fakeye returns to WMU

Nov. 22, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- A famed Nigerian sculptor who has a 36-year association with Western Michigan University will make several appearances in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek Nov. 28 through Dec. 8 before heading to Washington, D.C., to open an exhibition of his work at the Smithsonian Institution.

Lamidi Fakeye is coming to the area as part of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Expert in Residence Program. His visit also is being sponsored by WMU and other area organizations.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to see an internationally-acclaimed artist perform as he will next month at the Smithsonian," says Dr. Bruce M. Haight, chairperson of WMU's Department of History and coordinator of Fakeye's visit.

A sculptor, Fayeye will begin his visit with an exhibition and gala reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 28, at the Cultural Pavilion of the Lincoln International Studies Magnet School, 912 N. Burdick, Kalamazoo. The exhibition will remain on display from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays through Friday, Dec. 3.

Other major free public events on Fakeye's West Michigan schedule include:

o A slide lecture on his work at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 29, in Room 2302 of Sangren Hall on the WMU campus;

o A lecture and carving demonstration from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2, at Washington Heights United Methodist Church, 153 N. Wood, Battle Creek; and

o A lecture and carving demonstration with Haight from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, at the Art Center of Battle Creek. That event will be followed by a 3 to 6 p.m. public reception at Commerce Pointe Gallery.

He also will make appearances in Kalamazoo at Woodward Elementary School; in Battle Creek at the Ann J. Kellogg School, the Federal Center, the Art Center of Battle Creek, Washington Heights and the Discovery Theatre; and in Holland at Hope College.

Fakeye, who is his nation's foremost sculptor, will head for Washington after his West Michigan visit to prepare for the Dec. 12 opening of an exhibition of his work at the Smithsonian.

His will be the first work featured in the new Visiting Artist's Gallery of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Modern History. The exhibition opening also is being held in conjunction with the opening of the larger Africa Wing of the museum that has been under construction since 1992. An opening reception for 3,000 invited diplomats, congressmen and other dignitaries will take place

there Dec. 14, with the Africa Wing officially opening to the general public the following day.

Fakeye's Smithsonian exhibition will open with a lecture demonstration by the artist and Haight. The pair are longtime colleagues and collaborated since 1983 on a number of projects, including a 1996 autobiography of Fakeye's life. The pair have appeared together at museums and universities across the United States and at many elementary and secondary schools in West Michigan.

Fakeye first visited the WMU campus in 1963 and has returned several times since then as artist-in residence and as a visiting international scholar. He is a traditional Yoruba wood carver, and much of his work has focused on depicting the Yoruba people, who, at 20 million strong, comprise the largest ethnic group in western Nigeria.

Fakeye's work is part of the permanent collection of such institutions as the Smithsonian's Museum of African Art, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Northwestern University, the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh, Hope College, Kalamazoo College and WMU. Several Fakeye works that are part of the WMU collection have been shipped to Washington for the Smithsonian exhibit. They include one of two verandah posts and a medical door acquired by the University in 1998 for the Sindecuse Health Center. The latter piece will be prominently featured in the Smithsonian exhibit.

"Lamidi was selected as the first visiting artist for the new gallery because his work demonstrates the linkage between traditional and modern culture," Haight says. "That medical door is a fine example since it features both traditional native doctors and doctors trained in the West. It combines the old and the new."

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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